At the most westerly point of Australia, just below the tropic of Capricorn, lies UNESCO listed Shark Bay. The pristine coast is a haven for all kinds of wildlife with humpback whales, rays, sharks, sea turtles and dugongs spotted in the waters. Still not over a childhood obsession with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sian was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing a turtle.
We headed up the thin cape of land next to shark bay in the hope of seeing some exciting wildlife. Our first stop was at Hamelin pool; our guide book explained that the stromatolites in the water were unmissable. The stumpy coral like formations are made of bacteria almost identical to organisms that existed 3500 million years ago. These organisms are responsible for creating our current atmosphere by using photosynthesis and paving the way for more complex life forms. The revered stumps were about as interesting to look at as they were to learn about and had us considering turning to creationism to avoid spending any more time with them.
We continued up the peninsula in the hope of spotting something more interesting than a stromatolite. As we progressed into the wilderness the rain began to pour from the sky in biblical proportions. It was clearly a sign from someone about something. Maybe the stromatolite Gods were sending us a message about waterproof trousers. Or perhaps Splinter was trying to communicate with Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello. We didn’t know, so we decided to just keep driving until we came across another sign. Like an Ark or something.
Our next stop was Shell Beach, one of only two beaches in the world made entirely of shells. The beach covers over 100 km of coast line and even in the rain it is stunning. Shells cover the entire beach and crunch under foot as you walk on them. When you pick them up to examine them you can see all of the minute details and flecks of colour in the tiny shells. Before the area was granted UNESCO world heritage status, the shells where mined, compacted and used in construction. We saw a few crumbling old buildings made from shell bricks in nearby Denham.
Our next stop was Eagle Bluff, a high up cliff top with a board walk designed specifically for viewing the wildlife below. We walked for half an hour along the boardwalk, braving the heavy rain and bracing wind in the hope of catching a glimpse of a dugong or a turtle or even a bloody pigeon. Needless to say we saw nothing. We continued on our journey, stopping for the night in the little town of Denham. Where it stopped raining long enough for us to have a walk around and buy some much needed wine to warm our frozen cockles.
The next morning we woke in the darkness and to find the rain was once again torrential. We drove the 26 km to our final destination Monkey Mia, at the end of the peninsula. The bottle nosed dolphins living in the waters around Monkey Mia have been coming to the beach since the 1960’s. The wild dolphins arrive most mornings and come ashore to eat fish and interact with humans in a carefully supervised area. We huddled in the visitors centre waiting for to be told that the dolphins had decided not to bother today due to the rain. We were pretty sure that our wildlife viewing luck had run out and that we wouldn’t see a dolphin.
Eventually we were summoned down to the beach by an enthusiastic teenager wearing a radio mic, cut off shorts and a rain mac. We gathered on the shore line with everyone else as she started to explain all about the dolphins and their routine. Emily spotted something in the water so we walked out along the jetty to take a closer look. Swimming alongside us was a huge sea turtle! So while everyone else was listening to the crackly feedback of a dolphin obsessed teenager on work experience, we were watching an awesome sea turtle bobbing around in the ocean.
Once our turtle friend had swam off we re-joined the group and waited for the dolphins to arrive. They came swimming in together, checking us out and showing off; diving under then jumping out of the water. It was quite a sight, watching the graceful dolphins swimming around the tiny bay. Even in the rain and the wind, the experience was one of a kind.
Once the dolphins left some sneaky pelicans arrived hoping to get some of the left over fish. We took ourselves to a beachside café for a well-deserved hot chocolate. There is a campsite close to the beach at Monkey Mia and had the weather been better we would most likely have stayed a few days to soak up the beauty of the place. But, finally feeling happy with our wildlife fix, we decided to head back down the peninsula and continue our journey south.