Exmouth & Karijini National Park

Over Easter, we took an extended break to dip our souls into the red dust of the north west of Western Australia. We drove from Perth to Exmouth in a day and left at the exciting hour of 2am to reach Exmouth early so we weren’t driving Suicide Drive at dusk. What’s “Suicide Drive” you ask? It is the treacherous stretch of road that goes into Exmouth and during the last few hours of light is inhabited by all manner of suicidal animals including and not limited to: goats, sheep, cows, kangaroos, emus, goannas, snakes, birds, rabbits and foxes. It is a dangerous stretch of road and I’ve heard it is difficult not to hit something on the way in during an afternoon. Luckily we got through with no worries and got to Exmouth at about 3pm.

A cracker sunrise put good light (haha) on the trip:

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On the way through to Exmouth we stopped to re-fuel and get some lunch at the Overlander Roadhouse. We parked down the back under the shade provided by two big trees that were completely covered in Butterflies.

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I had a checklist of “things to see in Exmouth” and one of my top priorities was a Perentie. This giant goanna is the largest native to Australia and the fourth largest in the world making it a pretty impressive creature. They are referred to as the “Lizard King”, are an apex predator and therefore afraid of practically nothing. This makes them fairly approachable for photos as long as you don’t get too close (Perentie toe nails would be a nail technician’s nightmare). We were lucky enough to catch one crossing the road; it was young and very clean, showing off its great markings and trademark white throat. It tolerated us for a few minutes before shifting into 4WD mode and running into the bush.

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The fishing was not so great in Exmouth unfortunately; limited to the land we threw hard bodied lures, soft plastics and stick baits around with very little luck. But what a paradise! The water there was crystal clear and a beautiful aqua blue. We didn’t make it to Turquoise Bay (got to leave something for next time!) but I found Sandy Bay pretty impressive:

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As a photographer and not having much experience in this part of the country I was especially excited to watch the sun rise out of the water. In Perth it rises over the hills and sets in the water but I have never seen a sun rise from the ocean. It didn’t hurt that the sunrises in Exmouth were beautiful either.

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And then it was time for the trip to Karijini. I have been wanting to get to Karijini for years, even before photography became a focus for me. What a place! We timed our trip to Karijini a little earlier than the prescribed “on” season in the hopes that going close to the end of the wet season would mean plenty of reptiles and lots of great clouds. Being there only a few days meant we didn’t get to experience much change in the weather and the first few days were cloudless and an easy 32 degrees during the day and 16 at night. On the last day the clouds were fantastic and we heard that they were expecting heavy rain to arrive soon.

Arriving on Easter Monday it seemed a lot of campers had left by that stage and each day more people filtered out and no one new seemed to arrive. There were a few big groups of European touritsts but the most likely visitors were young couples and young families. We camped in the eco retreat in Grevillea Loop, site 95- a great spot as we were completely secluded from other people and right at the front of the loop- closest to the showers and the BBQ block.

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We had 3 full days inside the park but the last day was taken up with West Oz Active’s “Red Gorge Tour” so we tried to make the most of what we could see and do in 2 days.

First stop was Hamersley Gorge. About an hour’s drive out of the park and well worth the visit! I think it was the most beautiful gorge with its purple hews and beautiful green water.

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Then we used the afternoon to visit Hancock Gorge – the gorge I fell in love with when looking at other people’s photos. I couldn’t wait to get through it and it didn’t disappoint!

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We got up for a sunrise at Joffrey falls but the light didn’t come across and stayed a very muted colour unfortunately:

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So we popped around to Kalamina Gorge which whilst simple, was still very pretty. I think I liked the view of the water from up top the best:

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And to finish the day off we stayed and watched the sunset at Oxer’s Lookout.

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Day 2 had us down to Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool and then we circled back across Fortescue and into Dales Gorge then continued on to Circular Pool. Unfortunately we didn’t get to Fortescue Falls or Fern Pool early enough and half of each waterfall was cast in deep shadow making it impossible for good photos. When I go back to Karijini, I will ensure I am there at sunrise for well exposed photos.

Took an above view of the falls on our way back to the carpark at around 2pm.

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Circular Pool:

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And a last sunset at Knox Gorge. This was a better choice than Oxer’s only because we had it to ourselves and Oxers had been full of people and it was difficult to take long exposures on the platform.

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