Australia (South West Tour) Freemantle - Bunbury

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Day 1

Rising at 8:30 to the sound of waves crashing and locals walking their dogs in the early morning sunshine we packed up and devoured breakfast before finding the local hardware superstore to fill up the gas bottle.

Unable to resist the heavenly aroma of the hotdog stand we indulged in a late morning greasy snack with the proceeds going to the local school fund - we rationalised the indulgence as our good deed for the day.

We then began our journey southwards down to Rockingham where we stopped briefly for a look around the little town, a stroll on the beach and a (fat free) smoothie in their ice-cream shop.

The next destination was the small coastal town of Binningup where we found the beachside campsite, set-up our campervan (including the awning for the first time) and set some laundry going while we went for a swim in the Indian Ocean.

With the laundry in the process of drying we showered and picked up a wood fired pizza from the campsite cafe before settling down for the night at 11pm.

Day 2

After a comfortable nights sleep, only disturbed by some rather rowdy kookaburra's, we awoke at 9am and got ready at a leisurely pace, finally leaving the campsite and getting back on the road at midday.

Our next port of call was the town of Bunbury, approximately half an hour down the coast. We made it there just in time to call into the tourist information centre (closes early on a Sunday - miracle it's even open on a Sunday!) before taking a look at the Dolphin Discovery Centre; Bunbury's main attraction.

At the Dolphin Centre we were advised that the wild dolphins tend to come into the bay early in the morning (8am) so it would be best to return the following day. Deciding that we were in no particular rush to get down the coast and the entry ticket we had bought (a mere $4) was valid for 6 months we would stay in Bunbury that night and be at the beach for 8am the next day.

With the rest of the afternoon to kill in Bunbury we decided to drive around the town taking in the marina, hilltop lookout, posh houses and lighthouse (sadly covered in scaffolding!) before heading over to the cinema to watch 'Hustle & Flow'.

Seconded back in the van, right next to the Dolphin centre in preparation for the early start, we broke out the playing cards for the first time, read our books and made it to bed at 10:30pm.

Day 3

Up at 7:15am we eagerly donned our swimming costumes, chucked down some toast and headed to the beach through the Dolphin Centre. We were perched on the edge of the surf in prime position by 8:05.

We didn't have long to wait (just finished our first cup of tea - a bottomless cup for $3) when we spotted some fins in the distance making their way into the bay. No sooner had everyone made their way into the water (bloody cold at 8:15 in the morning) then 'Shanti' appeared to greet us. Visitors are not allowed to touch the dolphins but we were allowed to get an underwater look at them with our snorkel and masks.

Shanti obligingly came up close, swimming up and down the line of visitors (approx 20) gathering in the surf to ooh and aah over her, seemingly lapping up the attention (PICS). Shortly afterwards another two fins appeared in the distance and we were duly informed that it was Nicky and her three week old baby calf. Again they made their way into the shallows, poking their heads out to get a closer look at the snap happy audience.

We were apparently very lucky as Nicky allowed her calf to swim to within a couple of metres of us as she normally positions herself between the calf and the wall of onlookers. At only 3 foot long the baby calf was adorable (PICS) and obviously loving the attention as it constantly emerged from the water for a split second at a time before darting back under the water; clearly a quick learner on teasing the audience and leaving them wanting more. All the dolphins were not only beautiful and graceful but also seemed to have a perma-grin on their face suggesting they were enjoying the experience as much as we were.

The dolphins are not fed, trained or interfered with in any way by the centre or the public so it is amazing that they keep coming back, proof of their own inquisitive nature. The fact that Nicky would bring her new calf so close also suggests how comfortable the dolphins feel in human company.

With Nicky and her calf finally swimming away for the day Shanti made a couple more appearances before leaving for the day herself. There are about 200 dolphins presently in the local area with 70 of them resident and about 20 of those regularly coming in close to interact.

Deciding to soak up a bit of the morning sun before moving on, we settled back on the beach to read our books and enjoy the bottomless drinks. With most of the other people having left the beach we periodically dipped in and out of the clear empty water to cool off. At one point we looked up from our books just in time to catch a sight of a large black sting ray in the shallow water right in front of us.

At only $4 each and with bottomless tea/coffee on tap it was a wonderful way to spend a Monday morning. Or any morning for that matter.
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