I am super excited to share some news – I’m going to Ningaloo!!! I’m incredibly lucky to be offered a team leader role on the Ningaloo Turtle Program. This two month internship will see me acting as a Communications and Media Team Leader. I’ll spend eight weeks with the other three leaders, 12 external volunteers and local volunteers patrolling the beaches near Exmouth from 5am each morning. We’ll be looking at turtle tracks and trying to identify nests. When all this data is compiled it gives the WA Parks and Wildlife Service a lot of information for managing the local turtle population. Over time this dataset combines to paint a picture of how turtles use the Ningaloo Coast, which informs conservation actions.
I’ll be staying in Exmouth, which is quite far up the West Australian coast. If you drew a line across the country you’d end up halfway between Rockhampton and Mackay in Queensland! Exmouth is on the eastern side of the North West Cape, so from town you look across the Exmouth Gulf back at the Australian mainland. A road runs north from Exmouth, around the tip of the cape and back south down to Yardie Creek. Along the way you enter Cape Range National Park and just off the beach is the fringing, nearshore Ningaloo Reef. This means to go snorkelling I can just drive to the beach, hop in the water and swim offshore.
Now when you say Ningaloo everyone thinks whale sharks. Every year 300-500 of these massive creatures congregate at Ningaloo following the annual mass coral spawning and seasonal nutrient upwelling which drive increased production of their food – plankton. Unfortunately, I won’t be at Ningaloo during the whale shark season (March – August) but there is still plenty to see.
The area is also known for its cave systems, with the highest cave fauna diversity in Australia, including rare aquatic species in flooded caves. If that wasn’t enough, the Cape Range Peninsula is recognised as an area rich in bird and reptile species and home to 630 flowering plant species. The Cape Range National Park is a rugged landscape of gorges, sheer cliffs and is home to emus, perenties (goannas) and the threatened black-footed rock wallaby. Then, there’s the nearby Muiron Islands known for incredible diving with potato cod, nurse sharks and swim throughs. Maybe two months isn’t enough time to see it all!
Looking at the Ningaloo Visitor Centre Wildlife Calendar, I’ll be there during the peak turtle nesting season (surprise surprise), the end of the Humpback whale migration and peak manta ray period. On the downside, Exmouth will be extremely hot when I’m there (over 40 degrees Celsius most days!) and in the middle of the tropical cyclone season. But what’s an adventure without some challenges. I can’t wait to explore the Ningaloo Coast and meet the critters that call it home. But first join us both as we go on a road trip from Perth to Exmouth. We can’t wait to share what we discover along the way!