After considering hitchiking, the Greyhound bus, sharing a trip with randoms from the hostel noticeboard, renting a campervan or buying a car and driving myself, I settled on the often least favourite option of the solo traveller to make the trip from Perth to Exmouth – the group tour. Turns out it was the best decision I made down under….
The west coast of Western Australia has an incredible mixture of stunning natural phenomena, world beating wildlife and bleak red dusty roads, which stretch for miles. There is so much to see, but with seriously long periods of nothingness in between. And, without someone to warn you off the often dangerous flora and fauna, a driver which knows the right turns to take to get you to a premium lookout point and a guide that gives you the full low down on gas stations and safe watering holes it’s easy to miss scenic hotspots, waste hours and find yourself in the blistering heat, 600km from the nearest petrol station.
So for value for money, expert guidance and a jam packed itinerary that even includes a trip to another country, I cannot recommend the Red Earth Safari eight day return tour from Perth to Exmouth highly enough.
By far the most reasonably priced package on offer after trawling through countless trips available (and trust me, in Australia bang for your buck is hard to come by) the Red Earth Safari minibus starts early o’clock on day one from the central bus station, picks up at a range of hostels along the way and takes you on an incredible journey through the most westerly points of Australia’s wild west coast.
Tour leader, driver, chef and host for the week, Terry (the Legend), makes sure you are fed and watered throughout – food and accommodation is included (except for bus snackage, ice creams and dinner to cover his one night off). Although not great for the waistline, the range of hearty meals give you all the energy any explorer needs.
If its animal antics you’re after then you’ll be blown away by the chance to cuddle Kangaroos, coo over Koala’s, face up to your fears with slippery snakes and feed a host of four legged friends at the Grenough wildlife sanctuary. Plus at Coral Bay and Monkey Mia there are a range of options to get close to marine life, feeding dolphins, snorkelling with Manta Rays and even produce “turtle porn” – but that’s a whole different story!
Shell Bay, the Pinnacles, Nature’s Window and Z Bend Gorge are just awe inspiring and a true insight into the power of nature. Not to mention the Hamelin Pool Stromatalites in the world heritage Shark Bay area – boasting claim to the longest living natural creation on the planet.
For those more interested in the quirkiness of folk, a visit to the Principality of the Hutt River Province and an audience with Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley is not to be missed. Neither is a trip to the westerly most pub in Australia at Denham, where remoteness doesn’t hinder the progress of karaoke or a good old knees up – but beware a few stares.
Spectacular sunrises and sunsets, snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef, immaculate and deserted sandy beaches, crossing the equator, cooking fish and playing the didgeridoo with “Capes” on the beach under the moonlight, countless games of “who am I?” for bus entertainment, meeting royalty, sleeping under the stars at an outback sheep station, swimming in gorges, staying at a convent and, above all, making some fantastic friends – what a way to spend a week!
From bumping into a few (and very few) solo travellers who did the trip via the options I mentioned above, it seemed a long and lonely haul in sometimes often deserted digs. So a huge thank you to everyone who kept me company; Petra, Rebecca, Tommy, Fiona, Lee, Madoka, Ellen, David, Julie, Deb, Sam, Dunja, Judith and “Bush Tucker” Terry (did I mention he is a LEGEND!) for an unforgettable trip and one of the highlights of my year away.