It’s about 20 metres north of the ‘5 knots’ sign and about 40 metres from the beach. The purple patch that is. Well it’s lavender actually, lavender coral and it’s the only place on the planet you will find it. It carpets the floor of this section of the lagoon at Coral Bay in a lovely purple colour with the occasional patch of green thrown in for good measure. Its also a bit unusual in that most of the coral here is naturally brown, the most efficient colour for hard corals to photosynthesize (apparently). The usual array of tropical fish make this the best bit of snorkeling at Coral Bay without venturing further afield to the outer reef anyway.
Which we have also done while here. Deciding which tour to take took some doing. We had to choose between the quad bike treks, the sailing and snorkeling on the Coral Breeze catamaran the Turtle Eco Cruise or the full Outer Reef Experience. There are actually several forms of the latter and depending upon which one you choose it includes swimming with manta rays with a four, six or eight metre wing span and weighing variously up to two, four or six tonne. I don’t know how the right size manta rays know which tourist boat to roll up for… Clever critters.
We chose the glass bottom boat turtle cruise, which included a visit to the outer reef turtle sanctuary and a snorkel at Snapper Hole. The trip out to these sites was worth it on it’s own. That’s how we found the purple patch for one, but I could also just stand looking at the colour of the water out there, and nothing else, for hours on end. See photo, I can’t describe it.
The turtle sanctuary is a shallow patch of water just inside the outer reef where the huge waves of the Indian Ocean crash to a grinding halt. Algae grows on the rocks in the shallow waters and green sea turtles and loggerhead turtles come from miles around to feed. They are everywhere, little heads popping up for air in the crystal clear water while the skipper of our glass bottomed boat maneuvers the vessel so we can get a view of them from directly above. They don’t seem to mind. I was almost more entertained by the excited shouts from the children on board, including our own, every time they spotted one of the flippered friends. ‘Turtle turtle!’ they would cry every few minutes. There were turtles everywhere. For extra entertainment for some reason Oliver fixated on the fact that he knew turtles had tails and pointed out each tail he saw! As we left the sanctuary to move on to our snorkel at Snapper Hole we spotted humpback whales at play again just the other side of the reef wall.
Its funny now circumstance changes your experience of a place. Emma and I visited here nine years ago after making a mad dash north from Perth. It was February then and the temperature was hot, so there weren’t many others here. It seemed wild, remote and kind of exotic, with this tropical marine paradise appearing out of the desert we had been speeding (literally) through. This time it’s peak season the weather is cooler though still beautifully warm and there are greater numbers of people, if still not that many overall. The place feels more like an east coast beach town in January (but lacking the east coasts nice drinking water!). Having said all that Coral Bay the town and Coral Bay the bay look pretty much exactly like they do in my memory. A glorious lagoon of crystal clear water with coral to swim over just metres from the shore. Ce Magnifee!
This time around we have also had the enjoyment of watching Amy and Oliver hurtle down the steepest hill in the caravan park on their bikes at ever increasing speeds. Seriously good entertainment. I think both Emma and I managed to fully resist the urge to urge them to be careful. Just two weeks ago Oliver was riding with training wheels, now he is upset if his skids aren’t long enough!
Amy and Oliver have also developed impressive snorkeling skills. Since we bought them each a wetsuit they can stay in the water longer and really experience seeing the wonders of the reef. Oliver in particular loves zooming off after fish that take his fancy and with his flippers on he goes pretty fast. Amy experienced something that must be quite unique… She was in the shallow water and put her snorkel in her mouth and took it out again, and I spotted blood. No, no sharks appeared, but she did lose her front tooth… Needless to say a special note was left for the tooth fairy, who didn’t disappoint. No doubt she was able to locate it amongst the many shells littering the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
So, we spend our days kicking back in the morning waiting for the wind to drop which it seems to do by midday. Then it’s a walk across the road to the beach where we plant ourselves for the afternoon, variously snorkeling, playing in the sand, or strolling along the edge of the waters looking at the view. Emma has read at least 87 novels in the last few days including two this morning before lunch. More disturbingly she seems to have developed a taste for Women’s Weekly and other such gossip magazines, at least when she has nothing else to read and it’s freely available from the laundry. Even more disturbingly it seems to be rubbing off on me! I wonder what Prince William is up to this week, and did you know Brad has been flirting with someone other than Ange? It’s tough.