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Swim with sea turtles, Gnaraloo, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) swimming at 3 Mile Lagoon. Photo by Heather Shipp

Snorkeling at Gnaraloo

Our first morning of the season was spent doing introductions to the program and hearing presentations on the research we would be conducting. After a long couple of hours, it was decided we needed a break and where better to take it than at the place we were learning about all morning? We all put on our swimmers, grabbed our snorkel gear, and hopped in the turtle wagon. I was given the privilege of being the first intern to drive, the roads were a bit less sealed than I’m used to but the scenery was amazing to drive through, so it was worth the bumpy ride. The destination for our snorkelling adventure was the 3 Mile campground; where we met the very friendly Sarah in the 3 Mile store. We then walked down to the lagoon, a lovely protected cove. From above, the lagoon didn’t look all that different to other beaches I’d visited around Australia, but once under the slightly cold water, a whole new world came to life. Ridges of different coloured coral flowed into valleys of snow white sand, and the reef teamed with life. Fish of every shape size and colour inhabited the water, and if you listened very closely you could hear the parrot fish as they crunched on the coral. The underwater world completely encompasses you so it is easy to lose track of time and space. Because of this, I frequently had to remind myself to check where everyone else swam off to. Water safety 101: never go swimming, diving, or snorkelling alone. Tess D. and I were the first to surrender to the cold of the Indian Ocean and headed for the warmth of sun-toasted sand. Unfortunately, as the others joined us on the shore we learnt that we had just missed seeing a juvenile Green turtle (Chelonia mydas).

Windsurf, Gnaraloo Bay, Western Australia
Program Assistant, Simone Bosshard windsurfing in Gnaraloo Bay. Photo by Heather Shipp

Our second snorkel for the season occurred on what had been coined “Sunday Fun Day”. As we tend to work long hours on rotating rosters for surveys, every Sunday we take the afternoon off as a team and do a fun activity. Naturally we couldn’t resist our draw to the beach, especially after all the land based training we had recently been doing. We loaded up the car and headed this time to Gnaraloo Bay, the beginning of one of our survey areas. The beach at the bay is just like those you see on postcards and I really had to have a pinch myself for a moment when I realised that this was going to be my office for the next four months. As we settled on the beach the frivolity began. We practiced our hand and head stands and searched for sand dollars, while Simone finally got a chance to break out her windsurfing gear. It was then time to search the underwater world again. Once again, time and space stood still and I was completely engulfed, we drifted across the bay, spotting sea stars, an octopus, and one large loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Once completely soaked in sun, sand, and sea water, we headed home, all with that kind of drowsy look that only a sunny day on the beach can provide.

Written by: Tess Concannon

Swimming with a loggerhead turtle, Gnaraloo Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) swimming in Gnaraloo Bay



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