Saturday, March 12, 2005

Reefer Madness

Oh my, it's been 6 months since I left on my trip, though it doesn't really feel like it. Though I can't believe I've only managed to visit 7 countries (8 if you count Hutt River Province) in all that time; I'll have to do better in the next 6 months. Whilst travelling through Oz by car (without aircon) you get to see and smell a lot of the outback, and one thing they don't tell you in brochures is that the predominant odour of the bush is the sickly-sweet smell of rotting meat that comes from all the roadkill. There are stretches of road that easily have at least one kangaroo, in some stage of decomposition, every 200m. Not particularly pleasing, but then you probably won't starve to death out here at least.

Now I am in Exmouth at the north-western tip of Australia and home to Ningaloo reef, a coral reef that is so close to shore that you can easily swim up to it from shore. It's also one of the few places in the world where you can easily see whale sharks and manta rays (even though I haven't, yet). So I have spent the past couple of days paddling out to the reefs and snorkelling around them. The abundance and diversity of fish, corals and other marine fauna is just astounding and the colours are all so bright and vivid. The corals are also shallow enough for you to be able to swim right to the bottom of them to see the rays and other bottom dwelling fish. So far I have seen, amongst others, parrotfish, angelfish, wrasses, eels, rays, turtles, sea slugs and starfish. Unfortunately today I've been unable to go snorkelling as there is a tropical cyclone (Willy) sitting about 100km off the coast creating huge swells and churning up the sand from the sea-bed, thereby reducing visibility almost to zero. So instead I'm stuck in this small town (population 2500, which is a heaving metropolis for these parts) with not much to do, so I'm guessing I'll spend most of the day in the pool.

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