9 July 2002
On our final day in Cape Range National Park we attended to some business in Exmouth, drove back to Turquoise Bay and walked to the beach immediately south of the bay. There was a strong current moving from the south to the north. I went in first to check to see if it was safe. Not only was it safe, but the water was warm and teeming with tropical fish that darted in and out amongst the coral. I made a mental map of where the coral was as I drifted over it on the current. Susan came in for the next snorkel, after wresting her diving gear from the kids.
One of the highlights of this excursion was a leopard shark. It was an exquisite creature with a long flamboyant tail. It seemed quite unperturbed by our presence, and just loafed on the bottom amongst the coral. Susan swam down and stretched out alongside it so we could check out its length. It was somewhat longer than her, including her flippers, but it seemed much bigger due to its girth.
Ruby had the next turn with the mask and snorkel. This swim was rather more exciting that I would have liked. We went looking for the Leopard Shark again but failed to find it. We found three other sharks however, and they didn’t look quite as friendly. The first was only about 5 feet long and quite slender. Ruby saw it first and high-tailed it back to me. We had a good look at it from what seemed like a safe distance, and then moved on. Ruby regained her courage however, and curiosity and excitement got the better of her, so we went back at her request to have another look around.
We encountered two more sharks, each bigger in turn. The third one was too big for comfort, and it was cruising around in quite shallow water rather than loafing on the bottom. Although it showed no interest in us, it made me quite concerned because of its size relative to Ruby. We made for the shore soon after that encounter.
Clare was then mad-keen for a swim, and insisted that I take her out to the coral. I was still a bit unnerved, not to mention somewhat cold, but I couldn’t say no. Fortunately we didn’t see any more sharks, but much to Clare’s delight we did encounter a large turtle which we were able to follow, and Clare even got to touch its shell. Although I have dwelt on the sharks a bit, there were many different kinds of fish. The parrotfish were exquisite, and had amazing psychedelic patterns on them. There were also huge snapper, sea cucumbers, and octopuses.
By the time I got Clare ashore, the tide was getting low and it was getting difficult to negotiate the coral without running into it. So we packed up and headed back to camp, where we got changed and picked up some drinks and prawns that Susie had purchased in Exmouth, and headed out to the wreck that lay off the North-west cape. Here we watched the sunset while the fishermen and their families hunted in the rock pools for octopus. At dusk the mosquitoes went on the attack, and we retreated to the camping ground. The family who were camped behind us were going to watch a DVD again, and Ruby and Clare got another invitation, which we made sure came good this time. They sat up late with the other kids, while Susie and I began to get things organised so that we could pull out of Cape Range early the next morning.