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The premier guide to Western Australia scoop.com.au
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This Australian Territory is also known as
The Sand Bar, and consists of a ring of 27
sandy, coconut-palmed islands of which
only two are permanently inhabited.
They are 2950km northwest of Perth,
and there are no resorts and few
tourists. It is the place to go for
peace and quiet, and to relax on
a stunning tropical beach, swim, and
dive in crystal-clear waters with coral
reefs and beautiful sunsets. Scout Park on
West Island and the tiny, idyllic Pulu Maraya
Island are good locations for snorkelling. There
are more than 1550 species of sea creatures for
divers and snorkellers to discover, including manta
rays, dolphins and turtles. Novice snorkellers have to
try The Rip on the south end of Direction Island, where the
current running between two islands carries swimmers over shallow
coral. Booties are recommended to wade out over some sharp reef. Tours plus hire equipment
are available. Divers can choose from more than 20 good sites around the islands containing
hundreds of different species of corals. Kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and motorised canoes can
be hired – some operators will drop you off at your chosen destination. There is also a glass-bottom
boat operator that takes passengers to coral reefs in the inner lagoon. Explore North Keeling
Island, 35km north of West Island, popular with bird enthusiasts and divers – be aware, though,
that visits are rare due to the limited access and distance. Direction Island has a beautiful white
beach facing the inner lagoon, and numerous ketches and yachts moor here. Camping is the only
available accommodation, and is also possible on South Island, and at Scout Park on West Island.
Campers need to be completely self-sufficient because there is no electricity or drinking water, and
sometimes no toilets either.
If you’re a keen diver it’s always handy to be
able to record statistics and info about your
dives. The Dive Log app is one of the most
expensive on the market ($14.99) but it’s also
one of the most comprehensive. WA’s reef
system is extensive, so the GPS component
is great to separate one dive from another. If
you’re exploring lots of dive sites over several
days (think the Abrolhos, Montebellos and
Rowley Shoals), rather than trying to recall the
finer details of each site to mates, you can
plug the info into the app and your friends
can track your dive as you upload it. The
best function is that you can sync your logs
on your computer as well. The only downside
is that the app is so complex you can get
a little lost in the menus.
If you’re headed to an unfamiliar destination,
or have left something behind when packing,
this app is useful to suss out where the closest
PADI dive shop is in WA. You can use it from
home or on the road, and it includes the latest
scuba news, which is worthwhile for tips on
buying dive computers, marine photography
comps and new release gear (just remember
the app is American-based).
There are plenty of dive shops and centres
that teach open-water courses, and will
include gear, a few dives and manuals.
The initial course cost is usually around
$500, and once you have your open-water
diving ticket you can build up your credentials
with courses that include night dives,
deep-water diving and underwater
photography. It’s always best to book your
diving course through a PADI instructor,
because they have the highest qualifications.
SCUBA EXAM APP
For your scuba exams you’ll need to revert
to high-school-type study methods (groan),
but the Scuba Exam App is a useful tool to
help you get prepared. The app includes
diving theory, terms and expressions, and
two preparatory quizzes. For under $5,
downloading it is a no-brainer.
Swimming with whale sharks is awe-inspiring.
The whale shark is the world’s largest fish and
can grow up to 12m long. You can swim with the
sharks from March to July at Ningaloo Reef, which
has the world’s largest whale shark congregation.
The swim only requires snorkelling ability, making
it a great family experience.
These shy, gentle creatures can be found in the
waters around Shark Bay. Their average size is
almost 3m in length, and a full-grown dugong
can weigh up to 400kg. Dugongs are fascinating
to dive with because they usually ignore divers,
meaning you can watch them from close range.
If it’s sea dragons you’re after, head to Bremer
Bay which has both the weedy and leafy varieties.
Hanging like seaweed, the relatives of seahorses
are masters of disguise; if you spot one, be sure
to capture the exciting memory with a camera.
The sea dragons at Bremer Bay can reached after
a short swim 100m from the beach.
A dugong beneath the waves.
Direction Island (photography Cocos
Keeling Islands Visitor Centre).
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