With my eyes focused firmly on the horizon, my feelings of nausea were replaced by apprehension at what lay below in the Indian Ocean. I clumsily stepped onto the boat ladder in my Scuba gear and took a giant stride into the magnificent waters of Lighthouse Bay, off the coast of Exmouth, WA.

My body plunged into the warm water and I was disorientated momentarily. I thanked God my mask and regulator were still in place and swam to the descent line ready to experience the underwater world that lay beneath.

Or so I thought.

As I deflated my BCD (buoyancy control device), I expected to sink like the other divers but with all the will in the world, I just wasn’t going down. Feeling my waist for the lead belt designed to aid the sinking process, my fears were confirmed: it had fallen off (due to me not hanging on to it as I jumped off the boat).

It sank to the bottom of the seabed, just like I should.

A kaleidoscopic world

Another was passed to me from the boat and a confusing few minutes were spent trying to put the damn thing on. But this time there was no stopping me and down I went.

I wouldn’t be over-reacting to say I experienced a new world that day.

I had certainly never seen anything so beautiful before in my life. As shoals of fish floated past the vibrant corals, my fears of drowning vanished – I was in awe of what was going on around me. A banner fish swam past with its delicate lips pursed, then a parrot fish came into view, its pretty rainbow colours glistened in the light.

It glanced at me, maybe curious of the uninvited guest intruding in its world. Tiny shoals of fish were everywhere, swimming in harmony. It was like gliding through a secret garden, like discovering an underwater paradise inhabited by thousands of tropical fish and exquisite corals hundreds of years old.
Below an octopus hid from us and a sea snake slept, coiled up under a rock. Then just to my right a white tipped reef shark hovered on the seabed resting.
It was incredible to see. Its smooth grey skin made it look much more elegant than I had ever imagined.

Back on the boat my feelings of sea sickness returned and it was strange to think about the kaleidoscopic world I’d left behind.

Exmouth is known as the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef – the Great Barrier Reef’s lesser known rival.

The town has a population of just over 2,000. The roads are eerily quiet. You’re more likely to be held up at a junction by emus than cars and at times it feels as though there are more flies in town than there are people.

Vast landscapes

During the journey up from Perth – dubbed the world’s most isolated city – I felt as though I was on a different planet. No cars in sight, just thousands of kilometres of straight open road nestled between miles and miles of harsh, unforgiving bush land and rocky red terrain. Termite mounds stood over two metres
in height, dotted around like bizarre sculptures. It was at this point the vastness of WA hit me.

The Cape Range National Park is nearby Exmouth and camping out under the stars is a must. This 200 square mile park houses gorges, canyons and a vast array of wildlife. There are amazing beaches all along the coast with great snorkeling accessible from most. Consider yourself unlucky if you bump into fellow beach go-ers.

Nightlife doesn’t exist, but that’s not what you come to Exmouth for. By day I take in the vast landscape around me and at night I sit back and stare into space – with just the sounds of cicadas and galas interrupting the peace. I absorb it all and marvel at stumbling across one of the greatest wildernesses the world has to offer.

WINSend us a travel tale (preferably about Oz) and if it’s published you’ll win a $300 travel voucher redeemable on Oz Experience passes, ATA NT camping trips and with Wayward Bus. Email your tales (700 words max), with a picture of yourself, to travel@tntdownunder.com