Road trip across Australia – Day 19 Head of the Bight

The car, a Ford Territory, had been running perfectly for the whole trip but I decided to replace the battery in Ceduna as it had started playing up and crossing the Nullarbor Plain with its distinct lack of facilities is not the best place to break down (there’ll be more about those consequences later on).
The guy at the BP fuel station was very helpful and sold and fitted a new battery for a good price, so that we were on our way just after 9am.
We headed west again, driving through the town of Penong, but stopping momentarily at the small town of Nundroo. It only took a couple of hours to reach the Head of the Bight, where we stopped at the Visitor’s Centre in the hope of seeing some whales.
Southern Right Whales visit the head of the Bight between May and October each year to calve. There is no land mass between the Great Australian Bight and Antarctica, where the whales spend their summers, and the waters off the Bight are warm enough to make it comfortable for the whales to remain for a while.
It’s a 12 kilometre drive from the Eyre Highway to the Bight, and you enter via a modern visitor’s centre. Once you get to the cliff face there is a series of raised wooden walkways which lead to various viewing points along this part of the Bight. These walkways have been designed to cause as little environmental impact to the cliffs as possible, and to give visitors maximum viewing possibilities.
Even before getting to the cliffs you can easily spot a number of whales, and as you get closer more whales appear. We estimated there to be about 30 of them, many cows with calves, and a few young males hanging around.
The colour of the water here is a brilliant aqua blue near the shoreline, changing to a deep blue as the depth of the water increases. As you look towards the water, on the left hand side is a large series of sand dunes which extend along the coastline for many kilometres, and on the right the Bunda Cliffs rise straight from the seabed to heights of between 40 and 80 metres, it is a stunning sight as Australia just ends in a most dramatic fashion.
The whales don’t seem to move too much, but just seem to mostly float in the calm waters. It may be that the females are tired after giving birth, or it may be that the calves don’t have enough stamina to move too quickly, but some do float very close to the shore, and there is no effort at all in spotting them.
When they expel their spumes of air and water as they breathe out, it makes a great roar, which can be clearly heard from some way off. They will occasionally raise their flippers out of the water, and some will even float on their backs.
We spent a considerable time at the head of the Bight, and then made the short drive to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, where we took a flight above the Bight to better see the whales and the cliffs.
The Cessna is just parked in the roadhouse carpark, and simply taxis past the cars, caravans and road trains on its way to the runway; you certainly get some weird looks from surprised motorists as a plane taxis passed them.
With Andrew, the pilot, as our guide we climbed above the Nullarbor Plain and got a true perspective of just how big it is. It seems to extend for hundreds of kilometres in all directions except for south, where the Nullarbor Plain just ends at the cliffs.
We were flying at a height of about one thousand feet, and it was a perfect day for flying, being a sunny, cloudless day.
From the aircraft it is possible to see even more whales, and that part of the Bight was just teeming with them; we even saw an albino cub with its mother. To see the transition from sand dunes to cliffs was amazing and from the air we got to see that the cliffs extend to way beyond the horizon in one great long, almost-straight line.
The Nullarbor is the world’s biggest karst formation; it is pitted with cave systems, and you could see the odd sinkhole from the air. Its expansiveness was truly breathtaking, and made me appreciate just how special Australia really is.
The flight was immensely enjoyable, even more so as Andrew brought us down for a perfect landing.
So far we had enjoyed a simply awesome day, yet we still had more to accomplish so we had to resume our journey west.

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