A World Heritage Listed Wonderland
I could say all sorts of things about why Shark Bay is World Heritage Listed, but I’ll let you read all about it here if you wish. Suffice to say, it is a unique area at the most westerly point of Australia with waters, islands, and peninsulas covering an area of some 22,000 square kilometres (8494.2 square miles), with approx. 70% marine waters. Those waters have a number of exceptional natural features, including stromatolites that represent the oldest form of life on Earth, and one of the largest and most diverse seagrass beds in the world.
We had three days to see and enjoy as much as possible.
Arriving in the little town of Denham we knew we would be in for a treat, but honestly, we had no idea ‘what’ sort of treat awaited.
Our first outing was to retrace our entry drive and get lost on Shell Beach. It was incredible to realise the beach is all but devoid of sand and littered with countless little, predominately white, shells. Reading about it is one thing, seeing it is quite another.
From there we explored the coastal cliffs and bluffs on the southern side of Peron Peninsular. At Eagle Bluff we gazed down upon the shallow waters and I was surprised to count 40 Nervous Sharks in the water. Nervous they may well have been, but I’m sure they were not as nervous as I was.
We visited the Ocean Park Aquarium where we saw Loggerhead turtles, and lots of tropical fish, some friendly, some not so friendly, and finally watched Lemon Sharks being fed. We called our days quits when the mercury hit the “Oh My Gosh” zone. How hot was it? Hot enough for emus to take a swim.
It certainly was an interesting day, but as interesting as it had been, it was nothing compared to what we did next.
Dolphin Feeding Experience at Monkey Mia
More than 40 years ago, Monkey Mia became known as a place where you could get ‘up close and personal’ with a dolphin and visitors could buy a bucket of fish, wade out into the water, and offer the food to any dolphin that came close enough. Over time, the dolphins became lazy, preferring to take the offered food and ignoring their young. Their health and population suffered.
Today, the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife does an excellent job protecting the dolphins that arrive to be fed each morning. Each dolphin is known to the staff and volunteers and the food is carefully weighed and measured ensuring no dolphin receives more than 10% of its daily requirement.
From 7:45 am, the dolphins are offered food three times between then and 12 noon. At each feeding, selected members of the public are invited to offer a fish to a dolphin. With no more than three fish per dolphin, you can imagine all the disappointed people left standing ankle-deep in the water. I was one of them.
We had arrived early, but still, the beach was crowded with other tourists just eager to get a look and get selected. After walking away feeling somewhat deflated, we had a swim in the bay around the corner and as we returned to the feeding area, the final feeding for the day was about to commence. I said to Dean what could it hurt to watch again.
The crowd was considerably smaller, and I was thrilled to be chosen to offer a fish to one of the dolphins.
Puck is a great-grandmother, and she is so beautiful. I have never been so close to a dolphin before and the adrenalin coursing through my veins was a perfect match for the silly grin on my face.
4WD in Francois Peron National Park
Leaving Monkey Mia behind, we entered the Francois Peron National Park with every intention of only driving to Big Lagoon to enjoy a swim in the turquoise waters.
With a little over 16 kilometres (9.1 miles) of the sandy track to reach the picnic area, we didn’t want to push our luck going any further. I’m the one who worries about being on our own and getting ‘stuck’ in the middle of nowhere.
As we finally reached the turn-off to Big Lagoon, unfortunately (or perhaps not), the road was closed (for some unknown reason), and this left us with two choices: Keep going and see the cape, or turn back. Neither of us wanted to turn back, and therefore, we kept going.
The adrenalin I experienced earlier resurfaced. Driving 40 kilometres (24.1 miles) along the soft sandy tracks was exhilarating, and the reward when we reach the cape an hour later was worth every drop of excitement.
We were so glad we decided to continue driving but be warned – this is a 4WD track only and not suitable for 2WD vehicles. The sand can be super soft in summer and we did experience a few areas where our vehicle struggled, but only just.
Monkey Mia and the Road to Cape Peron
Thoughts on Location No 74 – Denham, Gascoyne, Western Australia
Denham was the perfect place to base ourselves while we enjoyed Shark Bay.
It was incredibly hot throughout the day, but we expected that. Thankfully the days were not as hot as they usually are, as one local told us at this time of year it can reach 48°C (118.4°F).