Albany, WA


And so to my final post inspired by our trip south of Perth. Our route has taken us from Perth, through Margaret River, Pemberton, Walpole and Denmark to our final destination, Albany.

Albany is the oldest permanently settled town in WA. It was founded on 26 December 1826predating Perth and Fremantle by over two years. Its creation was part of a plan to thwart French ambitions in the area.

As it was too early for us to check in we headed down to the town centre to stretch our legs and grab a bite for lunch. It was a lovely day, albeit very windy.

Found ourselves on York Street and dropped in to Cosi’s Cafe for a spot of lunch and a coffee. York Street is very busy but at the same time has the feel of an Australian country town.

While in York Street, we ventured into the visitor centre and booked ourselves onto a four-hour river boat cruise for the following day.  We also decided that we would take a run out to The Historic Whaling Station after we had checked in at our hotel.

This was our second visit to Albany, Gerry and I having been here some eighteen years ago. It only seemed fitting that we should stay in the same hotel, The Dog Rock Motel …..

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The Dog Rock – Albany, WA

…. named after the large rock shaped like a dog’s head.

Having checked in and unloaded the car we set off to be educated about the whaling industry. The following is from Wikipedia …..

The Whaling Station, which closed operations in 1978, has been converted to a museum of whaling, and features one of the ‘Cheynes’ whale chasers that were used for whaling in Albany. The station was the last operating whaling station in the southern hemisphere and the English-speaking world at the time of closure.

On the way out to the whaling station we stopped off at the Vancouver Lookout to absorb the scenery …..

….. seems like every turn of the road offers us a new perspective.

Tearing ourselves away from the fabulous views we soon arrived at the Historic Whaling Station (previously known as Whale World). There is lots to see here, and whatever you think you know about whaling, this place will show you how little you know. For me, the overriding factor is the sheer brutality of the whaling process. There are some pretty graphic pictures around the site and, for the people who worked here or on the ships, it was a tough life. No health and safety regulations, no protective clothing, no sick pay and no pension.

 

We spent an enlightening couple of hours at the Whaling Station. No matter what you think of the morality of whaling, you have to remind yourself that was a different era. The world has moved on.

And so did we, heading back into Albany and the Dog Rock Motel to rest up prior to dinner.

We had dinner at Lime 303 where I was talked into having a cocktail, a “Blue Lagoon”. Needless to say I was soon back to drinking beer. The cocktail was like an alcoholic Gatorade…. Yuuuk !!! Regardless, the food was very, very good.

The next day we were up early and down to Emu Point ready for our river cruise aboard the Kalgan Queen …

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Kalgan Queen – Albany, WA

Once we were all aboard we were treated to a display of pelicans and their party tricks. Our skipper would feed them but only after they had “danced”, twirled around on the water. He did this while explaining about the pelicans and there abilities and traits. As the Kalgan Queen is a glass bottomed boat we were also treated to the view of a large sting ray cruising under the boat.

After the regulation safety notices we were off on our journey, across the sheltered waters of Oyster Harbour and then up the Kalgan River.

As we crossed Oyster Harbour our skipper pulled out a whistle and tried to attract the attention of White Breasted Sea Eagles. Unfortunately, they did not put in appearance. However, later as we were running up the river we were treated to the spectacle of several Osprey plunging down to collect the fish thrown out onto the river.

 

Part of the cruise package is a wine tasting at Montgomery Hill Vineyard. To be quite honest, it was a waste of time. We all agreed that we would rather have stayed on the boat and perhaps travelled further upstream.

The folks in the tasting rooms made no attempt to tell us about the wines, didn’t even ask about individual likes or dislikes to try and match their products to our tastes. Most unlike any tasting I have ever been to before.

The only positive was the view from the tasting rooms and terrace …..

After thirty minutes or so we were bussed back down to the river and back on board the boat. Here we were treated to hot Billy Tea and Damper as we headed back down the river and on to Emu Point.

En-route we encountered other river users / inhabitants …

Back on shore we bade farewell to the Kalgan Queen and to “Perch” …

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“Perch” – Emu Point, Albany, WA

The cruise had been around four hours duration and was well worth the money.

After a spot of lunch the afternoon was spent fishing off the shore at Emu Point. On my first cast I caught a blowie and although I had many bites I didn’t manage to land another fish. Steve, on the other hand, despite also be plagued by blowies, managed to land a Port Jackson Shark.

Port Jackson Shark - Emu Point, WA
Port Jackson Shark – Emu Point, WA

While we were fishing there were rays  constantly cruising along the water’s edge. Fascinating to watch.

All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the motel to wash up and head out for dinner, this being our last night down south.

The lucky establishment to be blessed with our custom was the Mean Fiddler Restaurant. It was very busy and when I enquired, about a table for four, was informed that they had more tables upstairs but that there would be about a thirty minute wait.

Upstairs was much quieter and also cooler. Our waitress seemed to be a bit eccentric, a bit like Julie Walters as the elderly waitress in the Two Soups sketch from Victoria Wood As Seen On TV.

Quite early on, the waitress had handed out some crayons and informed us that we could use them to draw on the table-cloth, if we wanted to.

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Doodles, Noughts & Crosses – Mean Fiddler Restaurant, Albany, WA

Despite the eccentricities of the staff, the food was good. By the time we had our main meal, the other upstairs customers had gone. We had the room and the balcony to ourselves and were able to wander around perusing the artwork and other curiosities.

From the balcony there was a view, both, up and down York Street.

After our meal we once again headed back to the motel. Sad with the knowledge that we had to head back to Perth the following day.

And so it was that the following morning we headed out on the Albany Highway for the journey home.

 

 

 

 

 

New Norcia


Yesterday, we traveled up along the Great North Highway to visit New Norcia, located approximately 140 kilometers from Perth.

Education Centre - New Norcia, WA
Education Centre – New Norcia, WA

New Norcia, Australia’s only Monastic Town, was founded as a Benedictine Mission to local native aboriginals on 1st March, 1846. The settlement was led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. The name New Norcia, is taken from Norcia, Italy which is the birthplace of St Benedict. For some reason New Norcia is pronounced “new nor-sia” as opposed to it’s original Italian namesake, which is pronounced “nor-chee-a”.

A visit to New Norcia is highly recommended. It is architecturally so unlike any other Australian town.

The museum contains exhibits focussed on the monastery and key individuals as well as “rooms” specific to advances in medicine, technology and agriculture. Outside of the main museum building there is a separate, dusty, machinery shed which contains several curiosities.

The second floor of the  museum building houses the art gallery which house both modern and classical pieces.

In 1986, the gallery was the scene of WA’s biggest ever art theft,  when twenty-six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Although described as a robbery it was more an act of vandalism as the paintings were cut from their frames, then rolled up, further damaging them in the process. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned. The remaining painting, too big to fit in the robbers car, was cut into pieces and thrown away. The recovered paintings have been the subject of a long restoration at the cost of over 100, 000 dollars.

On the top floor of the museum can be found St Joseph’s Aboriginal Girls’ Exhibition which reflects the experiences of Aboriginal girls resident at the orphanage at New Norcia.

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Also on this floor  is the Gardner Botanical Exhibition, featuring artworks on paper of Western Australian plants, by WA’s first Government botanist, Charles A Gardner.

A couple of monastery residents, not sure if they are Benedictines.

While visiting New Norcia we also had lunch, sat on the terrace of the New Norcia Hotel.

New Norcia Hotel - New Norcia, WA
New Norcia Hotel – New Norcia, WA

While sitting on the terrace drinking Abbey Ale was very pleasant, my meal didn’t live up to expectations. Although Gerry’s Pork Cutlet, with Chat Potatoes, veggies and gravy, was fine my Ribs were under cooked for the most part and totally raw in the center of the thickest portion. I don’t mind rare beef and lamb but like my pork to be fully cooked. Unfortunately I didn’t notice the rawness until I had cleared my plate of the rest of my meal. However, I returned the plate to the bar and complained. The staff were very apologetic and offered me a refund. I suggested that wasn’t necessary and that they give me a piece of the New Norcia Nut Cake instead. They insisted on giving me the refund as well as the Nut Cake. Smiles all round.

Walpole / Denmark


I know this is out of sequence time wise. This post is the continuation of our trip down south. The previous post is here

The next stop on our itinerary was Denmark or perhaps I should clarify, our next overnight stop. Our next stop was actually Walpole and The Valley of the Giants.

Departing from Pemberton we headed down the road to Walpole, a quiet, one horse, maybe two-horse town. Here we were to have a belated breakfast as none of us wanted to chance the Pemberton Hotel. So, arriving in Walpole our first port of call was to the Top Deck Cafe

The Top Deck is a very pleasant place to eat. Lots of plants dotted around the eating areas split over two decks. The staff were very friendly and the food was good if a little expensive.  Breakfast finished we browsed the shops and managed to obtain some cash from the ATM in the small shopping centre.

Walpole itself is spread along just one side of the South Coast Highway, the towns main road. The town is very small and we were soon back at the car and once again on our way, searching out our first true destination, The Valley of the Giants.

Just twenty kilometers down the road and we were at the Valley of the Giants and the Treetop Walk. Gerry and I did this walk eighteen years ago during  my first visit to Australia and I was curious to see if it had changed in that time.

There are  two main features of this attraction …

  1. A walk through a grove of giant Red Tingle trees more than 400-year-old. This walk is known as the Ancient Empire and comprises a boardwalk / path designed to protect the forest floor and the root system of these giant trees. The path winds in and out, up, over and through various of these giants.
  2. The 600-metre Tree Top Walk which is 40 metres high and takes visitors through the canopy of the Tingle and Karri trees.

After doing both the tree-top walk and the boardwalk, slurped an ice cream and raided the souvenir shop, we headed on to Denmark. Approaching Denmark we decided to detour down to Peaceful Bay …

It was very windy but the views were worth the short sojourn. After few more kilometers we arrived at our accommodation, the Windrose B & B.

Although our host was not home, there was a letter indicating our rooms and the facilities. We were soon unpacked and installed in our respective rooms.

The B&B was very nice, the rooms having en-suite shower rooms. The decor was clean and modern but also quirky with bits of memorabilia on the walls. Each room had under floor art, that is there was some kind of illuminated box built into the floor with a reinforced glass top. The box was illuminated when the main room lights were turned on. A nice touch.

Our hostess arrived, welcomed us to Denmark, enquired what time we would like our breakfast and gave us some good advice regarding local eateries. We headed back out to explore the local area.

We spent some time wandering the shops in Denmark centre although it was getting near closing time. We also ventured down to Ocean Beach ….

By now our tummies were rumbling so we went in search of food. The first eatery that had been recommended was the Denmark Tavern. We took a look but the place was heaving. Normally we would have taken that as a good sign but it also meant that there were no tables available. Certainly the menu looked very inviting with reasonable prices and it was obviously a popular venue. Sadly this time, not for us.

So then we took ourselves off to the second recommendation, which was a couple of kilometers outside of Denmark, the other side of town. And so we found ourselves at the Boston Brewery. We would definitely eat here again. The staff were friendly, the food was good and the atmosphere warm and friendly. The brews were really good too, just a shame I was driving.

And then it was back to the B&B for a good nights rest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that good. The rooms don’t have aircon and, despite our hostess assuring us that once the sun went down we would be cool enough, we were hot and sticky all night. This is my only criticism of this charming B&B.

The breakfast was filling and tasty, although the German sausage wasn’t appreciated by all of our party.

Car packed, we bid our farewells and headed back into Denmark to browse the stores again and partake of a coffee before getting underway for Albany.

 

 

 

 

 

Kalbarri to Jurien Bay / Perth


Despite Gerry tweaking her back, we enjoyed Kalbarri and would really like to go back and spend more time there. Unfortunately, we’ll have to save that for another trip. And so we headed out on the road to Jurien Bay a journey, of approximately 350 kilometers, that was supposed to take just under four hours.

I was expecting to take the coastal route out of Kalbarri but the satnav had other ideas and we found ourselves back, heading South, on the Northwest Coastal Highway before rejoining the Brand Highway. We made good progress and soon made the turn onto Indian Ocean Drive.

Indian Ocean Drive is a much quieter road. I had read that there were no road trains on this road. Not strictly true, we did encounter a couple but they are less intimidating as they are having to travel more slowly due to the winding nature of the road.

AS we followed the road to Leeman we became aware that the clouds were thickening and that somewhere up ahead it looked like a lot of rain was being dumped. By the time we pulled into Leeman it had gotten quite dark and the ever-present coastal wind was winding itself up into a frenzy. We topped up with fuel and continued down the road.

Shortly after leaving Leeman we saw a huge lightning strike. What I called a floor to ceiling bolt. I think the storm we had been trailing stopped and waited for us. And there we were driving with windscreen wipers going full pelt, headlights on and our speed less than half what it was.

I became aware of flashing lights coming up fast behind me and I pulled off onto the verge to let them go by, three fire service trucks on a mission. On our way again but a short distance up the road we moved over to allow some more to go by.

We eventually cleared the storm, the rains petered out and it became brighter. At Green Head we pulled off the road to look out over the ocean and at the storm clouds.

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Storm Cloud, Looking South – Green Head, WA

This was the filthiest stop we had made, north of Perth. Alongside this view-point there was heaps of litter and just off the tarmac was masses of used toilet paper and disposable nappies as well as the bane of the modern world, wrappers and containers from numerous takeaway establishments. I was surprised that there wasn’t a supermarket trolley.

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Storm Cloud, Looking North – Green Head, WA

Arriving in the Jurien Bay area we prepared to locate the B & B. This was easier said than done as the satnav had decided that the B & B was located off-road to our left. At the next turn we hung a u-turn and headed back thinking we had missed a farm entrance or something similar. But no, the satnav seemed to be suggesting that we go off-road and follow a line of power lines disappearing into the bush. Not prepared to do that we continued down the road and towards the centre of Jurien Bay where we came across an information board and map. There we found an ad for our B & B, helpfully marked with a grid reference. The only problem was that the map wasn’t sporting a “you are here” arrow. As luck would have it a truck pulled in to empty the bins. The driver was very helpful and knew exactly where we needed to go.

Firmly on the scent of our accommodation we headed back the way we came. It was around this time that Gerry began to feel unwell. Not just her back but also some kind of skin irritation. She was itching all over. We think it was probably a reaction to the pain killers she had just taken. Either way she didn’t want to stay anywhere, she just wanted to go home. Given we were so close to the B & B, I said we had to do the courteous thing and go in an explain why we wouldn’t be stopping the night.

The landlady was very understanding, even offering us tea before we headed on back to Perth. When we declined, she pointed out to us that, South of Jurien Bay, Indian Ocean Drive was closed due to bushfires. That explained the fire service trucks that had passed us earlier. Her recommendation was for us to go back to the Brand Highway, which is what we did.

As we headed on our way to Perth we began to see the smoke from the bushfire, mingling with the clouds. The smoke stack was to be visible to us for most of our journey back to Perth…

After around seven hours of driving, broken up by pee and fuel stops and, much to my son-in-laws surprise, we arrived back home, a whole day early.

We were sad to have missed Jurien Bay but never has a cup of tea tasted better.

 

 

 

Kalbarri WA


On arriving at Kalbarri we managed to locate our accommodation, despite the best efforts of our sat-nav which was intent on sending us off-road again. We were also confused by the name of the motel. All of my paperwork from the booking referred to Kalbarri Reef Villas. On the same street we found Kalbarri Seafront Villas and immediately behind was Reef Villas. No mention of Kalbarri on their signage but a quick chat with the manager confirmed we were in the right place. So Reef Villas it was and we were soon checked in, car unloaded and ready to explore.

The beach was just five minutes walk from the motel.

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Kalbarri Beach – Kalbarri, WA

Kalbarri is to be found at the mouth of the Murchison River where it joins the Indian Ocean.

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River / Ocean Meeting Place – Kalbarri, WA

Unfortunately, Gerry ricked her back on our first morning here. This meant that we had to curtail some of our exploring. So a tour of the gorges to see Natures Window & “Z” Bend was kicked into touch. The problem with these attractions is that they are only accessible along some sixteen kilometers of dirt road, not really conducive to reducing back pain.

As an alternative we decided to visit the numerous local ocean lookouts, all of which have paved roads right up to the car parks and also, in most cases, smooth pathways to the lookout. The following are a selection of the photo’s I took. I hope they give you a flavour of this area.

Some of the Aussies were really chuffed to see a car, with references to an English football team, sporting the Aussie flags.

While we were at the Blue Holes, a fellow Brit spotted the Pompey stickers and the rego plate. He was originally from Salisbury and knew all about our home area in Hampshire.

Every day pelicans are fed down on the Kalbarri foreshore. There is a seated arena for the early risers to use and children are invited to feed the pelicans. The couple that run the feed are very informative, with a touch of humour.

After touring the coastline, we returned to Kalbarri and found a site on the foreshore so that I could go fishing.

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Me Fishing – Murchison River, Kalbarri, WA

Although I did get a few bites, I didn’t manage to catch anything.

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Chatty canoeists – Murchison River, Kalbarri,WA

The fish weren’t the only things biting. There were crabs in the river who were taking a repeated interest in my feet. The canoeists were friendly and chatty, interested in how I was doing. I think they were also amused by how far out in the river I was.

Later the same day we were, again, down on the foreshore to watch the Australia Day fireworks.

During our all too brief stay in Kalbarri we were lucky enough to eat at the Black Rock Cafe. Here we had our evening meal on the day that we arrived. Good food and a table to watch the sunset. For our breakfasts, we visited Angies Cafe where they do a really tasty Bacon, Egg and Tomato Toasty as well as filling Tuna Patties (fish cake). Both establishments seem to be very popular.

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Angies Cafe – Kalbarri, WA

Angies was our last stop in Kalbarri, before heading off to Jurien Bay.

 

 

Carnarvon Revisited


 

Having spent a couple of nights in Exmouth we headed back south to Carnarvon. As we left Exmouth, heading along the Exmouth Minilya Road we stopped very briefly to visit the Potshot Memorial site.

The Potshot Memorial commemorates the use of the West Australian coast for the allied attacks on the Japanese. US submarines used this area as a refuelling base and an airstrip was built for the fighting squadron

We returned to Carnarvon, to stop overnight, for no other reason than to break the journey to Kalbarri. I know many folks like to dose up on energy drinks and punch on down the road and get the journey over with. Some folks have told me that they drive from Perth to Exmouth in one continuous bash, stopping only for fuel and pee breaks.  Madness is what I call it, certainly asking for trouble.

Driving all that way is tiring and boring, yes boring. Long, very long, flat, straight stretches of road with countryside that doesn’t change very often. Nothing to keep you alert. Which is why we purchased some CDs. Nothing like singing along to ELO, Fleetwood Mac and of course, it had to be done, Men at Work’s greatest hits.

At times the bush is fairly close to the edge of the road, meaning that you get a form of tunnel vision. You become mesmerised staring off into the distance. That is the time that you get a cow, sheep or herd of goats or a kangaroo wander out into the road. There are plenty of signs along the roads, where collisions were not avoided.

Rkill

We observed some very fresh road kill, a young cow that was decapitated and it’s entrails spread along the road, providing fresh food for the scavengers. Not a pretty sight. On our journey I learnt to look ahead and spot the dark clusters of crows which would reluctantly scatter as we got nearer. As soon as I saw the crows I would slow down and prepare to deviate around whatever carcass was laid there. The roadsides are littered with skeletons and desiccated corpses. I dread to think what it must be like to hit something the size of sheep, let alone a kangaroo or even a cow. Although our car had “roo bars” fitted, I suspect hitting a cow at the state speed limit of 110 kilometers per hour would be pretty devastating for all involved. Luckily, whenever something chose to cross the road in front of us, I spotted them early enough to slow down. And, on at least one occasion come to a complete stop. Luckily there was nothing following behind me. I wouldn’t want to be stopped in front of a road train.

On arrival at Carnarvon we booked into the Best Western Hospitality Inn. Very friendly receptionist who dealt with us most efficiently and we were soon stretched out having been folded in the car for several hours.

After our last experience, looking for an eatery, in Carnarvon we chose to eat in Sails, the motel restaurant. The food and service was very good. Although, the breakfast was another story. The food quality was okay but the service was somewhat off kilter since this was provided by a very pleasant, chatty lady. However, her normal role was in the laundry. Consequently, she didn’t have all the information regarding food options.

Overnight, the weather had changed. There had been a nice sunset in the evening but we were greeted with a dull and overcast morning. As I packed the car, ready for our onward journey there was a pleasant surprise waiting for us.

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Cecils Calling Card

Tucked under our windscreen wiper blade was a card, left by Cecil. He had cleaned our windscreen while we were tucked up in bed. A nice touch.

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Moored on the Fascine – Carnarvon, WA
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Fascine View – Carnarvon WA
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Satellite Earth Station –  Carnarvon, WA

This satellite dish dominates the Carnarvon skyline. The following has been lifted straight from Wikipedia.

The OTC Satellite Earth Station Carnarvon was established to meet the need for more reliable and higher quality communications for NASA’s Apollo Moon project. NASA contracted Australia’s Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) “to provide an earth station nearCarnarvon, Western Australia to link the NASA tracking station in that area to the control centre in the USA”

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Foreshore Fascine – Carnarvon, WA

 

On The Water – Swan River Cruise


Today we drove into Perth, had lunch at the Lucky Shag, strolled around Elizabeth Quay and took a cruise down the river to Fremantle.

James Stirling, Captain Cook Cruises, Perth, WA
James Stirling, Captain Cook Cruises, Perth, WA

The following are just some of the photo’s that I took during the cruise.

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West Australian Rowing Club Boat House – Perth, WA
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Seagull
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Dolphins, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfers, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfers, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfers, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Wind Surfer, Swan River – Perth WA
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Tugs Wambiri, Svitzer Falcon & Svitzer Eagle – Fremantle, WA
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MS Astor – Fremantle, WA
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Bulk Carrier SBI Orion – Fremantle, WA
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Container Ship Maersk Gironde – Fremantle, WA
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Unknown – Fremantle, WA
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Fishing Boat , Narrows Bridge – Perth, WA
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Bridge Arches, Elizabeth Quay – Perth, WA
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“Cube” Boat – Perth, WA
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Flotilla Sailing, Swan River – Perth, WA

Exmouth, WA – Part 2


In my previous post I had mentioned  that we booked to go on a glass bottomed boat tour. Consequently we found ourselves up at the unearthly hour of 06:30, packing our bags into the car, so that we could both check-out from Ningaloo Lodge and be ready for our 07:30 pick up.

We were picked up ,on time, by Alek in his bus. He gave a running commentary on what were to see and what our itinerary was going to be. On the way down to the boat he took us down to see the SS Mildura and on the way back we popped up to Vlaming Head Lighthouse. As I have already covered both in my previous post I won’t bore you again.

By the time we arrived at the Tantabiddi boat ramp there were twenty-three passengers.

Alek, left us on shore while he clambered into a canoe and paddled out to his boat which was anchored offshore.

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Tantabiddi Boat Ramp – Glass Bottom Boat just below the horizon
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Alek paddling out to the glass bottomed boat

Soon he was motoring back into the jetty ….

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Alek motoring in to the jetty

After a short informational pitch we were all aboard and heading out to the reef. As you can see from the photos, the sun was hiding and the reef was not well illuminated. The following shots have all had to be adjusted to try to remove the reflections so are not truly representative of what we actually saw. Hopefully they will give you a hint….

After a tour over the reef Alek tied up to a mooring to allow some of the passengers to go snorkeling. The wind was rising and this session was curtailed. Although the boat was very stable, turning from the mooring brought us across the wind and tide which made an uncomfortable ride, for a short period of time.

On the run back to the Tantabiddi boat ramp we were joined by a couple of dolphins who played across our bows and in the wake.

After returning to Exmouth we headed to See Salt for brunch before setting off back down to Carnarvon.