Coral Coast Continued

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, June 10, 2012

A light rain fell as we checked out of the Potshot Hotel in Exmouth.  On the drive southward, Sylvia avoided the wildlife with skill behind the wheel.  We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn once again.

The monotonous miles flew by, but not fast enough.  The rain intensified and the wind picked up.  Stubbornly sticking to our plans we took the turnoff for the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive and headed towards Denham and Monkey Mia.  Despite the foul weather the bright blue sea still shone through the grey.  Our plans to sleep at one of the  free campsites were dashed due to weather-related closures.  The dirt roads become impassable after too much rain.  We booked a hostel room in Denham, then cancelled it in favour of sleeping in the car at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, closer to the main attraction.

Denham was a ghost town with a few sailing vessels in the water and sandbagged storefronts lying in wait for a great flood.  We moved on and Jason completed the 700 kilometre journey to Monkey Mia where we were greeted by a park ranger posting a sign for visitors to expect severe weather.  With nowhere else to go we parked, cooked dinner indoors and returned to the car to spend the night where we'd already spent the whole day.  We did swap seats again, however, as Jason had more legroom on the passenger side.

All night long the wind rocked and the rain soaked our car-tel with speeds of up to 100 km/h and accumulation of up to 100 mm flooding the campgrounds and car parks.  It was a warm tropical storm with temperatures consistently over 20 degrees and classified as a category one cyclone.  No problem.

We rose early in lingering light rain and waited for the dolphins to swim in for their regular feeding.  The wait lasted longer than expected but it was broken up by a dolphin video and visits from giant pelicans and emus in the warm sunshine.  With all the data stacked against a visit after 9:30, we made lunch and packed up.  Sylvia doddled and looked disappointed so Jason offered to stop for a last look on the way out.  At about 10:20, Jason walked back toward the beach and heard the good news, which he promptly spread.  The bottlenose dolphins had arrived two and a half hours later than usual, no doubt due to the wild storm.

Sylvia was ecstatic as she kicked off her flip-flops and stepped into the sea, camera in hand.  The oceangoing mammals swooped in for a few close-ups, eyed the onlookers, then swam out again with their unique dorsal fins in the air.  They repeated this several times as the rangers prepared to feed them with the help of the small crowd that had gathered.  Unfortunately they waited a bit too long that day so the dolphins got impatient and left.  We were very glad we'd given them one last chance to amaze us and thankful for the fair weather.

Leaving much later than expected, scenery began to emerge along the highway.  First, a bush and red dirt golf course with black dirt 'greens', which, despite appearing to be unplayable, piqued Jason's interest.

Little Lagoon was next, a spectacular circular body of turquoise water occasionally connected to the ocean.  It being the night before her birthday back home, we took time out to call Jason's sister Cheryl for a little well-wishing from this magical place.

Driving through Denham revealed a much different town compared to the previous evening.  There was some evidence that water had made its way inland overnight but the sun brought the people out from hiding.

A little further south we drove past the wind-toppled road closed sign at the entrance to Eagle Bluff in hopes of spotting more marine wildlife in the shallows.  The extensive metal boardwalk hanging over the seagrass-strewn water below made for a number of postcard vantage points, but the sea's creatures had already made their seasonal migration to warmer waters.

From the car park right off the highway, Shell Beach was only a short walk toward the ocean but it looked like another planet.  Eight metres deep, 120 kilometres long and comprised entirely of off-white cockle shells, it was a sight to behold against a backdrop of turquoise and teal water.  Shell dunes and craters had formed on the surface while underneath, pressure had cemented the shells together.  Chaplin jumped at the chance to explore this novel environment.

Our final stop was to see the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, rock-like structures formed by cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae), the oldest living organisms on Earth.  While it would have been better to see more of them at low tide we still marvelled at their existence.  The well-placed boardwalk signs and splashing sea added to the effect.  We left the Shark Bay World Heritage Area feeling like the beneficiaries of many of nature's miracles in less than 24 hours.
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Anna on

Awww.... the dolphins. Glad your last look paid off!

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