Our last day at Sal Salis started early as we had a 4 hour 38 minute drive ahead as we head slowly back down to Perth with a first stop at Carnarvon.  The temperature had climbed to 40 degrees by 10.30.  It was the sort of heat that would have your dog hanging its tongue out – for a VERY long time.  This sort of heat makes you want to do very little indeed – so thank goodness for air conditioning in the car for the drive ahead.  It is the end of the season here.  Sal Salis closes next week and reopens in March/April time.  It would be way too hot to stay on, so just as well we are heading back South and it gets gradually cooler as each 50 kilometres clicks up.

Tips for Future Travellers:
Fuel up at the Shell station 5 kms out of Exmouth – much cheaper than the sleepy little town of Exmouth itself.

Pre book marine interaction tours to avoid disappointment- especially towards the end of the season.

Useful website for self-guided itineraries etc.  Www.australiascoralcoast.com

We were sad to leave Sal Salis and to start what is the last leg of our trip.  We are already planning to return to Australia – it just has so much to offer.  We could have flown back to Perth from Learmonth (35kms from Exmouth) but the road has been very much a part of the experience here and I think we would have missed out a bit if we had just flown back and incurred one way drop off charges too.

Highlights:
My first sight of the pristine Ninglaoo Reef – it truly is out of this world and just a short distance from the shore.  All that colour and diversity of marine life under the big blue – who knew?!  Even just a walk waist high in the ocean just short of the reef yielded sitings of green turtles (the nesting season has just started here) and blue spotted stingrays without needing to swim.

Fascinating Fact:
Coral reefs are the biggest and most spectacular structures made by living organisms.  They are built by the coral polyps :  animals consisting of a mouth surrounded by numerous tentacles, a simple body cavity and a limestone skeleton.  Reef building corals can only grow in shallow waters where they can obtain most of their food from the algae through photosynthesis.

The black flanked rock wallabies at Mandu Mandu Gorge in the Cape Range National Park.  They run with such impressive, sure footed agility along the rocky slopes of the gorge.  They have to – they have several predators including dingos, eagles and snakes which makes them a threatened species.

Fascinating Fact:
​There are only three Australian mammals that can live without water – kangaroos, wallabies and the little black flanked rock wallabies.  They get all the water they need from the vegetation they eat.

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn en route.

The Carnarvon Motel – and sharing good humoured banter with the locals (see Accommodation Review).

POHM – Prisoners of his Majesty.  Early settlers were transported to Australia as a punishment and became known as POMs for short – i.e. – Englishmen.

Lowlights :
Trying to master snorkelling for the first time in a very fast current over a shallow reef.  I was very glad to have some one-to-one tuition from Nick at Sal Salis.  Without his help, I don’t think I could have experienced  the overwhelming beauty of this delicate marine kaleidoscope.  It was much harder than I thought and I need much more practice to gain sufficient confidence to search for the good photos underwater – but I made a start!

Turquoise Bay
It’s beautiful for sure, but there are rip tides, stonefish and other nasties here, so you need to exercise caution.

Foodie Firsts:
The creative vegetarian specialties at Sal Salis – especially the roasted cauliflower – thanks Luke!  I have the recipe – another thing I am looking forward  to practising.

Berry Cooler – Sal Salis
2/3 ginger ale, 1/3 soda water mixed with freeze dried red berries.  So refreshing on arrival at Sal Salis after a long drive.

Hot Rocks steak – Carnarvon Motel.  Very highly recommended!

Glad I packed:
Prescription mask (an absolute essential for me!)
Snorkel
Underwater camera (see What I’m Packing for brand).  It performed really well – very easy to handle.  It’s only limitation was my fledgling snorkelling ability.  With practice, this tough little camera is definitely capable of delivering so much more.

Wish I had packed:
A rashie or (waterproof sun shirt with factor 50 protection).  I bought one in Exmouth for future trips.

Learning the Lingo:
Poachies – yep – you guessed it:  poached eggs.
Nude nut – a balding head.

Carnarvon was the first location in Australia where bananas were grown and produces 70 per cent of WA’s fresh produce.  These days, Carnarvon is recognised as the place that grows the Sweeter Banana.  What makes them so sweet?  The unique arid desert climate mean the bananas grow very close together, which protects them from the summer heat and sea breeze and from the nasty bugs that plague bananas elsewhere.  Sweeter Bananas don’t need to be chemically treated for pesticides.

Carnarvon Tracking Station was built in 1964 to support NASA’s Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs.  For 11 years, it was the last station to communicate with astronauts before leaving the earth’s orbit and the last voice they’d hear as they headed for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.  We take live TV for granted these days, but on July 21st 1969, the live coverage of Neil Armstrong’s  first steps on the moon were transmitted from Carnarvon and formed an indelible memory for all those watching around the world.  (See What I’m Watching – The Dish).  You can visit the Museum here to find out more if you are interested.

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