This year I had a significant birthday. Not one I was really looking forward to as the number seemed a little scary to me but, well, I guess lots of people have a 60th birthday and survived it.
My children wanted to give me a very special birthday and so they flew me and my husband out to Western Australia and after a few days in Perth, we all flew up to Exmouth. It was supposed to be a surprise, but, as my two great interests are astronomy and diving I started to guess what was coming.
We met Kirsten and Dave from Dive Ningaloo who, over a few beers, outlined what was planned. Golly, what a plan! They picked us all up next morning in the jeep (great artwork) and troopy (a something or another Trooper) and we headed off across the outback. That journey itself was amazing! We arrived at a beautiful remote beach and set up camp, not that you need much of a camp in these conditions. We were using a Naiad RIB instead of the big dive boat for this trip and launched her from the beach and went for a spin before supper. The water was calm and we saw down through the clear water. A young Sooty Tern (birds are another love of mine and we saw lots of interesting ones) landed on the awning of the Naiad and had a rest before flying off.
A stroll along the beach at sunset, with a cold beer in your hand (this is Australia – they always seem to have cold beers, even when camping!) looking at the beautiful shells on the beach was magical. We had a bonfire on the beach and ate a hearty supper. At bedtime came another surprise – swags. I knew about the Jolly Swagman but didn’t really know what a swag was, well it’s a waterproof canvas outer, with a camping mattress inside and you can sleep inside it in a sleeping bag. It was the first time I had slept under the stars and just how magnificent they were! Sleeping on a warm beach with the stars above and the sound of the waves at your feet is something everyone should experience.
The next day was the birthday.
After breakfast, we had our first dive. I took hundreds of photos and some video, mostly of the huge number of fish that swam around us, seemingly unafraid of the divers. The coral was rich and healthier than I’d seen at most other places and the water was warm and clear and calm. I was reluctant to surface.
We zoomed back to the beach and lunch (their boat is very fast) and a bit of exploration of the area. Then time for the second dive, which was on a different part of the reefs with steep walls and swim throughs, which we all enjoyed and again there were plenty of fish.
Back at camp was the birthday cake and tea and a lot of chat about our amazing dives. After another sunset stroll along the beach, we again had supper round the campfire. The sky was clear so I was looking forward to bedtime and had my star map and binoculars lying beside me. I woke a 3am when the moon had set and my eyes were well adapted to the dark and spent a blissful hour or two exploring the southern Milky Way.
The next day we struck camp and crossed the outback again back to Exmouth. It was a trip never, EVER, to be forgotten. Thank you, my wonderful family, and thank you to Dave and Kirsten for arranging an absolutely perfect trip.