Seeing the Big
The huge manta ray we followed around.
Beautiful Coral Bay.
One of many sharks we saw!
February 8, 2008
What a day. What a freakin’ day…
But before I get to that, first let me start off by talking about last night at the sheep station we stayed at. Ohhhh, what a night.
To be honest, though, it’s other people that were filling in some blanks for me this morning. Oh yes – it was that kind of night.
I think it started the second I opened the bottle of sparkling wine I won for being the scorekeeper during our ‘Bus Trivia’ game.
I drank that baby from start to finish in the true ‘outback’ fashion – straight from the bottle.
I don’t really know where to start because once things started getting fun, I was a bit toasted. I remember ‘Outback Idol’ and
being on the A-Team. We really did have a lot more spirit than the other team. I was even the team chicken (as Jo has a
chicken hat). I clucked my way around the judge (Sarah) but the chicken appearance was criticized when the scoring came
along because she didn’t think it tied into the song about a dog. I remember finishing the bottle of sparkling wine during the
song and being really sad about that. The rest was told to me today…
A guitar-playing session began. It went on for a bit. But I was craving a dance party. I wanted an ipod to be plugged in. But not
only did we not have any power, some people didn’t think something like an ipod would be suitable for a night in the outback. So
then I asked Kevin if he could play something ‘hip hoppy’ (lovely Rose was able to provide me with these details). Kevin ended
up playing ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ by Britney (this information was provided by Jo and Kevin) where I got up by the fire
and began to do a dance. Don’t really know how much longer I lasted for….but I do remember falling asleep underneath a sky
loaded with stars and the Milky Way. Absolutely 100% incredible. I even woke up in the middle of the night and just started
staring at the sky. Nothing else like that.
Oh! I remember something else from last night. I had no patience to walk over to the pitch-black outhouse to pee. I decided to
go right behind the shed that was next to us with my trusty flashlight. While I was squatting, I saw a small bone. I saw another
one. I figured this was normal as this is nature out here we are talking about. But then I looked right next to me – within
centimeters was a dead sheep! Ewww! (Or should I say ‘Ewe’?) Luckily I was done with my business at that point. But still –
So today I got several requests for me to drink tonight. In fact, some people have requested that I just drink day-and-night
continually through this trip. Should I take offense??? I think I’m a pretty fun person sober. But apparently not. Damn. I’ll
have to work on that.
Okay. So now onto my day. First of all, I had zero hangover. Amazing considering I didn’t have a drop of water yesterday. But
this was a good thing as I had a full day ahead of me – I had signed up for the ‘Manta Ray Swim’ at Coral Bay.
When we got there, we were asked if we were good swimmers and snorkelers. I felt a bit cocky being scuba-certified and all (I
won’t make this mistake again) so I answered “Yeah. I scuba dive so snorkeling is pretty easy for me.” Why in the world did I
think that drifting along with current with an air tank on my back makes me a good swimmer?
So we headed out on our boat for a manta ray swim and snorkeling in a couple locations. On our boat ride out there, I can’t even
count the number of dolphins and turtles we saw. It was incredible!
But then a manta ray was spotted and we followed the guy (Dan – who works for the company and ‘Manta Ray Stalker
Extraordinaire’) out there to follow the manta around. Luckily I was able to follow Dan right from the start and we were on top
of the manta. And this thing was HUGE. Its wingspan was longer than my entire body. And he had a cute little shape to his
face/eyes. It wasn’t long before everyone else was around and then I only started seeing flippers and lots of bubbles. I looked
up and Dan was a decent distance away now considering the current. Now my focus was just swimming – not manta ray
viewing. I just needed to catch up. But no matter how long I went for, I never made any ground. I felt like I was training for a
triathlon. I didn’t want to throw in the towel and be a quitter. But when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, there’s really no
shame in being a quitter. After about five more minutes of rigorous swimming at an attempt to keep up, I raised my arm for
the ‘rescue me’ signal. At least there were two others that were being rescued along with me – in addition to a couple others
already on-board. The quitters were uniting. It actually only ended up being about five minutes later when everybody else
came out of the water. In any case, it was awesome seeing my first manta ray.
Now it was time to see some of Ningaloo Reef. And what a reef it is! I can’t even describe the shapes and sizes of the coral that I
saw. Lots of it was fringing coral. Some looked like roses magnified 10,000 times. And most of it was in surreal shapes that I
had never seen anything like before. I saw some fish and some type of ray that was resting on the sandy bottom of the ocean –
but I was more drawn to the coral. It was great to have a boat take us out in the middle of it (versus just snorkeling from the
But our next and final stop was the highlight of my day – we had to cross through a narrow path in the reef to get to what they
call the ‘Shark Teeth Cleaning Station’. Basically, we were told me might see some sharks here and that they come to this area
because there are small fishies that clean their teeth. All I was hoping for was seeing one shark. I wasn’t even prepared for
what was in store…
I don’t know – we might have seen ten sharks? Possibly fifteen? There was no way to count them all. And they were the hugest
reef sharks I have ever seen! All of them were longer than me! They looked like actual ‘sharks’ (versus the small guys that can
look like really big fish). We stayed there for a while – I couldn’t believe that I was able to see something like that. And some of
these sharks looked like they were smiling – that meant that the little fishies were cleaning their teeth. They actually looked
like those happy cartoon sharks. Way too cute!
And to top the snorkeling off, on my way swimming back to the boat I saw a big turtle resting near the corals. The crème de la
crème of it all.
We then made our way back to Coral Bay and I just couldn’t stop staring at the amazing color of the water. This will never get
old to me.
I am sooo glad I did that trip. I would think that a lot of options would be available since the Ningaloo Reef is something very
well-known in Australia – but there aren’t. If I didn’t do the manta ray trip, I would have had no other options of things to do. I
would have only been able to snorkel from the beach. And why be all the way out here and not take advantage of everything
that there is to see?
And now that we are in Exmouth, that is my rationale and why I have decided to do a couple dives (though a bit pricey) out