by Janine Duffy
I love Australia for her depth. You can spend a lifetime getting to know her, and she will always surprise you.
The Cape Range, near Exmouth, Western Australia is a lovely, red-glowing low escarpment jutting out of the WA coast like a coat-hook.
There’s no fertile strip of lofty forests along the coast here. The Outback crashes into the ocean without slowing down for even a breath. It appears that the exact suite of plants live here as hundreds of kilometres inland, all low-growing saltbushes and wind-sculpted stunted eucalypts. Nothing rises taller than an emu.
But Cape Range throbs with wild life. From the wind-sculpted eucalypt bursts the glorious call of a Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis, a huge flock of Galahs Eolophus roseicapilla land on the sand, a Dingo trots past.
A flash of electric blue in the depths of a shrub is a White-winged Fairywren Malurus leucopterus.
In a land of desperate harshness, one degree of extra softness is enough for life to thrive.
The lumpy red limestone of the Cape Range breaks into gorges, filled with caves. Rock Figs with bright green leaves infiltrate the rocks, and where there are figs there are Western Bowerbirds Chlamydera guttata.
Endangered Black-footed Rock-wallabies Petrogale lateralis lateralis live amongst the caves and cliffs of the Cape Range. It is one of their few remaining strongholds – these beautiful animals were once common right across central and western Australia. Their distribution now is like breadcrumbs left behind from a voracious feast – a feast of pastoralism, feral predators and climate change.
At the coast, the gorges become tiny mangrove-lined creeks. Mangrove Grey Fantails Rhipidura phasiana and Yellow White-eyes Zosterops luteus, birds smaller than a single leaf on the mangrove bushes, gorge themselves on the rich insect life in this pocket forest.
Ningaloo Reef is the reason most come to visit. The Whalesharks, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays, sea turtles, dolphins and fish, turquoise-blue waters, white sand are reason enough to fly across Australia, even across the world. But prepare to be surprised. There’s even more to this region than the glories of the sea.
In the coming weeks we will release a brand new conservation travel experience, in partnership with our friends at Exmouth Dive and Whalesharks, helping and protecting the animals of the Ningaloo area, both land and sea.