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Dreaming of Ningaloo

February 3, 2011

Well, it’s continued to be hot here in Perth. Last week we reached 106°F (41-42°C). So yeah, melting weather.  Now that Oscar and I are both working (I finally got a job as a marketing manager/consultant for a new startup — which means I get to work from home but I also don’t make that much money), we aren’t constantly doing exciting things but we are no longer totally broke… which means hopefully some slightly more exciting things in the future!

My biggest hope is to be able to do a trip up to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef. This is pretty much the ONE thing I most wanted to do on this trip to Australia, so I’m going to be pretty heartbroken if we can’t afford to do it. And that’s pretty much the biggest problem, it’s expensive. My preferred option would be to go on a tour I found with Red Earth Safaris, which is one of the cheapest ones available and takes 8 days. I normally hate tours, but otherwise driving up to Exmouth is a LONG drive (would take at least two days straight) and would still be just as expensive factoring in the cost of renting a car or van, petrol, food, and accommodation (all included in the tour). The tour is just under $900 each though. Expensive.

The other option would be to fly, but roundtrip flights would come to at least $500-600 each. That’s if we’re lucky enough to come across two “cheap” flights on good days. Usually at least one of the ways will be $400+ alone, unless you go up for just one day or for a week. And once we’re there we’d have to book accommodation, pay for food, and rent a car or find some kind of public transport to get around (airport to Exmouth, Exmouth to Ningaloo, etc.). So in the end I think it would be the more expensive option.

Snorkelling with the whale shark

OK, we might not snorkel with whale sharks since it costs almost $400 -- but obviously Ningaloo is pretty sweet. (Photo: Jayegirl99)

Plus, taking the tour would enable us to see and do a lot more than just Ningaloo. The tour goes to Kalbarri National Park, which I’ve heard good things about, as well as the Hutt River Province, this tiny breakaway country that I bet you’ve never heard of (You even get to meet the king and get your passport stamped!), see some stromatolites (the earth’s oldest known fossils), visit Shark Bay/Monkey Mia and play with dolphins, and a lot of other cool stuff. So it’s not hard to see why I want to go. (Not even mentioning how AMAZING Ningaloo is supposed to be — think the Great Barrier Reef but better, and you can swim to the reef right from the *gorgeous* beach! Even if we can’t afford to swim with whale sharks, it would still be pretty awesome.)

My fingers are crossed on this one, because I really, really want to go (I mean, how often does one get out to Western Australia, really?) but even with my extra income we’re really just getting by at this point (especially because we both need to have some money to take home with us). And it’s hard to predict with Oscar being on a commission, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Another thing we’re hoping to do (and really are almost required to do while living in Perth!) is visit Rottnest Island. When I first met Lauren and Kassia back in South America, they raved on and on about Rottnest. It’s this little gorgeous island just a short ferry ride from the mainland. There are no cars (except I think one bus that can shuttle people around the island) so most people ride bikes (the only complication, since I actually can’t ride a bike…there, I’ve said it!) and it’s also populated by these little kangaroo-like mammals called quokkas. (Rottnest is actually named after them — it means Rat’s Nest in Dutch, as they compared the quokkas to giant rats!) It also has superb beaches, good snorkeling, and is pretty much a must-do for Perthites.

Of course, like everything else in Australia, it is also expensive. The ferry costs something like $60-80 roundtrip. Then you have to rent a bike or use the bus. And rent snorkel gear or anything else you might use. And eat. And pay for accommodation should you choose to stay overnight. So that also adds up.

I would certainly choose Ningaloo over Rottnest, but they’re really not comparable (in price or experience). As a Perth resident for almost three months now, I feel obligated to Rottnest. And I’m sure it will be awesome. But if that extra $100 meant the difference between going to Ningaloo or not, I would definitely forgo the experience. Moral of the story? Australia is expensive. I read this Perth city guide the other day on a hostel website. In the “Going Out” section it said, and I quote, “A beer will cost you between $2-5, while a glass of wine or a cocktail will cost $4-5.” I literally laughed out loud when I read that. How old was this guide? Prices today are way more than double those ones. And let’s not forget that the Australian and American currencies are pretty much even these days. Yuck.

But I digress. Mostly I’m just talking out my thoughts right now. Hopefully you can look forward to some really awesome content describing these amazing experiences, but obviously that is yet to be decided. I really hope so. Either way, I will post an update on what we have been up to since my last post. We have done a couple “touristy” things around Perth (let’s be honest, it’s not a tourist hotspot!) and of course celebrated Australia Day with some themed clothing and fireworks. More on that soon!

UPDATE: I was able to fulfill both of these experiences! Read about my lovely day on Rottnest Island and my AMAZING time at Ningaloo thanks to the sponsorship of a kickass Deluxe Campervan from Traveller’s Auto Barn.

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