Dolphins and Monkeys

Trip Start May 29, 2010
Trip End Oct 09, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The next day we were away by 7:45 after what had been a very cold night for Al who had not used his second sleeping bag in a fit of macho stubbornness - he found Char buried under a pile of sleeping bags and duvets warm and cosy! We made good progress and stopped at a place called Nerren Nerren which is about 90 kilometres short of the turn off to Shark Bay. This was our first experience of a bush toilet and man did it smell delightful. After some serious wretching we got back in to Arnie (license plate UZI 526) and vowed not to use such “conveniences” again.

We made it to the Billabong roadhouse (don’t be fooled by the name it is cheese on toast and the fuel is proper expensive) just in time as we were almost completely out of fuel. After filling up and making a new rule to fill up at each opportunity (as Jez had recommended) we took the turning for Shark Bay. The scenery changed as the sea emerged on the horizon and even from afar the blazing white beaches were looking fab. We stopped a few kilometres short of Denham to visit at Shell Beach. The beach is made entirely of white cockle shells mixed with a few other larger shells, it is a mesmerizing sight and feels a little unearthly. Char made a little shell kingdom for Kevin the Kiwi and we set about leaving our mark in shells on the beach. The weather was great so we did our best to modify our outfits to catch some sun whilst remaining decent and enjoyed playing around on the shore. Char noticed two elderly couples walking down the beach from afar and heard them arguing about whether something was real or not, we had left Kevin farther up the beach and did not realise that until they reached us that they thought our beanie kiwi was a real bird they were LOLing when they reached us and thought we had been deliberately trying to trick them which we weren’t but really???

The beach itself is protected as CALM (Conservation Australia Land Management) are trying to reintroduce endangered native species back into their natural habitat after years of being killed by species introduced by early settlers such as dogs, cats, foxes and goats (goats don’t kill but they eat all the food). The project was reported to be going pretty well but only because they had built huge fences all around the area so the animals were in a little prison.

We got back in the van and passed lots more gorgeous sights including a perfectly blue lagoon which we earmarked for a swim on the way back and finally reached Monkey Mia at 1pm. The resort is mainly focused on conservation and working with the dolphins to understand more about the indo pacific species so there are a lot of rules when you enter the place. We made our way onto the resort and found a camp spot for the next two nights. Despite being a very isolated resort the policy is not to charge prices any higher than those charged in the cities and our site fees were lower than we had paid so far so we were pretty happy. It is a beautiful place and normally that goes hand in hand with paying through the nose but that is not the case here.

We parked up, got our bathers on and made straight for the beach. The sun was out in force and walking out onto the beach was like being in our own little paradise. We paddled around in the crystal clear waters to the area cordoned off by yellow flags which is the dolphin interaction area hoping to see some dolphin action. We didn’t have to wait long and were soon greeted by two dolphins a mother and baby. They swam straight out of the interaction area into the general swimming area which meant that we could get in a swim with them - if only the water wasn’t freezing! We stood in the water up to our knees and were amazed as the dolphins swam straight up to us and swam around Al’s legs turning on their side to eye us up. The advice is not to touch the dolphins as we can spread germs like the cold bug that they have no defense to, we didn’t but it was very difficult to resist the urge! We were amazed by how fearless they are towards humans they seem to have no fear and revel in the attention they receive. After a while they swam out into deeper sea so we walked up to the pier to watch them playing around jumping as they went.

As we stood on the pier a sea turtle came bobbing in towards us and ambled his way past . We noticed a larger group of dolphins out to sea approaching and as they got closer we noticed something which at first looked like a seal, a little closer still and we realised it was a dudong, a sea mermaid! Amazing and all within two hours of us being there!

After all the action we retired back to the beach and Char took advantage of the sun while Al paced up and down hoping to see more dolphins so he could get in the water. It was late in the day and the dolphins had gone out to deeper waters so we made our way back to the campa after stopping at the swimming pool to use the hot tub. Back at Arnie we met a retired couple in the motor home next to us who were driving around the whole of Australia. They had started at the Gold Coast and after leaving Monkey Mia they would make their way to Perth and stay there for a while before driving across the Nullarbor Plain - real outback country. We decided that this would be a cracking way to spend your retirement but something tells us we won’t be waiting until we retire before traveling further.

After making dinner we had a drink in the Monkey Bar then went to bed, we had to be up at 7:30 to see the dolphins being fed and didn’t want to miss it!

The next day arrived and it was cold and overcast when we emerged from our campa. We made our way to the beach and stood with a large group of people waiting for the dolphins to arrive which they normally do at 7:45 sharp. This morning was a no show, we waited until about 8:15 when finally the first mother and baby dolphin arrived followed by two more mother and babies. The dolphin researchers gave a talk about what they had learnt about the dolphins and told us about the dangers of feeding them too much which ultimately results in the mother hanging around at the beach for free food so much that the baby doesn’t learn to feed for itself in deep sea.

The dolphins have been coming to Monkey Mia since the 60s hence why they are so relaxed with humans that they relate to an easy food source and a non hostile approach. We were asked to form a line as the food buckets full of small fish arrived, the volunteers were asked to pick people from the crowd to feed a fish to the dolphins who were lay, open mouthed in the shallow water. Both of us were picked and Char stepped forward first and placed the fish into the mouth of the dolphin, she is sure it winked and smiled after it swallowed the fish! Al stepped forward and in true Al fashion, failed to hear (or listen) when instructions on how to feed them were given out. He picked the fish up by the tail, the wrong way round, and when told to feed head first tried to flip the fish which then slipped out of his hand and into the water. As Al bent down to pick the fish from the water the dolphin shot forward and snapped it up - missed that chance!

We hung around for a while longer before making our way back to make some breakfast and met another retired couple who for the last 5 years have spent each winter traveling around different parts of Australia, this winter they had been up to Alice Springs then up to Darwin and were now making their way down the West Coast. They were a really funny couple and had plenty of stories to tell about their travels, it seemed that every night they cooked up a feast and drank lots of wine, we saw them later having a proper banquet!

The sun didn’t come out at all that day and it seemed we had been a little unlucky as it is said to be sunny 320 days of the year in Monkey Mia - slim odds! We hung around the resort and watched a couple of the films being aired in the dolphin conservation centre about local wildlife which was OK but nowhere near Planet Earth. Char kicked Al’s ass at pool again then we cooked an amazing dinner on the site BBQ and went to bed planning to rise early and start making our way down South again.
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Cakie Ward on

Am proper jealous of your Monkey Mia experience!!!! Sounds flipping awesome and those pics make me want to give the little dolphins a big hug. Amazing. P.s. Kev looked proper chilled on that beach.

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