Pris­tine waters the jewels of the Pil­bara

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle - Tom Zaun­mayr

While the wa­ter — and ev­ery­thing else — down south is freez­ing, we North Western­ers en­joy year-round pleas­ant tem­per­a­tures. Our crys­tal clear waters are abun­dant with wildlife and the best part is you won’t have to share even the most pop­u­lar of beaches with hun­dreds of other peo­ple. Here are five activities to make the most out of the best place in WA to take a dip.

Swim with the big three

Swim­ming with gi­ants is on bucket lists the world over and there are few bet­ter places to do it than the Nin­ga­loo Coast. From Au­gust and Oc­to­ber not only can you swim with whale sharks, manta rays and hump­back whales, if you are lucky you can swim with all three on the same cruise in a sin­gle day.

The of­fi­cial whale shark sea­son ends in Au­gust, but with the be­gin­ning of the hump­back swim trial last year, spot­ter planes are now up in the air longer, re­sult­ing in many of the gen­tle gi­ants be­ing sighted well into Septem­ber.

The sec­ond trial sea­son of Nin­ga­loo Coast hump­back whale swim­ming be­gins on Au­gust 1.

With so much fo­cus on whale sharks and hump­backs, manta rays don’t get as much of the lime­light on the Nin­ga­loo Coast, but swim­ming with them is a mem­ory to last a life­time.

While they can be seen all along the Nin­ga­loo Coast, and even in the Ex­mouth Gulf, Coral Bay is the best place to swim with man­tas.

Coral Bay Eco­tours man­ager Roger Bai­lye said man­tas were of­ten com­pared to bal­let dancers be­cause of the sub­tle­ness in their move­ment.

“They are just an amazing an­i­mal . . . and so for­eign to the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“The fact they do not seem to be at all con­cerned with hu­man in­ter­ac­tion makes them an an­i­mal that can be ob­served with­out any stress on ei­ther part.

“Quite of­ten all you have to do is float in the wa­ter and they will ca­vort around you.”

Mr Bai­lye said those who swam with man­tas came out of the wa­ter in awe.

Dive in

Be­ing on the sur­face is one thing, but go­ing deeper un­der­wa­ter there is a whole new side of the Pil­bara coast to ex­plore.

Pil­bara Dive and Tours owner Natalie Cal­lanan be­gan op­er­at­ing this year and has been busy check­ing out dive sites around the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago and Mack­erel Is­lands.

“With the cooler wa­ter com­ing in now the clar­ity while out div­ing is awe­some. We had 20m vis­i­bil­ity last time I was out,” she said.

“Both the Mack­erel Is­lands and Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago haven’t been vis­ited, dived or fished on much so they are in pris­tine con­di­tion.

“The last few dives I have seen a few large rays, mas­sive schools of mack­erel and trevally, cray­fish, quite a few reef sharks and all of those smaller crea­tures, like nudi­branchs and anemones.”

Ms Cal­lanan said hump­back whales, which are start­ing to move through the area, pro­vided a bonus for divers.

It is im­por­tant to note that the wa­ter is Pil­bara cold at this time of year, mean­ing it feels chilly to res­i­dents, but tourists will find it quite pleas­ant.

Unlike the un­ex­plored dive sites men­tioned, Ex­mouth’s navy pier needs no in­tro­duc­tion.

The renowned shore dive gives ad­ven­tur­ous souls the chance to get up close to the huge groupers that lurk around the jetty py­lons.

Big fish aside, the pier has a wide va­ri­ety of colour­ful ma­rine life in a very small area as fish and soft corals grav­i­tate to­wards the pro­tected struc­ture for shel­ter.

Pad­dle about

There is no doubt­ing how pop­u­lar stand-up pad­dle­board­ing has be­come in re­cent years, es­pe­cially here in the North West where con­di­tions are per­fect for the sport.

Cracker Jack Pad­dle Sports owner Ja­clyn Ni­choll has taught more than 3000 peo­ple how to stand-up pad­dle since start­ing in 2015.

Ms Ni­choll said with tur­tle mat­ing sea­son and the whale mi­gra­tion be­gin­ning, now was the per­fect time to get out on the wa­ter.

“The skies are blue and the weather is per­fect,” she said.

“You can re­ally go any­where from Wick­ham to Cleaverville to Hear­sons Cove, we have such a beau­ti­ful coast­line with so many beaches and bays to ex­plore.

“The beauty of pad­dle­board­ing is ... be­ing out on the wa­ter and look­ing back at the land just gives you a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.

“It is a re­ally fam­ily friendly, af­ford­able ac­tiv­ity and a great way for the fam­ily to get out and ex­plore the re­gion.”

If you want to go fur­ther on pad­dle power, kayaks are the best way to go.

There are sev­eral com­pa­nies in Ex­mouth that of­fer kayak tours on the Nin­ga­loo Reef, a per­fect way to get close to na­ture with­out the noise of a boat en­gine con­stantly hum­ming away.

Beaut beaches

You don’t need to spend money or go out of the way to find some­thing dif­fer­ent to en­joy our pris­tine coast­line, some­times the best thing you can do is to sim­ply park your­self on the sand and watch the world go by.

The con­ve­nience of be­ing able to drive on many beaches is one of the best as­pects of life in the North West. With no need to cart an esky full of drinks from a car park, you can sim­ply park, roll out the awning and lis­ten to the wa­ter lap­ping me­tres from your toes.

Town Beach in Ex­mouth, Hear­sons Cove near Kar­ratha and Boat Beach in Wick­ham are among the best op­tions, but you can find plenty of se­cluded lo­ca­tions all along the coast.

There are, of course, beaches you can’t drive to, but this is for good rea­son. Turquoise, Osprey and Sandy Bay on the Nin­ga­loo Coast are re­garded as be­ing among the best stretches of sand any­where in Aus­tralia.

Then we have the is­land beaches. From the is­lands of the Ex­mouth Gulf to the Mack­erel Is­lands off Onslow and up to the is­land chain that makes up the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago, there are plenty of de­serted beaches to es­cape the main­land and call your own.

Wet a line

Fish­ing and the North West go to­gether like bread and but­ter, we live for it and for good rea­son.

With such a wide va­ri­ety of species, from small bream to 300kg-plus mar­lin avail­able close to the coast, an­glers of all abil­i­ties and ages have some­thing to be ex­cited about.

Nin­ga­loo Sport­fish­ing Char­ters owner Ben Knight said the North West fea­tured one of the most di­verse range of species found any­where in Aus­tralia.

“One day you can be out fish­ing for mar­lin, the next you can find bone­fish and ev­ery­thing else in be­tween,” he said.

“Then there is the life in the ocean. Ev­ery day we go fish­ing we are see­ing whale sharks, dugongs, turtles, whales, or­cas — I sup­pose that is what drew me here.

“I think one of the things I en­joy most while out fish­ing is see­ing all the dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties and cul­tures. Some­times you just sit down and have a beer with them af­ter­wards and it is great to hear what they think.”

If you want to go out your­self there are hire op­tions, kayaks and pow­ered craft all along the coast avail­able to help you head out and find your own honey hole on the Pil­bara and Nin­ga­loo coast.

Pic­ture: Cracker Jack Pad­dle Sports

Stand-up pad­dle­board­ing at Hear­sons Cove.

A li­on­fish off the Dampier Ar­chi­pel­ago. Pic­ture: Pil­bara Dive and Tours

Sandy Bay on the Nin­ga­loo Coast. Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Pic­ture: Michael Wil­son

Tourists swim with a 6m whale shark.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Crowds gather at Hear­son Cove.

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