Friday, August 7, 2015

Shark Bay 29 July - 1 August

Shark Bay was an important place for me to visit as I had heard of since primary school when we were taught that a Dutchman, Dirk Hartog pinned a pewter plate to a post and named the place because of the abundance of sharks.

We arrived at Hamelin Station,  a Heritage Station Stay with excellent new facilities. It is near the Stromatolites, a primitive form of aquatic life that scientists believe is very important. Personally were quite unimpressed,  although the water was beautifully clear.  Nearby is an old telegraph station, now part of the adjacent caravan park.
Stromatolite mats
Viewing stromatolites from the boardwalk 
The night began well for David because the managers put on the cricket for the 3rd Test. However several wickets later he was unimpressed and gave it up to come to bed. Next day we continued on to Denham, the only town on the peninsula. On the way we visited Shell Beach, a couple of lookouts and Eagle Bluff. 

Shell beach is composed entirely of tiny coquina shells which have in some places cemented together and used to be used as building blocks. Although they aren't used for building any more, some blocks are cut to replace older ones for significant buildings.
Coquina shells

Shell Beach

This restaurant in Denham, built from coquina shell blocks used to be a church

Eagle Bluff is a very high point which overlooks very clear water and we watched sharks and rays cruising below, and the views from other lookouts were equally stunning.

There is a lot to see in this world heritage area, and Monkey Mia is probably the best known. The dolphin feeding starts at 8.30 am so it was an early start. All the water was still and mirrorlike early in the day and looked beautiful. The dolphin feeding wasn't that exciting. Only 2 turned up and they were given 3 pieces of fish each, for 3 feedings. A total of 15 people were chosen to feed them, and there were lots of hopefuls. The reasons for minimising the amount they feed to the dolphins are sound, but as a spectacle it is a little underwhelming.
The crowd at the first dolphin feeding

The pelicans were more entertaining
Ocean Park Aquarium was next on our list as it had been recommended by quite a few people. There are a number of poisonous and venomous animals on display on display there, and the guide was very informative and entertaining. Due to my attitude towards snakes I didn't get any photos of the very venomous sea snakes, They breathe air and have a rather disconcerting habit of poking their head out of the water just in front of you for their next breath. During the shark demonstration there was a massive downpour as a storm passed through, and the shadecloth provided totally inadequate protection for the very cold rain.
Clownfish have a relationship with anemones that doesn't allow them to be stung
Poisonous pufferfish are served in Japan as fugu, a delicacy
Stone fish above and lionfish below both have venomous spines

The aftermath of the storm

Our main trip was to Francois Peron National Park. This was a bit of an adventure due to the state of the road/track; more than 40km of single lane sandy track each way, a few surprises and a number of deviations. The scenery was stunning, lots of wildflowers, red rocks, white sand and deep clear water at the base of tall cliffs. The fishing there is very successful.
The track

Cape Peron
Where the waters of Shark Bay meet the Indian Ocean

The beach at Cape Peron where you can shorten your life by swimming with the sharks

Cliffs at Skipjack Point
These fishermen well below us were having plenty of success

Skipjack Point

Bottle Bay, plenty of evidence of others but no-one on the beach

The Gregories, one fisherman and 2 lone chairs

A small section of Big Lagoon

The car in the centre of the photo almost disappears into the bush
This National Park is the only place I have seen a tyre deflating and re-inflating station. It's a good idea and is free. I'm sure it has reduced the number of difficult vehicle recoveries.

Airing back up at the end of the day.

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