Australia - Denham (Monkey Mia)

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Day 1

With the natural delights of Kalbarri taken care of we began our journey to Denham, further up the west coast. The drive to Denham was a pretty lengthy 480km, with only one stop on the way for yet another natural wonder - the Stromatolites.

The Stromatolites are considered to be the oldest living organism on the planet, and the source from which all other life has formed. They are extremely slow growing single-celled organisms and increase in size by less than 1mm per year. The undisturbed and high salinity waters in Hamlin Pool in Shark Bay offer a perfect habitat for these fragile species to survive. Admittedly they do just look like a cluster of rocks in the water but when you read a little about them you do actually feel privileged to be able to cast your eyes over such a rare collection of ancient life - especially when they are only visible at low-tide, we had just been lucky with our timing! (PICS)

Upon leaving the Stromatolites we completed our journey to Denham and found a campsite just as it got dark. Just in time for dinner and bed.

Day 2

Monkey Mia - strangely named as it has nothing to do with monkeys, and a lot to do with dolphins - was the destination for the mornings sightseeing. It is a 30 minute drive from Denham to the other side of the peninsula and requires a $9 CALM fee - although we managed to get away with not paying it!

The set-up in Monkey Mia is very similar to the Dolphin Discovery Centre in Bunbury. However, the dolphins are a bit more routinely regular in their visits as they are fed each time they approach - this makes the entire place much more popular with the tourists and consequently much more commercialised and frankly less natural.

We sat down on the beach and waited for the inevitable dolphin appearance. We didn't have to wait long before a pod of four showed up (PICS), swimming directly to the interaction / feeding area where a crowd of around 50 tourists descended and lined up to take pictures.

The whole experience was well organised and fairly informative, with a guide giving a talk whilst the dolphins were swimming around alongside her. After they had been there for a while the food came out and people in the crowd could hand feed them.

All in all the experience was a bit disappointing. If we hadn't been to Bunbury, where the approach is far more natural and unforced, then we're sure we would have been amazed - but the overcrowded, almost scripted proceedings gave the impression that we weren't witnessing something special - the way we felt in Bunbury.

Nearby pelicans were also present on the beach, desperate to pick off any leftovers the dolphins may have missed (PIC).

Leaving Monkey Mia we returned to Denham, passing via a gorgeous lagoon which looked as if it must have been man-made it was so perfect (PIC). We were tempted to go down for a swim but opted instead to continue on the road back to Denham so that we could proceed up to Carnarvon the same day.

On the road from Denham we called at Eagles Bluff, a haven for sharks, dolphins, dugongs and manta rays (PIC) due to its clear warm waters and shelter from the strong currents surrounding the rest of the coast. We did see a couple of sharks, although they were too far away to see what type they were.

We also stopped at Shell beach, a well known shoreline in Shark Bay where the entire beach is made up of small shells, which were used decades ago as a local building material. The shells were pretty sharp underfoot and the walk to the beach from the car park was not the shortest, possibly suggesting why the beach isn't actually used as a popular relaxation spot - despite the fact that it was very beautiful (PICS).

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