Category Archives: Blog

Wonderful ‘Wedgie’

A wonderdul Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) soars above our guests while exploring the Cape Range National Park this week. The ‘Wedgie’ is the largest bird of prey in Australia and has a wingspan of up to 2.27 metres ! 

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Other birdlife to be spotted in our backyard include Pied Butcherbirds, Fairy Wrens, Kestrels, Zebra Finches, Reef Herons, waders and seabirds amongst others.

This striking silhouette of the Wedge-tailed Eagle cruising overhead may just fool you into forgetting they are opportunists,  constantly searching for a bite to eat.  Nevertheless they do strike an impressive pose when in full flight. 

Turtle Love

Ningaloo Reef is home to large populations of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles, three of the world’s seven marine turtle species.  The mating and nesting season takes place each year between November and April.

Many have already lumbered up the beach to lay their eggs whilst others are still finding a fellow suitor.

For most species, courtship usually occurs over several weeks before the nesting season.  The three turtle species found on Ningaloo Reef have enlarged claws on their front flippers which help them to grasp the shells of the females during mating.  Copulation takes place in the water, just offshore.

A few weeks after mating the female comes ashore on a sandy beach to nest.

This female will be doing just that shortly.

Turtle Mating

Vale Larry!

Larry was the resident sand monitor who lived at the back of the lodge at Sal Salis. 

Sand monitors also known as Gould’s monitor, reach up to 1.4 metres in length and can weigh as much as 6kg.  They spend all day foraging for food and anything smaller than itself will be eagerly devoured. 

Sadly Larry, found himself at the bottom of the food chain yesterday.

A Perentie appeared around the camp, no doubt attracted by the turtle nesting that is taking place at the moment but spotted Larry instead. 

The Perentie is the largest monitor lizard or goanna native to Australia, and the fourth largest lizard in the world! They can grow up to 2.5 metres and can weigh as much as 15kg.  They eat insects, reptiles (including their own kind), turtle eggs, bird eggs, birds and yesterday, Larry. 

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An opportunistic breakfast in the cape range national park

The Wedge-tailed eagle is Australia’s largest bird of prey with a wing span of up to 2.5 metres; standing up to and sometimes over a metre tall! This one below was seen in the morning on the way out to camp, as you can see we have rudely interrupted breakfast time!

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The young eagles are brown in colour, darkening as they grow. The female is a larger bird than the male, and are quite often sighted in pairs. Unfortunately the amount of road kill (dead Euro’s especially) in the Cape Range National Park is quite high. This is good news for the wedgies as it provides plenty of food to eat. But if you look a little closer at the picture you can see the Euro has been hit by a car and left very close to the edge of the road. As the wedge-tailed eagle is a large & quite heavy bird, it takes them a little time to get up in the air and out of harms (cars) way. No damage was done here as we watched it fly to a tree close by where it waited for us to leave before getting back to the business of breakfast!

Care should always be taken when driving through areas renowned for its wildlife.  Wildlife is very active throughout the national park during the day and night.  Please adhere to speed limits and keep a vigilant watch for birds and animals.

it’s turtle time!

Whether it is a Green turtle, Loggerhead or Hawksbill cruising around the waters during the day or females emerging from the ocean to nest in the dunes at night, the Ningaloo coast is currently abundant with these beautiful reptiles.

swimming turtles

It’s not uncommon for our guests to enjoy an underwater encounter as seen above.

Or to see them from the shore coming up for a breath of fresh air as seen below.

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Turtles began mating at the end of October and are currently still mating. Once the female has been fertilised it takes a few short weeks before she makes her way to the dunes to begin the nesting process. As you can imagine a turtle out of water moves like a sloth. Super slow! This in turn allows curious humans a better chance at watching these amazing creatures. Turtles have what we call a magnetic foot, meaning that they will inevitably return to the same beach they were hatched on to lay their eggs. To put things into perspective, only 1 in 1000 turtles survive to sexual maturity which is a whopping 40 years old!

turtle tracks

In general, nesting female turtles don’t like to be disturbed. If they sense danger or feel uncomfortable with the surrounding area, they will retreat back to the safety of the water and abort their nesting mission. So there is quite a strict process of how to observe these incredible turtles nesting so that humans have little or no effect on the nesting process.

In the last week we have had four Loggerhead turtles nest along the shores of South Mandu, the beach right in front of camp. The Loggerhead is currently one of the turtle species that is considered endangered, so this is great news, very exciting indeed! Fingers crossed in six to eight weeks we’ll be able to catch a glimpse of the hatchlings fleeing to the water.

Blog by EJ- Sal Salis guide.

Cobia

Cobia are the only member in their family species: the Rachycentridae. Other names they are known by are black kingfish, black salmon, ling, lemonfish, crabeaters and aruan tasek.

Cobia have elongated spindle shaped bodies and broad flattened heads. Their eyes are small and bodies are smooth with small scales.
They are mostly dark brown and have white bellies with two darker brown horizontal stripes on their flanks. Cobia grow big in WA waters, with a world record fish of 61.5 kilos taken at Shark Bay in 1985.
They feed primarily on crabs, squid, and other smaller fish.
Cobia are known to follow larger animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays in hope of scavenging an easy meal. They are very curious fish and are not afraid of boats, known to follow other caught fish up to the surface and linger to see what’s going on!
This cobia was caught on the Sal Salis boat earlier in the year and taken home for dinner, as they are priized for their delicious taste and firm texture.
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Brassy Trevally

Fast, agressive and full of power, Brassy Trevally are first cousins with the Giant Trevally. Defined by yellow tips to their dorsal and tail fins plus scattered black speckles along their backs. Brassy Trevally are considered excellent table fish.

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Found in tropical waters along with the rest of the trevally family, these predatory fish chase down baitfish in shallow water and usually hunt in schools. As juveniles, they may feed on crustaceans and squid, changing to a diet of fish as they mature. They have no hesitation in taking flies so it’s a thrilling ride when you hook a big one, as they are extremely feisty and powerful!
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Mackerel Tuna

Mackerel tuna are stubborn fighters when hooked, and can be recognised by a distinct and striking pattern of broken zig-zaggy lines on the upper sides of their bodies, and two or five dark spots above the pelvic fin.

They are in the Scombridae family which includes all mackerel, tuna and bonito.

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Macks hunt in large schools to round up baitfish and then smash into them as a gang.
Macks can be regarded as both abundant and elusive at the same time. Abundant in that a feeding school could easily cover an area of 100 square metres or more, and elusive in that getting close enough to them to cast your line near them without spooking them can be very difficult as these fish spook easily.
Recently there have been reports of loads of mackerel tuna in the Exmouth Gulf. These schools have been so large that anglers have been able to successfully get in fly fishing range without spooking them off, which is how these pictured macks were caught!
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Bluebone Groper

One of the most prized catches for any fly fisherman is the Blue Bone, correctly known as the blackspot tuskfish or commonly known as bluebone. These fish live in the beautiful northern waters of Western Australia.

They are found along coral reefs and reefy flats hunting for food which include different varieties of crustaceans and  sea urchins including crabs, shells and sea critters.

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This bluebone was caught on the flats in only 1.5 metres of water with a crab on the end of a fly.

This technique is lots of fun as is challenges the angler as they have to land the cast precisely on top of the fish. Once you are hooked, hold on tight because these fish will go for every hole they can find to try and snap your line and break loose.