Kirsten Sheppard is a dive pro and the owner of Dive Ningaloo based in Exmouth, Western Australia. The 604,500 hectare marine and terrestrial property of Ningaloo Coast, on the remote western coast of Australia, includes one of the longest near-shore reefs in the world. Annual gatherings of whale sharks occur at Ningaloo Coast, which is home to numerous marine species, among them a wealth of sea turtles, Manta rays, Humpback Whales & numerous shark species.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Ningaloo should be on everyone's everyone's bucket list. Join me as I discuss a variety of topics with Shep including the imminent arrival of their new liveaboard, which Scuba Goat is DEFINITELY going to visit for a trip around this epic location.
Dive Ningaloo website
Matt Waters 0:04
The podcast for the inquisitive diver. Hey, they dive buddies and welcome to the show. I'm super jealous of my next guest. She's based in the ridiculously spectacular location that is Ningaloo Reef. A dive pro and dive shop owner. Kirsten Shepherd also has a pretty epic dad too. We'll chat about his awesomeness later. For now, Shep. Welcome to the show, lady.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 0:26
Hey, Matt. Thanks so much. Very well. Thanks. Thanks for having me. It's pleasure to be here.
Matt Waters 0:30
Good, good. And speaking of here, you're not here because it's freezing on this side of the world, or this side of Australia standard. We're starting to go into winter now and I'm getting really chilly. How are you doing over that side?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 0:41
Still sweating. Still 40 degrees today. But looking forward to like you're looking forward to it cooling down a little bit soon.
Matt Waters 0:48
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 0:49
Sorry about that.
Matt Waters 0:53
We've got so much we can talk about in this one. Much. But let's start with you. Where did the I'm guessing a might know where the watery kind of scuba diving knowledge came from. But where did it start?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 1:10
He could probably take a guess. I'm originally from the UK. And both of my parents are marine biologists or coral reef ecologists. So I grew up spending a lot of time overseas, snorkeling, and then when I was old enough learning to dive I was lucky enough to be able to do that in the Bahamas, not in the icy waters of the UK. very fortunate there. So yes, so I started off years ago, diving and snorkeling all around the world. And it just became a passion. For a long time, it was just a hobby. And I actually have a master's in forensic psychology actually. So used to work as a forensic psychologist in the UK. But realized, after a while, it wasn't quite for me. And I wanted to go down that the diving route. And so several years later, and a lot of hard work. I'm here in Western Australia with a dive company that I run with my partner.
Matt Waters 2:16
Yeah, yeah. And it's it's a location I've not been to yet and I emphasize yet, but I'm super, super excited. I'm at least in the same country as whoever it is.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 2:28
Hopefully, we'll get you over soon.
Matt Waters 2:31
Now, we do have to mention that little island in Thailand, Koh tao.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 2:36
Yes, of course.
Matt Waters 2:38
And you did your pro training there.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 2:41
I did my pro training there. Yes, I was already a rescue diver with a few 100 dives under my belt over the years. But when I got to coetail in Thailand, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There's a real appeal of this little island. It's got some great diving, it's got some, you know, great community and nightlife as well. So what was meant to be just staying for a few months ended up staying into nearly two years on the island. And and yes, that's where I did my instructor training as well met some great people and we have a lot of mutual friends.
Matt Waters 3:11
It appears that we've not actually met yet, but you know, just looking on social media and it's all the same people. Got to have a shout down to the octo boys. Questi.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 3:21
Yes, yeah. So,
I guess I realized that the diving industry was something I wanted to pursue and stay into. And I knew if I didn't leave Kotel sooner rather than later, I'd never leave, as a lot of people have been coding that. So came over to Western Australia, while I could still get a working holiday visa, and what actually started out working on a worship boat, but really wanted to diving. So I met my partner and we decided to step that up together. Okay, that was six years ago or eight years I've been in Australia, but six years ago, we started up gardening glue. So going for a little while now.
Matt Waters 4:02
Yeah, because we only just missed each other on Koh Tao because you left in the same year that I arrived. And I was at the dive shop just down the road from where you are, or where you were.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 4:13
Think we had a two month over last year.
Matt Waters 4:18
And it was the same thing. I mean, I went there for Well, I went to Southeast Asia to start a trip, a diving trip for six months on my own just lugging around doing some diamond and I got to Koh Tao and never left. I was four and a half years later when I did actually leave and go to Papua New Guinea.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 4:36
Hopefully is a peaceful place as well. Yeah.
Matt Waters 4:40
So yeah, so we got from Koh Tao over to Ningaloo. And you started what what year was it? You started on? dive Ningaloo? What year did you open?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 4:54
It was 2014 that we registered and started up. There's a lot of people work involved in getting a dive school up and running so you know getting licenses and accreditation took a while. So that took nearly a year really to get everything up and running. And the boat we bought was a dual wrapper in that, you know, it was a good price but it needed a lot of work doing to it. So a lot of the year was actually spent refitting the boat and refurbishing everything and getting it sort of ready for diving and capable for diving. So I remember actually, the day before our first charter, we were just laying the carpet getting the final touches in so yeah, it's definitely a process getting to where we are now.
Matt Waters 5:42
Yeah. I bet it was quite unnerving as well. opening up your first time and getting your first customers on board.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 5:50
Absolutely. Yes. And obviously you wanted to give everyone the best day possible and so it is very nerve wracking knowing that you're doing everything right we know the diving here is great so that sells itself but you know just making sure that we had everything in place beforehand the right equipment and everything so yeah, very nerve wracking, but I feel I know fell into the swing of it pretty pretty easily.
Matt Waters 6:13
Yeah. Welcome that paints a picture for me because Ningaloo Reef is off broome, correct?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 6:21
Matt Waters 6:23
See, I told I told you I wasn't. I wasn't gonna look at it because I would just want to get it firsthand from you. Paint me a picture of where it is,
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 6:32
unfortunately get crocodiles up in brooms so that that would not be quite such fun experience. The Ningaloo Reef is off x now, which is in the northwest of Australia. It's a little peninsula that sticks out halfway between Perth and broom, actually. The reef itself is 260 kilometers long. So it's a decent sized reef. Wow. And it's a fringing reef, which means it's very close to land. I like the barrier reef, which takes the trouble to get to, you know, the closest part of the reef where it where it comes in is really just a few 100 meters offshore. So we're very lucky in that, you know, it makes it easy for day trips and accessibility.
Unknown Speaker 7:14
And so exmouth, the town itself, what kind of size is it?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 7:20
Population fluctuates a lot with a high season and low season as little as sort of two and a half 1000 people really that's a small town. Yeah.
Matt Waters 7:30
So everybody knows everyone
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 7:32
everyone knows everyone has its advantages and disadvantages, as you can imagine. But it can during the high tourist season, it can get to about six 7000. With with workers and seasonal workers and things like that. And then even even more since COVID. And no international travel allowed, we're finding that we've had a bit of a boost, even from those numbers. So yeah, yes, little town,
Matt Waters 7:57
I was gonna COVID must have been quite good for wha and people visiting, because one who kind of got locked down and just closed all the borders. And you didn't you got a lot of people that can't go anywhere else.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 8:12
I think it pissed off a lot of people in other states because you tell someone that you can't do something, they only want to do it. Exactly, yeah, who ever wanted to come? Obviously, we all got the lockdown, which was a nerve wracking time for a couple of months when everything shut down. Or you can only operate with two other people, which means you can't really run tours, you know, it doesn't work like that. But once things did open back up, we were all very surprised because it seemed like the whole of Perth came to x mouth all in one month. So it was a nice little boost after quite a nerve wracking time. Obviously, it's had its other disadvantages in that. It's people from wi which is great, but it's hard when people from overseas to booked and then border closures have happened. And so there's been a lot of cancellations or obviously missing our international market as well. But really, we're very lucky where we are on the grand scheme of things. We are probably one of the luckiest sort of parts of the world to be in tourism. So
Matt Waters 9:14
yeah, I'm more than happy that I'm here in Australia and not in the UK right now. That's for sure.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 9:20
Absolutely. Yes. Well, my family are in the UK. So it's I'm obviously hearing what's happening to them. So it's Yeah, makes you feel even luckier. Yeah, definitely.
Matt Waters 9:31
So going on about the town a bit more. As soon as I've got a goat beer in my hand. What's it what's what's the nightlife like though man, is it? Is it large enough to have a selection of bars or is it everyone go to bed at nine o'clock at night ready for diamond the next day?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 9:44
No, you can definitely find a party in Exner for sure. Okay. There's there's a number of bars, there's probably about five bars. But there's two microbreweries as well that do some great beer and great pizzas and things like that. so and they always have live music or comedy nights or bands that have been traveling around australia to come and visit so i think we even had the world record breaker with cracker in one time so you get a good variety of of performances there but also good night yeah definitely a party around did you hire him
Matt Waters 10:22
straightaway crack the whip on the on the staff great
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 10:25
entertainment on the boat
longest week crack or fastest whip crack or something impressive he was he was very good
Matt Waters 10:38
the seasons over there
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 10:40
we do operate all year round ourselves but it is definitely a seasonal town we don't have a wet season it's desert it's dry always we do have a cyclone season luckily we're on the edge of it so we're it's very unusual for us to see cyclone does mean we occasionally get some rain dumped on us
Matt Waters 10:57
you were getting into a cyclone when we first started to chat about coming on the podcast
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 11:03
i believe so yes
Unknown Speaker 11:07
i'll speak to you in a few days after the cyclones
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 11:11
it was coming straight for us and we got everything packed away took the roof and the clears off the boat which is a pain in the ass to get back on and then last minute it skirted around us so it was kind of all for nothing bit of an anticlimax actually but but obviously very lucky that there was no high winds and damage to the town so yeah that's when we get rain but otherwise it summers are hot summers mid 40s to high 40s most days and winters do cooled down but it's still still shorts and t shirts in the day but it does get quite cold at night and it's the winter months that we get the big marine life the megafauna that comes through so well shark season which is what the ningaloo reef i guess is most famous for even though that snorkeling not diving is studying now starts around mid march and depending on the whalesharks usually follows through to august september time okay we do get some mentors all year round but you'll see big numbers sort of from may onwards may to sort of the end of the year october november and then of course we get our humpback whale migration as well and we get a huge amount of humpbacks come through and that's usually we start to see them around june but usually july in the big numbers again through to sort of november october november so that's when we get the big stuff but of course we get we get turtles all year round during the summer months is when they're nesting and hatching so all through sort of november to march they're either nesting on the beach or i've seen a few times in the last few weeks and seen the eruption of babies hatching which is just incredible every time you see it so even if you come outside of the the peak season there's a lot of amazing brain activity
Matt Waters 12:55
you mentioned that the whale sharks is snorkeling only what's that what's the background to that is that just to protect the animals or just not to have too many lunatics scuba diving all over the place
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 13:06
it's i mean logistically it would be very hard to dive they're usually on the surface and swimming quite quickly so you know you're swimming along next to them if you had scuba gear on that would be pretty difficult also most of you who get on the tours you know generally snorkel is not divers so it makes it a lot more accessible to everyone but i guess you're sometimes the whale sharks do dive you're out way off the reef possibly in 100 meters of water if they start to dive you'd get people following them down the disaster so snorkeling is just logistically much easier in and out the water you hop in and out several times chasing after the shark and and it's on the surface so
Matt Waters 13:49
and there's a they migratory adults are they juveniles now you see
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 13:53
they're mainly juveniles we do get some bigger ones but majority of the ones you see are juveniles around that sort of five meter mark and majority of males again you do get females as well but a lot of research going into where they go outside of the whaleshark season and why just the the type that we get why the juveniles were or the the breeding females so they're doing a lot of tagging and things to try and figure out where they are
Matt Waters 14:22
well you know, is there a team down there?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 14:25
no there's there is organizations that do taking yes but the spotters that work on worship boats can also remove the tags if they do see whale sharks with them and collect them as well
Unknown Speaker 14:37
okay that sounds cool does mum and dad get involved in that at all
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 14:46
i'm not in the whale sharks so i did work on whaleshark boats when i first got here but as i said mr diving and they're they're mainly coral reef ecologists rather than mega fauna so They they love the reef and that's what they're really interested in. Give them a piece of coral over Wireshark any day for sure. Really?
There's some great coral here too.
Matt Waters 15:11
Yeah, yeah, I'm sure.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 15:13
I just realized I hadn't put you on Do Not Disturb. So I just
Matt Waters 15:19
you can wind up buying a case of Goat if that went off, you know?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 15:24
That I caught it in time.
Surely that stuff's any any cheap. It is.
Matt Waters 15:31
Well, so cheap. It's like 20 bucks for six cans. Which when I got into Australia three years ago, might 20 bucks for six beers. That's outrageous. You know?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 15:40
Yeah. 20 Thanks for that. Exactly. Yeah, yeah.
Matt Waters 15:44
So frankly, over here, but it's even more expensive over there, isn't it? On the
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 15:48
way she is? It is there is. We joke that there's a bit of an exchange rate at the W a border is a bit more expensive. I think it's all relative with oil and gas and things. Some people are earning some big wages over here. So yes, it does make things sometimes a bit a bit more challenging.
Matt Waters 16:07
I suppose logistically as well, because if you're that far away from Perth, because you've got to fly from Perth, we need to get up to broom and then come down to you guys. Is that right?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 16:15
You can fly directly from Perth to x mouse. Okay. It's under two hour flight. Now I'm 45 Qantas fly. And during the peak season, there's two flights a day. So it's pretty easy. If you drive it's 12 160 kilometers, so it's gonna take you a good good full day to get there. People usually stop off on the way like stop off there to Cal berry or Shark Bay on the way and split it over two to three days. But I have done that trip in one day, many many times too many times. And it's it's an easy drive because it's long straight roads but have nothing it's just a bush So
Matt Waters 16:54
no, that's where a Tesla would come in handy. Stick it in Drive and just go and you can have a little siesta on Route and not have to worry about it sleep
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 17:01
watch a movie that's
Matt Waters 17:05
when I do come over I'm gonna fly
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 17:08
much easier. Yeah.
It's a good road trip though. I
mean, there's lots to see off the wha coastline on the way up so got to do at least once depending on your timings.
Matt Waters 17:17
Well, maybe maybe I wouldn't say got to just right now. I just got to get
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 17:26
flying Cz and the airport's 25 minutes out of town so it's Yeah.
Matt Waters 17:31
Now we did briefly touch on the point you've got some exciting stuff going on with dive Ningaloo? Like a little boat coming in?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 17:44
as little boat. Yes.
Matt Waters 17:46
Not so little boat, I should say.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 17:48
biggest of all our boats. But yeah, 24 meters. So decent sized boat. That's mine. Yes. So our new project we are launching a liveaboard something we've been talking about for a while. And then just the right boat came along. The timing wasn't right with COVID. We bought the boat Two months later, we went into lockdown going What have we done. But that's an exciting project. Again, a do a wrapper with seem to be a big fan of it at the time. And then when we're actually doing it, we're like Why? Again? But you know, obviously it's financially you know, buying a boat that's really due up not only is it financially the better option, but you can also then pick how you want it to be done. Exactly. You can design it, you've got a blank slate.
Matt Waters 18:39
You put your own stamp on it.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 18:42
Exactly. So that's what I'm telling myself right now that we're in the process of doing it up. This is the preferred option, honestly. So yes, so we bought her. Yeah, back in January. And then obviously just she sat in in ovaries for a while as we couldn't get her. And then we had a great fun trip mid of last year bringing her from Cannes round which brought her in Harvey Bay, bringing her around to x now so we got stopped and see the beautiful Kimberly on the way round and made a great trip of it. And yeah, so we're we're still getting the equipment ready and everything on her but if all goes to plan, then she will be ready to run our first charters at the end of this year. We're launching in December.
Matt Waters 19:29
Amazing. And how many other liveaboards are in the area.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 19:35
Um, there's another liveaboard in Coral Bay. It is a smaller one. It's the sailing boat and they do diving and snorkeling. So we're hoping to just we're doing dedicated dive boat only seven night trips, four or five times a day. So some nights there'll be a night dive included as well. So you'll really get a good diving fix throughout the week. Otherwise, there's this No others in this area. You know, there's a lot of liveaboards up in the Kimberley, but there's no diving up there with the crocs and ripping current. So they're all sightseeing ones. So there's definitely a gap in the market. So
Matt Waters 20:10
sure, Kimberly's, you can only dive it like, is it six weeks out of the year or something like that? and dive boats that do go out there but a very small window.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 20:21
They they typically as far as I'm aware, there's no diving, because they still get sued of their 10 meter tides and whirlpools which we witnessed, bringing the boat round. You ever been in a whirlpool? it's exhilarating. To say the least. The Rowley shoals has got diving as well.
Matt Waters 20:39
That's the one we might see the geography still off. It's Rowley shoals I was thinking of.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 20:46
Matt Waters 20:48
So you're effectively going to be the only dedicated scuba diving liveaboard in town.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 20:55
Yes, correct. Yeah. And it's going to be nine double cabins. They're being built. And all on suites. All on suite. So nice high end luxury, you know, doing it, doing it. Well. Nice luxury, high end liveaboard Hot Tub on the back deck. cocktail bar. very civilized. Everything you want when you book diving holiday, nice. All Nitrox on board. And yeah, so we're still figuring out a lot of the details. So I'm releasing some more details soon in the next couple of months. Once we finalize pricing and itinerary and things like that, but in the next couple of months people be able to start booking.
Matt Waters 21:40
Awesome. Well, in that case, looking at this calendar I've got in front of me, so I want to see whalesharks because the missus has seen whale sharks over your side, but just snorkeling never on scuba. Possible see one if we're going to do liveaboards you never know.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 22:00
You never know.
Matt Waters 22:02
whales. I love seeing whales even just the nice just think instantly Finding Dory that's great. answers. Dolphins. Okay, I want July.
July is a good month to get get them all together Big Three for sure. Yes. And the humpback whales. I most dives we hear their song underwater. And it's just magical. really is and when they close you can you can actually feel this song vibrating in your chest. It's that loud. Yeah, it's a very special moment when you first realize that humpback whale song
isn't amazing. I've only experienced them in South Africa where it was really shivers but I got my I had my camera on record ready to go just in case they passed by. And I left it running. I know you can see his ship is but you can hear the noise and it's just so relaxing. It's it's an amazing sensation.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 23:00
I saw that your sleep sounds that you fall asleep.
Matt Waters 23:02
It's ingrained in my brain. I tell you I don't even need to turn it on on the brain.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 23:09
Well, I have been on dives and head of fright when I look up and there's a humpback whale swimming past me and your your clothes fi and then they pop up so and then massive. You know that's really quite something to see underwater, but it does sometimes happen. They're curious and they just feel bubbles and sintesi and check you out and then swim off. So
Matt Waters 23:30
there's been some amazing photos taken over there with humpbacks in there. Yes, there has.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 23:35
Matt Waters 23:37
All I know. Was it that one. Was it was it Davey Palfrey that got some awesome shots or was he was that Tonga? Okay, remember?
Unknown Speaker 23:45
Tonga is a hot spot as well. Wonderful.
Matt Waters 23:50
Davey Palfrey. He's now in Bahamas where you started today. Okay, he's doing a Bimini sharpening. Tangent man here goes away. Obviously the other guy, Alex. Alex kid. That's the one. Yeah, he's got some amazing photos. Nice, sensational. And there's I've seen quite a few photos in the past where it looks relatively shallow and over sand. And it was was it tigershark? Or maybe? Yeah, really. I've only ever seen one tiger shark. And that was in Galapagos Galapagos a couple years ago. And I was almost crying in my mask was not happy. But at the same time. It's the first time I had kind of gotten asked which wasn't expected to see it.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 24:44
bull sharks will do that to me. But no, we get we get quite a lot of Tiger sharks. I mean, there's a lot of turtles here. They're well fed. They're not, not anything to worry about. But yet we we see them on diets and they're beautiful, very curious, very placid. Nice. Let's get your Hammerhead here to
Matt Waters 25:03
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 25:07
go ahead and sculpt. Yep that's the beauty of the Ningaloo you never know what will turn up yeah, it's still getting surprised after eight years of diving here I'm still seeing new stuff whether it's little nudibranches I've not seen before or whether it's yeah Hammerhead swim past me on a diet. It's Yeah, it's just a special
Matt Waters 25:26
I love seeing macro well I love all of it. But we do a lot of macro diving around here. And the missus jazz she's not that interested in macro. But I caught her was a couple months ago. We're on a dive just off Colonel and I just had to look over to see what she was up to. And she had a GoPro filming and at Bank of not that I forget it and I'm never gonna let her Forget it.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 25:50
I wonder how many manta rays and sharks I've missed just swimming over the top of my head while I'm staring at the slipper nudibranch
Matt Waters 25:59
I was working with it a DM years ago. In fact, it was Ko Tao. And we were off the deep side if you can call it deep side of twins. And I'm a little bit further out from him. And he's he's literally got his face in the wall looking for nudie banks. He's one of those that he just loves the macro. And all of a sudden, you know, this shadow comes over and as well sharp. So I'm thinking the tank thing big, big, big thing. And looking down trying to get Steven trying to get his attention. And he he almost whipped around looking at a scowl through his mask straight back to his money disturbing
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 26:38
Matt Waters 26:41
a bloody idiot. Oh, yeah. Look at this Nudibranchs
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 26:45
jacket twins. Great. My very first Whaleshark I saw was at Green Rock in Koh Tao.
Matt Waters 26:52
So that was quite a hot spot actually green rock.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 26:54
Okay. In current how it through my as I'm chasing past this after this thing. It was great.
Matt Waters 27:02
Going back to the liveaboard Let's do let's do a scuba go trip next July.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 27:09
Okay, let's do it. Sounds good.
Matt Waters 27:11
Yeah, I've got lots of people that would be keen on that. There's a couple that will be listening to this podcast that have just been on me for the last couple of months. When when do we go? What should we do? When it's finally here? We go with her. So yeah, salvo Yeah.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 27:27
We can take 18 of you. Happy Days, nine, nine double cabins or they can be twins as well. So you know 18 scuba goats. Yeah, coming my way.
Matt Waters 27:38
A lot of fun.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 27:40
Awesome. And I will try and lock in the Big Three for you then. Oh,
Matt Waters 27:43
yeah, see what I can do. Yeah, just text them. Make sure that they turn up
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 27:47
arranger arrange to meet time, no worries.
Matt Waters 27:51
That should be should be really exciting, though, isn't it? Because you're gonna have so much freedom, rather than going to the particular dive locations that you do for sure you've got that freedom to roam.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 28:00
I'm so excited about that. Obviously, after all these years of diving, you know, I still love the dive sites. And there's some incredible dives. But I'm excited to explore new territory being daytrips you'll see this so far you can get and do dives and come back in a day. with seven nights we can we can go pretty far and explore, explore parts where there's going to be you know, no one's going to die for years.
Matt Waters 28:25
Yeah, I've when I was working up in Papua New Guinea, I was one of the kickers of the job was that if there was no guests around, or they just decided that they wanted to have a sister instead, we could just go out and take a dive boat out and the reefs were just countless. So you know just find a reef jump in see what's there.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 28:45
It's any good? It's naturally the GPS Yeah, to explore new spots. Yeah. So hopefully we'll find some, some great typography in some some great walls and bombs and things that we can add to our list. So yeah, the first we're going to be doing a lot of exploring ourselves that the first few trips are also going to be that so it's you know, I think every trip will say to the guests All right, this is a new spot. Let us know if it's good. It looks good on the sounder. Let me know it's down there. So I think that's going to be quite exciting to get as well to go Okay, well, no one's ever done it before. Let's
Matt Waters 29:16
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 29:17
let's check it out. And it's the Ningaloo you can't really have a bad dive. So
Matt Waters 29:22
sounds so good.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 29:24
Where were you in Papua New Guinea out of interest.
Matt Waters 29:26
I was at Tufi Resort. It's on the northern or north eastern coastline of the main island. So you go you go into Port Moresby, and it's like a 15 minute flight. going north. To Fear Itself sits it sits on top of the almost rock faces of the IRAs or the fjords as people call them, which is incorrect because it's not in Sweden or anything like that. It's an IRA. But it's very interesting there as well. And in fact, your mum and dad, if ever they got the Opportunity send them to to fee. If the coral heads, they will absolutely bloody love it because it's got almost like three stages of perfection to deterioration by man. So writing close to land, it's all been over fish by the local villages, and all the rubbish has gone in over the years. So you don't have massive amounts of big species. And the coral tends to have a lot of algae on it, and it's almost dead, you know. But then you go the inner reefs, which are about 4k, offshore, and there's nowhere near as much algae but a few more fish and a few more big stuff. But then you get to the outer reefs, which are 20k. And it sounds like a hell of a journey. But, you know, if you're not there in winter time, then it's it's glass flat Anyway, you get out there, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're jumping into a virgin water that someone's never seen before. It's beautiful. And the corals you just probably would want to mainline to the boat and just stay there forever. It's a fantastic location.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 31:08
Well, you're reading the Coral Triangle there so 18 months ago, my partner went to Papua New Guinea we went to betclan we could travel pre COVID we went to kavieng we went to rebel when he was born actually and so so did a few days around there and he had corals stunning.
Matt Waters 31:28
Yeah, it is. Yeah, there's quite a bit. In fact kavieng do dolphins and stuff like that? That is Kakapo up that way
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 31:38
um we Kapow
Matt Waters 31:43
you might be familiar there's quite a few quite a few small islands off the coastline and shallow ranks and stuff like that.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 31:54
Yes, yes lovely Japanese planes and Rex Yeah.
Matt Waters 31:59
Well to fee if you imagine the coastline between two wildly which is the furthest to the east along the main coastline of Papua New Guinea. And then to fee between the two is the famous blackjack dive the world war two record 48 meters. And that's that's that's a dive and a half to beautiful. I've not done KVM yet, though.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 32:32
Beautiful place. Yeah, highly recommended. Yeah, really nice. After after the Ningaloo.
Matt Waters 32:37
Yeah, yeah, we'll do it. We'll do a skip, skip go trip to the Ningaloo and then we'll do a skip ego trip to sci fi to alien cave Yang. Okay.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 32:46
Yeah, I'll join you on that one.
Matt Waters 32:49
Excellent. Now, what I did, what I did want to ask is, or just ask, or just actually just give a bloody good shout out to all you guys over on the West Coast because it was not too long ago that the subsea seven proposals were withdrawn.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 33:11
Matt Waters 33:13
I'll let you backfill that once.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 33:18
A subsea seven was a oil and gas project basically to build a bundle pipeline onshore, and then launch it via a small sort of railway pipeline into the water where it was then floated out to various guests that forms off the coast. Where they were looking at doing it was in the Ningaloo Gulf, Gulf Gulf. And it's a real nursery, the ectomorph Gulf. And there's a lot of research not done on it, you know, we're still finding out that there's actually some endangered species, a small fish in the Exmouth Gulf is a breeding ground for do gongs and humpback whales. So, of course, there was a lot of concern, what this would do to the local environment. So there was a big push from protecting glue, and the KIPP conservation group to to really get it out to to the public knowledge and to actually get the EPA the Environmental Protection done on it. Basically, they decided they need more information and then subsea seven did pull out that um, I did do my fair share of banner waving and he's like that at the time just to get just to raise awareness of of the area because x North Gulf is is a spectacular place. And actually we do we do dives in the Gulf as well. A lot of soft corals, we get sponge gardens and things like that, and it's an incredible marine life, the visibility is lower. But you can see very clearly the diversity and the amount of marine life and especially juvenile, fish and mammals as well. In this so it's it's yeah obviously it's a very sensitive subject in that two sides of it in terms of jobs and development of x now, but for me it was definitely a win for the environment. Yeah,
Matt Waters 35:15
Well it is. There's there is two sides to it, but Sod 'em sorry, people hate me for that I don't care, if we get rid of everything in the oceans and there's nothing left of this planet anyway. So you know,
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 35:28
and I feel that's a bit of the appeal of x mouth You know, there's a lot of small quaint little lovely towns in in Western Australia, but in the northwest it is dominated largely by mining and oil and gas towns. So you know, we're one of the last few towns in the northwest that that isn't has that as one of the major industries tourism is a major industry so it's, you know, I think it's nice to keep it that way as well.
Matt Waters 35:54
Keep it that way forever. They can they can go and do their oil and gas stuff elsewhere
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 36:00
as well so they've moved on so I'm sure they found somewhere else where they'll where they'll do it where there's already the setup as well. So yeah, that definitely was definitely was a win for the for tourism and also of course all the marine marine creatures here. Yeah. Yeah. Could do gongs.
Matt Waters 36:17
Yeah, it's not like they could get out of the way too quick, is it? No. Um, hey, but I didn't that was quite a few questions actually, that I got from a lot of people was about accommodation over in Ningaloo. It's all old hotels and guest houses and that kind of thing.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 36:38
huge variety. You've got luxury resorts, you've got hotel motel style options. You've got campsites in town where you can get either a chalet or obviously camp if you've got a tent or a camper van, and then down in the national parks or the cape range National Park is just a 30 minute drive from x mouse over to the west side of the cape. And there's some amazing bush camping in the cat range as well and just snorkeling right off the beach there so yeah, a big range for those of you that want the the bush camping or those you want the resort with the pool and cocktails, and everything in between
Matt Waters 37:17
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 37:18
Lots of lots of options and of course heaps of holiday homes that at the moment as well. So
Matt Waters 37:23
at the moment
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 37:25
at the moment Yeah, that's another story for the day.
Matt Waters 37:28
What was it all was it all headed ship? what's what's the long term goals for dive Ningaloo?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 37:35
A dive Ningaloo on the spot? Yeah. Okay. Well, we're very happy doing a day tours, which our boat goes out every day and dives Northern Ireland's Ningaloo Reef, lighthouse Bay. We also have the exclusive license for diving on the Navy Pier, which you may have heard about the Navy Pier. voted Yeah, concentrated on the top 10 dives. It is incredible because of its diversity. That's what it's very famous for it is a low of visibility dive. You know, if you've got eight meters, it's good day average is about five. But the sheer amount of fish life under there just just Trumps any visibility.
Matt Waters 38:16
I was watching a little bit of Facebook stalking earlier today. And I look at one of the videos from a few months ago. And it was a journalist of some sort that was going for a dive there. And that you've got a grip of that. Yeah, it's it's a little bit big. 150 kilos, correct. 120 kilos, it must be
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 38:43
two and a half meters long, 2.3 meters long and yeah, he's huge. And he can be boisterous as well. He's um, he's got personality here. You know, when you dive in Long You got a feeling you're being watched or whatever and you look over your shoulder and and he's there from you just staring at you. He's particularly active on a night dive as well. I've actually been pushed out the way I've been looking at a fish with my torch and he's pushed me out the way to come in and eat that fish that I'm shining my torch on which kill a bit bad which makes it a great experience but he's great some days he's a little more in social interest. You can see him up at the top cruising around the pylons, but Sundays he will actually get up close and personal. Yeah. We call him BFG Big Friendly groper
Matt Waters 39:33
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 39:34
Yeah, very friendly.
But yeah, huge amount of Marine life. I mean, she just calls it Ravallion Barracuda, and then you've just got so many different species of nudibranch there as well. So from the big to the small it we really, it covers it all. And we can do deep dives and night dives there as well. And during the winter months when the water gets cooler, down to 20 degrees that I was telling you about so to get so jealous about as hot 28 at the moment, it does get cooler here, sometimes we get our greener shocks coming through as well. So a decent population of those under the pier. So, and regular sightings of those, so most twins, and you've got
Matt Waters 0:00
exclusive diving there to?
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 0:04
Yes, we do.
Yes, it is yes.
Matt Waters 0:08
And certainly a way to control the amount of divers in the water as well.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 0:11
And absolutely. And you also have, I mean, it's the sanctuary. So people, you know, drive and pass and boats have to pass quite some distance away. So it is protected. It's actually an active military base as well. So we're limited on the number of people we can take, because obviously, it's has to go through the fence land and through secure areas.
But you know, being a sanctuary zone, you really tell, you know, there's huge blue bones down there and coral trout, and often the divers are looking around and looking at me and rubbing their bellies.
But we can actually only dive on the slackwater. So you can get some some big currents around there. So at slac quarter, it's beautiful conditions to jump in. But
that also kind of adds to the limit of when you can dive daily as well. So it's a different time every day. Yeah, yeah.
Matt Waters 1:03
So all of the locations that you've dived in the area of Ningaloo,
which is your favorite
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 1:11
good question. That's the hard one.
Look, the Navy, the Navy Pier is great for the diversity. It really is, you know, people are filling out their logbooks, and they they run out of space in the note section.
There's just so much the mute the soft coral at the murin Islands
is stunning. And maybe there's an inference from my parents, but you know, they come up from a dive and they said, Wow, that surf curl is just incredible. And some of the largest surf corals they've seen before anywhere in the world. So you know that that really is special and very different from the rest of the Ningaloo, which is a lot more hard coral and search channels and things like that.
But then, then on the west side and lighthouse phase, you know, you get this sharks, I haven't answered that question at all. However, none of them.
Everyone, it's so good. And of course, you know, if you dive it enough, you know, you see a bit of everything and some days obviously clearer than others are.
Yeah, all of them. What a rubbish answer. Yeah, yeah, very well done.
Politically Correct, maybe?
Matt Waters 2:21
Well, we got it, we've got to put a little bit of balance on it as well, because a bit a little bit of focus on what you've just said. And your dad saying that it's some of the biggest corals and all that kind of thing that he's seen. Yeah. For those people who don't know of Shep's dad, Shep's dad is also known as Professor Charles Shepard, OBE, and.
He was fundamental in creating correct me if I'm wrong, but he was fundamental in creating the largest marine reserve. Yes.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 2:58
Yeah, no, take marine park in the world at I think glyph. store now. So yeah, and the shaker said, archipelago and my parents
have been there for decades, spanning sort of four decades of work there. They still go every year. Obviously, they haven't been last year with with COVID.
But yeah, it's been a lot of hard work into this area and, and that the OP ob was recognition for that work as well.
But yeah, they cornered they love it.
And they've obviously seen huge changes over time as well. Not necessarily for the best.
But, you know, the shakers archipelago, you can't get to privately, you know, can't fly there. It's the US as British Indian Ocean territory, but there's a US
based on Diego Garcia, the largest island, and although you can sail there from maybe seashells, it's a long way away. It's in the middle of the Indian Ocean, so you can't get there. So it really, you know, at the start of their career diving that was pristine. Yeah. Yeah. Anyone that doesn't know the Chagos archipelago it's ch ag o 's just Google it and look on the maps to see where it is is literally in the middle of bloody nowhere
so yeah, hard to get to which has obviously helped keep it pristine but you know being no take there still have a lot of fish boats coming over. So it is patrolled. Oh, good to ensure that it is yeah.
Unfortunately, not such a great story for the coral reef there due to warming, sea temperature level rises.
So it's I think a bit
I think it's still great, but having seen it over four decades, it's probably not such a good shape as it as it used to be, which is quite sad for the people going over there now to see how it's changed over the years.
But yeah, very, very important work and very proud of both of them.
Matt Waters 5:00
should be i'm sure they're proud very proud of you too
speaking of global temperatures and water temperatures all i can think of do you see any kind of fluctuations any kind of bleaching going on over at ningaloo
there was a there was a pie on the ash because there was a few a few months in 2017 and there's quite a bit of bleaching that occurred in papua new guinea and just wondering whether the
the temperatures and water flow followed through and down to that side of australia
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 5:31
yes we have seen some we are definitely more fortunate than a lot of other reefs in that we have two different currents that come through and one is a quarter current in eight years i've been here i've seen two bleaching events
they've been significant but not catastrophic and they have recovered fairly quickly afterwards
but we have blue and current which brings water down and a lot of tropical species
so that's where we get you know more of the tropical fish coming down for the infant luhan current and tropical corals so even though we're more temperate climates we have that advantage and then we've got the current which brings cool water from the south up which generally even so we have some incredibly baking hot summers it generally stabilizes the water temperatures of the roof so although the gulf can get considerably warmer on the west side of the peninsula where a lot of the ningaloo is
generally stays a lot cooler so we're very fortunate there actually has been predictions that the ningaloo is going to be one of the few less surviving coral reefs as they start to
degrade around the world we're sitting in a good spot in in terms of longevity
obviously the issue is still the same anywhere around the world yeah yeah these are pressing tough subjects because it is you know seriously happening and it is already yeah
Matt Waters 7:02
yeah it's yeah a completely other topic we won't go down that rabbit hole
of crying into our beers well then i definitely wanted to get
what's the general day to day living for you like over there then is it just all 100% focus on the the dive shop or do you get time to yourself
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 7:27
it's about finding balance and i have struggled with that over the year years when i started out we were obviously very small company so i was pretty much the first two years of operating i was on the boat every day answering phone calls on the flybridge or the phone looking for the next day
as we expanded i got someone to answer the calls during the day and then it got to the point that okay office manager required and that obviously just made everything a lot easier but you know as your business progresses and gets bigger
we got the navy pier license our little dice gloss and went boom and became a lot bigger and more people word got out to that as and
and yet we and we got busier so i do very much try to keep the balance at the end of day you don't become a diver or dive professional or open a dive school to become rich
as you know as
you do it for the lifestyle so it's always about managing that lifestyle so i do make sure that i get out diving at least couple of times a week on tours
and and try and minimize the amount of paperwork to be done that again in any business there's always always picked what to do so yeah finding the balance and still keeping diving
Matt Waters 8:50
i do have to ask as well because obviously i've looked on your website and within your little team you have a dude that looks like he could be my best friend straightaway
skipper and chef joe reynolds he's he's cooking up a storm on the boat kicking off his dog he actually i need to update my website
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 9:15
that's it i'm not coming down job i need to do there's no there's no there's no snags on the barbie i'm not coming we do still do the barbecue joe joe is actually a chef as well and a script that was perfect he was always on barbecue duty but now we do a barbecue on the boat every day oh these love of barbecue so i mean barbecue and diving what a great combination but also the international tourists it would just be a bit of a novelty as well you know you've got your general backpack is there like barbecue on a boat who would have thought of this thing ever
or some sad lettuce lately yeah cat dog and slow definitely
Matt Waters 9:50
well it's one of the things i'm trying i was actually at the gym earlier today got hold of the manager and it's a huge gym and i've asked her to find
One of them members of staff that is possibly a diver but more importantly a nutritionist, because I want to delve into the calorific burn rate that we have when we go dive in. Because I've posted about it many times and people are very surprised to hear how many calories you burn just in 30 minutes of being submerged? Absolutely. Isn't it the equivalent to like an hour dive is equivalent to an hour workout or something like that? Yeah, it's most most Yeah, most.
Most analysis or reports are saying between 680 and 720 calories for an hour submerged, which is crazy. And of course, she breakfasts on days, I'm diving.
That's why I saw Joe and fell in love with him straightaway because of the snags.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 10:46
I think I assume it's all the off gassing as well, that depends on the calories too, because you're not moving a lot and the water is definitely far easier than doing an hour workout. So
Matt Waters 10:57
it makes sense as well. Because I don't know about you, but when I was working hammer and tongs in the industry everyday teaching everyday for a number of years. You know, I'm sitting here at 120 kilos. I was 93 kilos back then and the weight just fell off. Yes, no time to work hard.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 11:14
Oh, yeah. I was the fittest I've ever been when I was working coetail four days a day. And then of course, so when our dive boat here in the Ningaloo, we have a compressor and banks on board so there's no carting of cylinders, but you may remember very well you may still have nightmares about it, pulling back up at the at the jetty, Kotel and being sort of five other boats between you in the jetty and you having to carry 50 tanks over this boat that a few times.
Matt Waters 11:42
Yeah, but then when I was working at Big Blue, and we could get
to the beach is great. But then, when the compressors broke, and then all the tanks had to come back to land and then get refilled. And you're looking at 120 to 150 tanks getting shipped. Yeah, just one way. It's crazy. Yeah, we were muscley then
even the women were meatheads.
Right let's let's let's round it out Shall we ship I'm sure you've got to get back to work and Rod nine need to have another beer.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 12:17
It's five o'clock now and it's definitely time for me to have a beer.
Matt Waters 12:22
Good idea. Good idea. So just we'll put it in the show notes anyway, but just to give a quick shout out on your your social media and your websites and all that kind of stuff how people can get ahold of you. Sounds good yet so on Instagram where dive Ningaloo and our Facebook we dive Ningaloo keeping it nice and easy. Easy, straightforward.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 12:41
The website dive Ningaloo diveningaloo.com.au Yeah, yeah, here's that. Um, Ningaloo spelt N.I.N.G.A.L.O.O. Yeah. Do you often get that question? Yeah. Okay, so, uh, yeah, like as followers, and I will obviously share this podcast once. Once, once it's up and online,
Matt Waters 13:03
you share it far and wide. You can even put I tell you what, I'll give you the embed thing. So you can place it on your website. Now Joe's gone. You could probably put it there. Okay.
And now in all seriousness, let's get a let's do a liveaboard. next July.
Kirsten Sheppard<br> 13:20
That would be great. love to have you. Do we get we get special prices? Sure. We'll talk about that later for me. That too quickly?
Matt Waters 13:32
Well, I'm gonna have to celebrate that one. Shep. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Speak to your, dad. I'd love him to come on the show. Okay, and if he says no, I'm still gonna praise Him. Anyway.
Thanks again, and I'll speak to you soon. Sounds good. Thanks, everybody.
The podcast for the inquisitive diver.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Transcribed by https://otter.ai