Put on Your brave

Put on Your Brave:  Part One

You can do it”, “Put your brave on Mummy,” Just think you can”, Olivia and Mia coaxed me gently.  I was frozen with fear.  Stopped in my tracks, knees wobbling and unable to take another step.

For as long as I could remember I had been petrified of heights. As a child, this fear had caused embarrassment. As an eleven-year-old, I froze in front of all of my peers half way up an 8ft rock abseiling at school camp. However, as an adult my fear of heights had become easily managed through avoidance.  This approach had served me well until today when Olivia and Mia dragged me from the pool chair begging me to join in their fun on the waterslides at the caravan park.

It had been almost a year to the day that we had left for Western Australia. We found ourselves in Yeppoon, along the Capricorn Coast of Queensland for a quick mid-year school holiday adventure.  Dave and I had recently reflected on what a significant milestone the 12-month mark had been since we decided to travel as a family and the ways we had grown as individuals and as a family.  The biggest growth in the family was by far baby Alice who was now 15 months old toddling around the caravan park like a boss, causing smiles and mischief wherever she went.

Navigating her toddling on the boat in 2metre swells may have been a different story for us on this holiday if our little mariner wasn’t so instantly lured to sleep by the gentle rocking of the sea.

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For the rest of the family, while the day to day had largely returned to the normal chaos, we had all made changes that reflected our hearts desire for the freedom that we had experienced defying traditional notions of ‘normal’.

Six months ago, I had decided not to return from maternity leave to the job I knew and loved but rather start my own law firm practicing in an area I believed deeply in.  To begin with, the flexibility of working for myself meant surfing with Dave in my lunch hour and being able to pick the girls up from school every day.  However, those close to me knew that lately, I had been working around the clock, struggling with the juggling of the demands of work and trying to be a near enough satisfactory mother, wife and friend.  While overall, we had adjusted relatively well, as we approached the end of term it become clear that we were all desperate to reconnect as a family and enjoy each other beyond day to day logistics.

So, here we were on our first day of holidays at a cross road. Would I show my two oldest daughters’ vulnerability and courage or was I just too scared? I backed down the stairs twice returning to my pool chair before I found my brave. Finally, with Mia in front of me and Olivia behind me I slowly crawled to the top of the waterslide stairs screaming at the top of my lungs all the way down. The girls too were screaming too with delight as my biggest cheer squad…our next adventure had just begun.

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Part 2: The Capricorn Coast

Stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, caving, biking, fossicking for thundereggs had filled nearly every moment of our last five days. With an amusing but failed attempt to make it across to Great Kepple Island on our second day of the holiday (20 knot winds and large swells), we decided to make the most of ‘waiting the weather’. We were not disappointed.  While we had initially chosen the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland as our holiday destination for the white sandy beaches and warm crystal- clear waters, when the weather turned, we were pleasantly surprised by the natural inland beauty.

We started our wet weather adventure at the Capricorn Caves, where we explored 390 million year old limestone caves. Every little palaeontologist dream was fulfilled as the caves provided a real fossil tour where the girls got to sift through sand and dirt to find real bones of marsupials who had inhibited the marvellous caves hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Our family’s love of playing in dirt and mud was brought to the next level on our second wet weather day when we fossicked for thunder eggs at Mr Hay.  While I have never really been a rock person, I admit that repeatedly sledging a metal pick at hard stone was quite cathartic and became the perfect opportunity to vent those minor school holiday frustrations associated with five people being living inside an 18ft tin can in the pouring rain.  We all found our fortunes in the mud and the excitement on the girls faces as the lovely volunteers cut open our thunder eggs with circular saws revealing the inner beauty of the agate, jasper and quartz that had been formed beautiful patters and colours was very special.

Finally, after the skies cleared, the winds dropped we decided it was time to explore the islands.  While figuring out how to get both a caravan and boat back to Sydney with one vehicle and child wrangling three kids between the two of us on a former commercial fishing boat in the open ocean has caused some logistical hurdles the absolute beauty of the Kepple Islands overwhelmed us.  Within a stone’s throw we had our choice of any number of deserted islands in the Great Barrier Reef National Park.  Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, the girls explored back in their happy place of nature. This transported us all to a state of joy from simple pleasure.  The days on the water filled all of our contentment cups. Dave finally got his peace and quiet and a moment of pride on one of the rides back home with four out of four of his girls fast asleep on the boat.

I truly hope that none of us ever get too busy to stop together enjoying the precious and restorative moments of simply being.

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Western Wanders

Olivia:

Western Wanders

in Exmouth again. Surfing it up. wandring around from beaches to whale sharks and snorkelling around. Shells  Dunes  Fish  what ever we Find.

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Family Stargazers 

in the night we Explore the star’s, planets, and more. We just can’t wait to Explore. one two three or four we have Adventures Any Where!

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A adventure is Exploring and that is a true passion you can have it too!

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Swimming with Whale Sharks!

WA11photo credit Dave Randle(1)

Kim:

For me, there is something truly terrifying about jumping off the back of a boat into the middle of the ocean.

The five of us had arrived by boat on the outer Ningaloo Reef on the second last day of the whale shark season. The conditions were perfect and we had just been through the safety and ‘whale shark etiquette’ briefing for our swim with the ocean’s largest fish. “There’s nothing to be nervous about” Dave said to me, no doubt sensing my increasing anxiety.  I shot him a cold stare (a look that I may have given him a few too many times over the last few days) “Sorry,” he replied. “I am just trying to be more sensitive!” What could I possibly be nervous about? I was only about to leave my babe on a boat, plunge through a two-metre swell, and come face to face with a real shark that was roughly the size of our caravan. As I sat on the edge of the boat, ready to jump in, Olivia looked to me for affirmation. My feigned look of confidence seemed counterintuitive, particularly when someone was about to yell “Shark!”, and in response, I was to help launch my firstborn into the water and not out of it.

I dove beneath the surface and instantly I was surrounded by the clearest blue waters. Beautiful rays of sunshine bounced through the water from above. As the eight-metre whale shark swam gently past us, the insignificance of our physical size and the importance of the diverse ecosystems of the underwater world became a reality. No longer did my opinion on this or that count. Rather, I had become a mere spectator in the wonder of the spectacular show of nature unfolding before my eyes. The whale shark was not performing for us. We were not at a zoo or watching a staged marine life show. We were in the wild. “You are kind of like annoying flies buzzing around the whale shark’s head”, our crew had briefed us.

For those short few minutes that I swam alongside the whale shark for the first time, I was overwhelmed with awe and exhilaration. My heart and ability to feel truly alive was detached from my head and ability to process the risks of swimming with this rather large creature. It came as no surprise that our experience swimming with the whale sharks was one of our most special days as a family on the trip so far.

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Photo by Ocean Eco Adventures

 

Dave:

I will admit to being hard to convince that we should go on a whale shark tour. It was not so much the cost. Although, it is a very expensive day out for the family. To be honest, it’s more the idea of tours generally. Part of me just doesn’t dig going to an amazing natural location, only to be shoulder to shoulder with a flock of other tourists. Kim might say it is my overdeveloped Neanderthal instinct. I’d rather go out solo in my little boat chasing Spanish Mackerel in ocean conditions that might be described as ‘questionable’ for any vessel that fits on the roof of a car. So positioned, my idea of a ‘wildlife interaction’ is silently experiencing a mother humpback whale and her newborn calf surface unexpectedly within spitting distance of the boat’s hull. Blessedly, this is something that has already happened to me four or five times on this trip.

No tours are more hyped-up in this neck of the woods than whale shark swims. Whenever we have phoned home over the last month, a question we have invariably been asked by family and friends is along the lines of, ‘So, are you going to swim with whale sharks?’ Well, I’m here to say, despite my innate reluctance, when it comes to whale shark tours, the hype is legit.

Several different people had independently told us that, should we pull the trigger and book a tour, we should do so with Ocean Eco Adventures. I won’t regurgitate the marketing spiel here, but… our personal experience gives us little difficulty in joining the sizeable online review chorus singing the tune that, quite simply, they are the best in the business. The clincher came when we set up camp at Ningaloo Station next to the parents of the bloke who owns and operates the business. That little six-degrees-of-separation was enough for Kim, once we were back in mobile signal, to promptly make the call and book us in on what, according to the weather forecasts, looked set to be the best day for sea conditions that we’ve had since being here for over a month (it turned out to be exactly that).

WA11photo credit Dave Randle

At the risk of sounding completely repetitive and, perhaps even cliché, the overwhelming highlight of the experience for me was seeing how much our girls got out of the day. Well, Mia and Olivia at least. Alice, trooper that she is, found the soothing sounds and vibrations of 1500hp of marine engines and a rolling two-metre swell to be the perfect environment for her longest day sleep to date.

Olivia had earlier said that she just wanted to ‘get a quick look’ at a whale shark, and that would be enough. Well, by the end of the interaction, she had done every single available whale shark swim. By our estimates this meant that she would have come close to snorkeling a kilometre alongside the spectacularly marked leviathan. I was beyond thrilled when, time-after-time, we would return with our guide to the marlin board on the back of the boat for a breather and I would ask Liv, ‘Sweetie, do you want to have a rest?’ and every single time her reply would be, ‘Maybe after the next swim, Dad.’  I found this to be particularly impressive given that, on our very first swim, the giant filter feeder came unexpectedly close to our daisy chain of ten snorkelers and one of my first visions below the surface was seeing its enormous head pass within mere centimetres directly beneath Olivia’s comparatively tiny frame. Rather than freaking Liv out, this only seemed to rev her up more to make the most of the experience. What a champion!

Mia, although confident with her snorkeling (only a few days earlier she had nonchalantly completed an hour-long drift snorkel with me off the SUP out in the middle of Coral Bay), ultimately decided that she was not going to jump in with a whale shark. Fair enough for a four-year old. Instead, she had a wonderful day on the top deck of the boat, spotting humpback whales, manta rays, and even taking a few impressively in-focus photos with my telephoto lens. By the return trip to port, she had resolved a new career aspiration – boat driver!

What a day. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world in season, believe the hype. Go swim with a whale shark. Even better if you have the opportunity to share the experience alongside the wide-eyed wonder of a kid. 

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Photo by Ocean Eco Adventures