Follow the Sun

August 6, 2021

PhotographyBobby Bense | Helen Janneson Bense | All drone imagery captured with permission and license from DCBA

Locations – Coral bay | Exmouth | Abrolhos Islands | Carnarvon | Kalbarri | Pink Lake | Geraldton – Western Australia

Where to stayCoral bay Bayside villas | Yardie Creek homestead chalets | Carnarvon Beach retreat | Wittecara Beach house

What to doSnorkel Coral bay | Ningaloo Discovery Whale Shark tour | Kalbarri/Abrolhos Island Scenic flight | Coral Bay Kayak Snorkel Trails | Kayak/SUP or Cruise Yardie Creek Gorge | Glass Bottom Eco Turtle tour | Carnarvon Food Trail | Kalbarri Skywalk | Kalbarri Natural Bridge

Each winter we follow the sun north to the warmer waters, to journey with the migrating humpback whales, to snorkel with turtles, to spend our days salty and sun kissed from sunrise to sunset.

We started our migration to beautiful Coral bay, where you can snorkel the fringing reef right from the beach. It’s the kind of place where you soon forget what day it is. We enjoyed the slow pace of beachside life with the company of our good friends who holidayed with us. This year we stayed in the Bayside villas which were comfortable and convenient being so close to the reef. The outdoor deck was the perfect spot to enjoy sunset views over the reef each day.

There are so many awesome spots to snorkel in Coral bay. One of my favourites is the Lavender patch, a vivid, healthy, 50m long patch of lilac coral, located very close to the beach. From Bill’s bay just head south past Purdy point towards the 5 knot sign in the water. Drift snorkel north from here around 20+m or so out into the reef and you won’t miss it. It’s such a large area of coral and incredibly vibrant. If you have any trouble finding it, take a tour out in one of the glass bottom boats and they will take you there to view it. We did both, and nothing beats being able to dive down and see it close up. Another really amazing spot to see is Ayre’s rock, a 400 year old porites bombie. It’s approx 300m from shore so you’ll need to kayak and tie off on one of the kayak moorings. From the mooring it’s close by, about 60m in a westerly direction. Ensure you don’t touch or kick the coral as it’s very close to the surface of the water.

Our next stop was a 2.5 hour trek to Exmouth. We stayed at Yardie Creek Homestead park in one of their chalets. While it was very basic, it had absolutely everything we needed. It was a very comfortable stay and provided the best vantage point for us to quickly get where we wanted to visit. We spent most of our time outdoors exploring Cape range national park. Turquoise bay is by far my favourite snorkelling spot along Ningaloo reef. Each snorkel we saw multiple turtles, unicorn fish, sharks, vibrant corals, and some unusual fish we weren’t even able to identify. It was absolutely teeming with life. We explored the Yardie Creek gorge, an amazing spot for kayaking and paddle boarding. Look closely into the ancient red limestone cliff faces and you’ll see the cutest faces of the rare and tiny black footed wallabies and huge osprey nests. We were lucky enough to see both during our visit. Unfortunately I was unlucky losing my phone along the hiking trail. While it caused some stress, I quickly grieved the loss, and ensured I enjoyed the rest of my trip phone free, which was a very liberating feeling.

The next day of our adventure was by far the best and we ticked off a bucket list item that I had long dreamt about. We set off sail aboard Windcheetah, a 60 ft catamaran, with Ningaloo Discovery in search of the majestic whale sharks. We couldn’t have wished for better weather conditions, with low wind, sunshine and calm, glassy waters. It made spotting humpback whales super easy. While it took us awhile to find our whale sharks, we spotted multiple humpback whales along the way, swimming so close to our sailing boat. We saw turtles, sharks and even a sea snake! Finally we reached our destination just outside the reef on the other side of Turquoise bay. Swimming with whale sharks was definitely worth the wait. It brought me to happy tears as I swam alongside these graceful beings. Our children said it was the best tour they have ever experienced. And I would have to agree. Due to conditions being so perfect, we also lucked out with a back of reef snorkel. From the moment I entered the water I spotted my first turtle, and then onto the next and the next. It was so amazing to be snorkeling outside the reef, secretly praying a whale or manta ray would swim by us.

Our time in Exmouth was so wild and joyful and definitely a place I want to spend more time at on our next migration north. We slowly began our journey home with a refuel and refresh pit stop for supplies in Carnarvon. A must stop along the food trail is Morel’s. It’s one of our road trip family traditions to stop for dried mango and mango ice cream (vegan too!). We stayed right on the water at Carnarvon Beach Retreat in the captains quarters. A beautiful spot to take your kayak or sup straight out onto the water from your outdoor deck. Be aware during low tide you may get stuck so stay between the boat markers. There’s a local turtle named Tommy, and stingrays to be seen here. It’s such a peaceful, calm spot to enjoy sunset and sunrise views from your balcony.

Onwards we traveled to one of my favourite spots, Kalbarri. I love the ancient red cliffs, the abundant wildlife, the wild ocean, and above all how close we are to the migrating whales. From Natural bridge on the coastal cliff drive you will definitely be able to spot whales here between July and October. If you hang around until sunset you’ll see the local red kangaroos, the Bigurda, confidently jumping along the sheer face of the cliffs. Some beautiful spots to explore are the Kalbarri skywalk, Nature’s window, Blue holes, and kayak along Murchison river. I find that every time I visit I’m so drawn to whale watching. It’s mesmerising. We stayed at Wittecara Beach house, right on the beach and edge of the national park. We could see whales breaching from our kitchen table! This house was by far the best spot we’ve stayed in Kalbarri and I would highly recommend a stay.

To end our magical road trip with an absolute bang, we took a scenic flight from Kalbarri to the Abrolhos islands with Kalbarri Scenic flights. We soaked in the views of whales breaching and tail slapping along the way, the 400 million year old coastal cliffs, the pink lake, and the incredible turquoise vista of the Houtman Abrolhos islands, made up of 122 islands spanning 100 km of ocean. It’s one of WA’s most unique, biodiverse, marine areas, an ocean hope spot, and home to Australian sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, Tammar wallabies, green sea turtles, dwarf bearded dragons, ospreys and 90 different species of seabirds. We were lucky enough to spot some wallabies with their joeys during our visit.

Abrolhos is famously known for the Batavia shipwreck in 1629, one of the earliest known landings of Europeans, which led to months of horrific mutiny and murder. Your your guide will no doubt have a wild historic story to share. You can dive to view what is left of the shipwreck and view the fort, which was built by the soldiers during the mutiny. The reconstructed remains of Batavia can be viewed at the Shipwrecks museum in Fremantle.

As our road trip holiday came to a close, we had one more stop, the mesmerising Pink Lake in Port Gregory. We explored multiple locations along the pink lake from north to south and right by the ocean to enjoy all the varying colours. The colours ranged from pink, red, lilac to purple with patches of orange/yellow. The colour of the lake is created by the presence of carotenoid-producing algae, Dunaliella salina, a source of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Depending on the light, angle and cloud coverage it will appear differently every time you visit.

It’s the moments that take your breath away that truly linger, that become a part of a new you, and bring us closer to nature, closer to our hearts, closer to our true self. I live for these moments of pure joy and there is no price tag that can be placed on the freedom and transformation that comes with experiencing nature at it’s finest. I’m so grateful for such an enriching journey, laughing with my family and friends, facing challenges together, building resilience and confidence within ourselves, sharing memories that will never be forgotten. While I’m already dreaming of next year’s trek, I’m integrating all this magic we experienced and grateful for what nature has given to us.

With love and gratitude,

Helen xx

1 comment

  • Bobby Bense

    What a holiday! I’m shocked how many beautiful images we captured in such a short period away. Love what you’ve done with them. Beautiful!

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