The day started bright and early with our last breakfast at our hotel. Another meal of toast with beans and mushrooms and muesli and soy milk. We packed up our bags, checked out, and walked across the street where we were getting picked up for our road trip. So regarding this road trip and how I decided the company and destination… first off, when I found out the conference was in Australia the very first thing I did was check to see how far it was from the Great Barrier Reef. As it turned out, it was quite far. About a 6 hour expensive flight across the country. But I did notice that Perth was located on the West coast of Australia, which is home to Ningaloo Reef. I have seen this destination all over marine photographers’ social media pages and its famous for its whale sharks and humpback whales. To my knowledge, it’s one of the only places in the world that you can swim with a humpback whale (in addition to Tonga). This has been on my bucket list since the day I was born so I knew I had to make my way to Ningaloo. I googled the best way to do this, and found out there’s a plane, but it’s expensive and you need a car to get around and unfortunately I don’t have an international license and David doesn’t even drive sooo I looked into a bus. Upon this google search I found out they had a one week return trip Perth to Exmouth which included accommodation, food, and stops at the main attractions along the way. And most importantly, free time in Coral Bay and Exmouth to explore the ocean ecosystem! Most of the companies have similar costs and itineraries, so my goal was to find one that was the correct days and for the cheapest price. This first tour I booked with was through TourRadar for a 7 day Perth to Exmouth leaving Friday. We were all set and excited for this until a couple of weeks before the trip I received an email saying the trip was cancelled because there were not enough participants signed up. I was heartbroken and scared that these travel plans fell through. After emailing and chatting with three different tour companies who said that there were no tours leaving on Friday’s and we could only leave Monday and get back Monday (wouldn’t work for our flights). Finally after a few more google searches I found a solution and was able to email the company and receive confirmation that the trip was going to happen! Woohoo, it was easy to transfer payments from one company to another, and it was only a little bit more expensive. The brochure we received was a little vague on the itinerary and mentioned that the maximum number of people on tour was 24, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we only had 5 people total.
I loved having a small group because we could be efficient with time on our stops and also we could get to know each other very well. There was one older man in the group, Juan, who was also at my ESCA conference and then decided to do some traveling afterwards. There was another French guy, around 22 that was doing an internship in engineering in Brisbane than traveling before heading back to France. And lastly was Grace, who was a young Scottish doctor working in Wobbegong and doing some travels, she only was doing the Perth to Exmouth leg of the trip and not the return. Everyone got along super well and they all were very cool. Anyways, we started off our road trip heading North. Making stops for gas, toilets, and coffee along the way. Our first stop was about 2.5 hours North of Perth at a National Park called the Pinnacles. I had seen some photos of what reminded me of some national parks in Utah, with an orangey-red colored landscape and these Pinnacles jutting out of the sand. The pictures looked beautiful but I was only expecting to see these Pinnacles in a small area so I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived and they were everywhere! It was a unique and beautiful landscape, with a single road winding around. It’s a pretty short drive but you can get off anywhere along the way and enjoy the views. We ended at the visitors center which talked about the wildlife found at the park and also provided information about the geology. We learned about the different hypotheses on how the Pinnacles formed. Many of which suggest it had something to do with trees, and then the Pinnacles were covered with sand until about 1000 years around and it’s expected that they’ll be buried again in the future.
We drove for another hour until we stopped at a quiet coastal village to have lunch next to the sea. This tour included all meals, so I had a falafel sandwich. It was a nice stop, I think the area was called Port Denison.
We needed to cover a good amount of grand to get to Kalbarri National Park by sunset, so we did a lot of driving. I actually really enjoyed that we didn’t have to worry about driving or navigating and just let the tour guide do his thing. I napped basically the whole ride, which was lovely.
One great thing about our tour guide, Deon, was that he added things to the itinerary. One of the coolest additions was a stop at Pink Lake (also called Hutt lagoon). It added a bit of time to driving but it was totally worth it. I had been reading about this lake online and was very interested in checking it out. I saw photos on trip adviser and people said that the lake wasn’t really “that pink” but I was super happy to see that it was very impressive. Check out these photos!
After the pink lake we headed towards Kalbarri to do two lookouts. They were called Island Rock lookout and Natural Bridge lookout. One of the highlights was watching whales breaching.
After walking around the coastal trails, we went to a beach lookout for sunset. This was pretty close to the town of Kabarri where our hostel was for the night.
After sunset we drove to Kalbarri Youth Hostel to make dinner and head to bed. We made spaghetti and salad. I slept on a bunkbed and it reminded me of college. I went to bed pretty early for an early wakeup call the next day.