Turqouise Bay in the Cape Range National Park is one of the most popular beaches where you can easily access Ningaloo Reef which is from 5m to 20m from the beach. Turqouise Bay has one of the most pleasant drift snorkels in the area whereby you swim out to the reef and then simply let the current draw you over the reef parallel with the beach. However, don't return to the beach early enough and you could find yourself waving goodbye to Australia on an unexpected trip to Africa!!
There's plenty of information about the, at times very, strong rip currents along this stretch of beach, if you do your research. The locals will tell you about people who have lost their lives to this rip current - apparently there are occurences every year where people get into difficulty.
These rip currents are created by a gap in Ningaloo Reef at the point of the two Turqouise Bay beaches which pulls the current out through the gap (to Africa, the locals will tell you).
Don't be put off totally from snorkelling the drift at Turqouise Bay - its a fantastic experience - just be sure to read all the warning signs and pay good heed to the general rules for good snorkelling practice.
Make sure you head back to the beach in plenty of time before the sand bank.
This is a great snorkel if all due care is taken.
If at all concerned about your swimming or snorkelling abilities - snorkel on one of the other bays where the reef is equally as accessible but where the current is much calmer and gain some confidence before trying Turqouise Bay Drift Loop.
I highly recommend the use of fins on this snorkel to assist when swimming back to the beach near the sand bank - it can be extremely hard work otherwise.
Located on Western Australia's Pilbara Coast, Exmouth holds one of Australia's records - highest recorded wind speed on the mainland. The Pilbara Coast is Australia's most cyclone-prone coast and from mid-December through to April, visitors should ensure that they know how to obtain cyclone information and ensure they know how to prepare and what to do for the various levels of warning that can be put in place.
Running from a warning is also not necessarily your best option. During my visit in late March and early April 2006, Cyclone Glenda struck land near Onslow, just up the coast from Exmouth, and was followed by another warning a couple of days later. After Glenda, roads to the south were impassable for some 12 or more hours, whilst roads to the north were impassable for closer to 72 hours.
Exmouth is well geared up for cyclones and when Glenda started to get a little too close for comfort, the staff at Exmouth Cape Caravan Park (Aspen Parks) evacuated all residents to the cyclone-proof shire hall where we all spent the night under the watchful gaze of the support staff from the regional office. The next morning, roads were cleared of debris and fallen trees so quickly that you were lucky to spot one blocking the road and those not blocking the road were cleared within a couple of days.
If you're visiting during cyclone season, please be sure you keep tuning into the local radio stations and if you happen to be passing the Visitor Centre - pop by the noticeboard which is kept up-to-date with all the necessary information, including road status for those travelling onwards.
The northern coastline of Australia experiences the force of tropical cyclones between November and April each year and WA may experience about 2 or 3 cyclones around this time.
Exmouth felt the fury of Severe Tropical Cyclone Vance from the 16th March 1999 to the 23rd of March 1999 with wind speeds of up to 280 km/h. A record wind gust speed for the Australian mainland of 267 km/ h was recorded at the Learmonth Meteorological Office, 35 kilometres south of Exmouth.
About 10% of all buildings in Exmouth suffered severe structural damage and many more experienced damage due to water damage.
The sun down under can be fiercely hot and unrellenting causing one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. The Slip Slop Slap campaign started way back in the 80's encouraging Aussies to protect their skin by Slipping on a shirt, Slopping on some sunscreen and Slapping on a hat.
"I love this sunburnt country,
But not a sunburnt face.
So even on a cloudy day,
Slop on sunscreen just in case."
Exmouth is a very small and extremely remote place and because of this things are different to elsewhere.
1. The water comes from bores, perfectly safe to drink but tastes terrible. Most people drink bottled water or have a water-filter installed in their kitchen.
2. Some camp sites in the area(especialy in the Cape Park) will not have a drinking water supply, you need to fill up in Exmouth before you go.
3. There are not many shops, no large chain stores, but all basic necessities are available.
4. The is no postal delivery service, only PO boxes.
5. There's not much traffic, especially out of peak tourist season. If you break down outside the town it will be hard to get help. Make sure you don't run out of petrol and have a reliable vechicle and spare tyre.
6. On the odd times when it does rain heavily(usually during a cyclone), the town is likely to be cut off to all traffic for several days because of flooding.
Also, BE AWARE THAT IT IS EXTREMELY HOT HERE IN THE SUMMER-45c IS COMMON DURING JAN AND FEB
Exmouth is in a cyclone area and during the months of January, February and March there is always the risk of a major cyclone hitting the town.
Most buildings are 'cyclone proof', ie built substantionaly more strongly than usual to withstand all but the most major of cyclones, with shutters on all windows and no gutters or drain pipes (gutters and drain pipes are useless in that much rain and can blow off and cause damage).
Many local people tend to keep a 'cyclone box' containing flashlight and batteries, candles, wind up radio(to listen for the all clear), and enough food and water for 3 days.
If you don't go the the shelter, you are advised to draw the curtains to minimise flying glass and sit in a passageway or other safe place in the middle of the house, and not come out until the 'all clear' is given.
Although the cyclone itself will not last a great length of time, the town is likely to be cut off by flood-water for many days afterwards, probably with no power or telephones.
This generally does not affect tourists too badly as it is in 'off-season', not many people want to visit an area with temps around 45c every day!
If you do happen to be there in mid-summer (that's when the turtles hatch), there are public shelters available for those who are camping or do not wish to stay in their own homes, and warning systems are in place which would alert you to danger and give plenty of time to evacutate to a shelter.
Kangaroos have no road sense whatsoever, and are often close to or in the road and may bound in front of your car if startled.
From when the sun begins to go down, all night and until well after dawn, they are the particularly active and difficult to see.
Please drive slowly and carefully, especially in the Cape Range National Park where you may see a hundred or two on your way back to town at dusk.
Many cars have 'roo bars' fitted which protect the car and it's passengers to some extent, but not the roos. Dead roos and orphaned joeys at the side of the road are a sad thing to see.
One of the most popular things to do in Exmouth is to dive and many people use the excellent Ningaloo Reef to get their PADI licence.
A warning! I registered and completed the theory part of the course and the skills in a local pool, but I caught a cold and was unable to equalize the pressure in my ears - consequently I couldn't move on to the open water. Fortunately the company I was with gave me a refund of almost 66%. I met a girl who had the same problem but her operator gave her no refund.
I used the money to go snorkelling with whale sharks.
Definitely worth checking out in advance
Turquoise Bay is a beautiful spot for snorkelling, and the Ningaloo reef is just a short(ish) swim off the shore. Be aware that there are quite strong currents flowing parallell to the beach. This is not such a problem when you are swimming out to the reef but on the return you will feel the current trying to carry you to the left, where, if you do not have enough energy it may carry you beyond the small sandy headland.
Conserve your energy for the return swim, and aim to return to the beach further to the right than you need to in order to compensate for the current.
Hope this doesn't cause you to worry too much - but I guess it's always best to be aware of these things!
Have a wonderful time!
Depending on the wind and tide, please look out for Blue Bottles they can give you a very nasty sting.
SLSA’s current recommended treatment for bluebottle stings is consistent with current ARC guidelines, that is:
Remove any tentacles with fingers
Wash sting area with saltwater to remove any stinger cells still on the skin and not visible to the naked eye
Place ice on the area for a maximum of 20 minutes to assist in reducing pain
Guys, not really that much of a problem here really - apparently all the local snorkellers think Turquoise Bay is MEANT to be a drift snorkel - ie you enter the water, let the (rather strong) current carry you along next to the beach, then exit when you are getting tired. Can drift 500m-1kn without literally having to swim a stroke!:-) Its an AWESOME snorkel - sharks (smallll;-), coral, schools of fish everywhere - we even daw a dolphin further out! - and well worth the visit - something about not having to do any work whilst gently floating along is v cool - trick is to not fight the current to get back to shore but slowly head closer and closer to shore as you get more and more tired, then eventually just stand up and wade out. Checked with two fo the dive companies and they assure me noone has ever "gone missing"when swimming there.