5 ways Australia’s Coral Coast stretched my comfort zone (in a good way)

Last week I got a very last-minute call-up to join a group of UK bloggers exploring my beautiful home state of Western Australia. It was a hectic 24 hours of figuring out who would take care of my son and when, what I should pack and where on earth I was actually going, and I won’t say it wasn’t a tad stressful at the outset. I knew from experience that these circumstances usually lead to the most memorable trips, so I was very pleased to be going, but those pre-trip nerves were definitely worse than usual.

My itinerary was sending me for four days to the most northern part of Western Australia’s Coral Coast, including the towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay, gateways to the Ningaloo Reef. It was a part of WA I’d never seen, and to be honest, didn’t know a whole lot about, but I could see that there were a whole lot of amazing experiences to be had there.

As it turned out, my four days up north stretched me beyond my comfort zone pretty significantly – which meant I came back home inspired and buoyed up by life, which is perfect. Let me tell you how that happened and some reasons why you, too, should take trips you’re worried by, and why you absolutely should visit WA’s Coral Coast.

1. Driving alone on long Aussie roads

I was going solo on this part of the trip (which I love), but did freak out a little when thinking of driving long distances on my own. It didn’t help when I got there and the rental car woman told me they didn’t have GPS up there, and I knew my itinerary suggested I use it regularly.

As it turned out (and this is something I really should have known), there’s only one main road up there, everything is easy to find and it’s not that isolated – there are always people around to ask if you’re having trouble finding something. What’s more, I was enchanted by the landscape and more than happy to spend a couple of hours driving through it (with podcasts and audiobooks for company, I must add). The roads are great up that way and if you have weather like I did you’ll just be smiling to yourself as you drive along (well, that’s what I did).

Coral Coast expands comfort zone - driving alone.jpg

There are cattle signs (and a few cattle) along the Exmouth to Coral Bay road.

2. Quad biking in Coral Bay

As regular readers will know, I’m not highly adventurous. But I dutifully turned up at the Coastal Adventure Tours office in Coral Bay to go on a quad bike trek. I was clinging on for dear life at first but of course there was actually no need and I didn’t take too long until I relaxed – but those first few minutes absolutely stretched my comfort zone!

Luckily the scenery was amazing. Being my first afternoon on the coast, the views out to sea and across the reef were totally intoxicating and a great distraction from any worries I might have. My quad bike tour guide gradually increased the adventurousness levels during the trip and by the end sliding down a huge sand dune was totally fine to me. The treks head both north and south of Coral Bay and can combine snorkelling and sunset viewing too.

Coral Coast expands comfort zone - quad bike trip

My fabulously fun quad bike tour leader near Coral Bay

3. Dinner with strangers

To make sure I was highly informed about the area my itinerary included having dinner with several people from the tourism industry in the area. When I travel solo, I find eating meals alone a pretty delicious experience (and a great excuse to read a good book), plus I knew I’d be exhausted by dinner time each day, so I wasn’t 100% sure that dinners with strangers were exactly what I felt like doing.

Silly me! Of course these were marvellous. I got to meet locals, and not just any old locals but locals who shared my passion for travel. We had marvellous evenings dissecting everything the local area had to offer and I learnt so much. By the time I got to see the area from the air (more on that later) I could identify new developments in town from above and chat knowledgeably about nearly any topic related to Ningaloo. I always love to meet the locals and so this comfort zone stretch proved a relatively easy one. (Also the meals stretched my waistline, it must be said – so much amazing seafood to be consumed up there!)

4. Snorkelling (with sharks!)

I hadn’t snorkelled properly for about a decade so when I realised I was being sent out on a boat to snorkel with manta rays I did have some reservations. I had to get the hang of snorkelling again, fast, and I had to stress a little because although they’re not dangerous, manta rays are enormous! (Four or five metres in diameter is not unusual – eek!)

As it happened, despite them sending up their spotter plane to get some good tips on where the best spot would be to swim with mantas, we didn’t actually find any: but we did find humpback whales, and pods of dolphins, and observed them from the boat. We also got to snorkel on the amazing Ningaloo Reef, and saw numerous turtles, and then in the afternoon, snorkelled over some sharks as well! Not dangerous sharks, but boy, did that freak me out for a minute there! I did the old scream and fill your snorkel with water trick at first, but did manage to get my head back in the water and take a good curious look at them. I’m glad they didn’t decide to glide right next to me or anything though.

Coral Coast stretches comfort zone - snorkelling with sharks

A shark’s eye view? I’m the girl on the right. Big thanks to Migration Media for the image.

5. Microlight flight – OMG

I wasn’t exactly sure what a microlight was when I saw it on my itinerary for my last afternoon in Exmouth. However, I did know enough about myself and my own anxieties to realise that the best way to deal with it was to ignore it until it happened. Fortunately I was busy enough having amazing Ningaloo experiences that I pretty much forgot about it until I turned up at the Birds Eye View hangar ready for my flight.

In case, like me, you are a little ignorant about what a microlight is, let me tell you. It is basically a hang glider, but with a seat for two and a small engine. It’s completely open: as my pilot Gav told me in the safety briefing, emergency exits are “everywhere”!

I sat there waiting for my flight with masses of trepidation. Masses of it! I would never have gone on one of these things voluntarily. Fortunately Gav was pretty much the master of calming nervous flyers and he got me strapped in without too much drama, and then we took off.

The flight itself was so amazing that I’ve got an entire blog post about it (coming soon), but suffice to say, the views over the Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Reef made all that comfort zone stretching absolutely worthwhile. It was really the experience of a lifetime and I was buzzing about it for days afterwards (apologies to all the people I’ve raved on and on about it to!).

Coral Coast expands comfort zone - microlight flight

Thumbs up from me! With my great pilot Gav on my microlight flight over Ningaloo Reef.

 

How will you stretch your comfort zone next?

I’ve often said that one of the most magical things about travelling is the way it can stretch you beyond your comfort zone, and give you new experiences which influence your life and even change you as a person. They don’t have to be adventurous ones like flying in a microlight – it can be something like trying to speak a foreign language with locals – whatever stretches your comfort zone is always going to be a good thing. Although if you are looking for a good place to do it, I’m the newest raving fan of Western Australia’s Coral Coast so of course I’m going to recommend that!

 

Just so you know: I was a guest of TourismWA but as always, my opinions are totally my own.

5 ways Australia's Coral Coast stretched my comfort zone

Comments

  1. Sad to say, but I have lived in this great state 12 years but still never ventured to Coral Bay. Hopefully very soon.
    Great read again Amanda. 😁

  2. How amazing Amanda. The microlight flight would be my flight phobic worst nightmare but it looks incredible. Well done you for stepping out of your comfort zone to make the most of a wonderful experience.

  3. I absolutely love Ningaloo and I swam with the whale sharks. It was so amazing. I did it own my own too and it was the best road trip to Port Hedland ever. I took a month. Love your photo’s.

  4. How did I miss this post? I’m sure I’ve spoken to you about it, but I didn’t get the full story until I read about it here! Wow – amazing! What an experience. It’s such an untouched and amazing part of the world with some out of this world experiences for us to indulge in.

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