We were stoked to be featured in a recent article of Great Walks Magazine, which put the spotlight on Cape To Cape Explorer Tours and our epic guided hikes on the Cape to Cape Track! Click HERE to see Great Walks Magazine. If you are a subscriber, you can find our story in the February/March 2021 issue with the headline: “Whales, wine and wildflowers”.

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Or, read on for the first part of the full Great Walks Magazine article, which is reproduced for you below. We’ll bring you Part 2 in another blog coming soon!

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Great Walks Magazine: Whales, Wine and Wildflowers

Gene Hardy emerges from the underwater limestone ledge, a mask-and-snorkel-wearing hunter with a spiny crimson West Australian crayfish gripped in his gloved hand. And that’s when he sees the great white shark.

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“A big one, 10 metres away, and it scared the crap out of me,” enthuses Gene, the founder of Cape To Cape Explorer Tours (CCET), a Margaret River-based company with 11 years specialising in hiking adventures on the Cape to Cape Track, which is embedded in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park of Western Australia’s rugged south-west. “I swam so fast I just about walked on water!”

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We’re perched on a granite boulder after a swim in a gorgeous coastal rock pool named The Aquarium for its effervescent water and teeming fish. It’s day two of an 8-day guided hike traversing the 124km coastal and forest wilderness that is the Cape to Cape Track, a three-hour drive south of Perth. Pink-flecked granite boulders shelter The Aquarium from the waves – and sharks – of the Indian Ocean. “But that’s where I ran into the great white,” Gene tells me, pointing just out to sea and describing his freediving expedition several years ago. “It just goes to show how alive this coastline is, on the land and in the sea.”

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With his shock of curly blond hair and bucket-loads of knowledge and enthusiasm for the Track, it’s easy to see why he calls Margaret River home. “What the Track has got is all this texture and all this diversity. It’s like nowhere else on Earth,” says the surfer-turned-tour guide.

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Day 1: Rock on

The adventure begins with a transfer down from Perth to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse where we meet today’s guide, Andrew. CCET run guided and self-guided hikes from 3 to 8 days but I’m on the signature 8-day guided end-to-end experience which includes catering, coastal accommodation and transfers. Group size is capped at 12.

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Today’s walk traverses the start of the limestone Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge and the clifftop path is lined by coastal heath and wildflowers like pink pimelia, the indigo tones of purple fan flower and the cheery golds of hibbertia and acacia. Spectacular coastal views to Yallingup (our destination) compete for our attention with humpback whales breaching offshore.

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Each day has a theme and today’s is geology. Andrew tells us the ridge is formed of windblown limestone deposited as recently as 10,000 years ago. Underground streams have eroded spectacular caves throughout the ridge, while wave-cut limestone platforms create the surfing breaks Margaret River is famed for. “But that’s only half the story,” Andrew says, during lunch as we tuck into a chicken and salad wrap. “Like top-deck chocolate, the limestone sits on a bedrock of granite, left behind when India crashed into Australia about 600 million years ago.”

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The 16km day ends with beach walk into Yallingup. In the language of the local Aboriginal people, the Wadandi or saltwater people, it is “place of caves”, so it’s fitting our sunset dinner is overlooking the coast at boutique Caves House. Bellies full, we’re driven 40 minutes to our accommodation base for the week at SurfPoint Resort at Gnarabup, Margaret River’s beachside suburb, located in the middle of the Track. Some of the group booked ensuite rooms but I’m glamping under the stars in a spacious bell tent – with a queen bed. Ah, luxury!

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Day 2: Current affairs

Day 2 is 17km packed full of epic coastal vistas from Yallingup, along dreamy white-sand Smiths Beach and through an awe-inspiring scramble among towering granite marbles heading into Canal Rocks. Gene is guiding and it’s here we stop at the Aquarium to hear his mesmerising shark tale. The theme is marine, and we earn about the Leeuwin Current bringing warm water from Australia’s north, fuelling a marine bounty of rock lobster, salmon schools, migrating whales and the hermaphrodite blue groper. “The male groper rules a harem of females but if he dies, one of the females morphs into a male!” Gene explains.

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The overdose of pull-out-your-camera coastal scenery continues to Injidup Natural Spa (another heavenly rock pool) and sweeping Injidup Beach for more sand walking – which we’re starting to learn is common on the Cape to Cape! The sheltered bay is too idyllic not to take a dip before the afternoon stretch through coastal heath rich in spider, cowslip and pink fairy orchids to Moses Rock.

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Sore feet are soon forgotten with a sunset wine tasting. Dinner is supplied by CCET’s in-house catering company and I banish any thoughts of losing weight this trip as I tuck into beef cheeks followed by sticky chocolate brownie with blueberries.

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Day 3: The orchid dance

Bright and bubbly Heather, CCET’s head guide, leads us from Moses Rocks as day three dawns overcast and still. Today is a slower 13km day to take in the most biodiverse section of the Track. Within minutes we encounter a mob of grazing western grey kangaroos and soon after Heather does a little dance as she spots her first orchid for the day. She’s mad about these exotic blooms and tells us this one is a funnel web spider orchid, with its otherworldly drooping petals and deep crimson tongue or “labellum”. Today’s theme is flora and biodiversity and I doubt there’s a plant on the Track that Heather doesn’t know.

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Everywhere the Track is in full spring bloom. Majestic 2m flower spikes covered in star-shaped cream flowers erupt from grass trees. Sharks-tooth acacia and prickly Moses bushes are wreathed in floral yellow. WA’s south-west is one of about 40 recognised global biodiversity hotspots – to quality a region must have 1500 endemic plant species. “We’ve got more than 3500,” says Heather, explaining that WA’s ancient soils forced plants to become super specialised and diverse, while surrounding oceans and deserts made it an island where flora evolved in isolation.

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Soon we drop onto Wilyabrup Beach and it’s boots off to cross a brook flowing into the ocean, before ascending spectacular Wilyabrup Cliffs, an abseiling location with more show-stopping views. The day ends with intricately-pattered granite columns as we walk into Cowaramup Bay and the hamlet of Gracetown, with time for a cooling dip.

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*** Check out next week’s blog for Part 2 of the Great Walks Magazine story on Cape to Cape Explorer Tours and the Cape to Cape Track! ***

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