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13 September 2015

WA Road Trip: Dolphin beaches & monkey villages in Shark Bay. What next hot tub time machines?


monkey mia 

Monday 8th June 2015

Veering off the North West Coastal Highway once again we hugged the coast around the apprehensively named shark bay (which sounds more like a location on Pirates of the Caribbean than a weekender’s holiday spot) for just over an hour before reaching the small town of Denham. I really think Australia needs to utilise words like village and hamlet a lot more. As it seems the definition of town out here covers anything that has a supermarket, drive through bottle shop (for those that have never been to Australia they never sell booze in a supermarket out here but you can happily pull up in a car or Ute and purchase a tonne of the stuff. It’s meant to discourage drink driving I think?), ATM machine and church.

Thankfully it’s not Denham’s uncanny resemblance to a model village that brings visitor it’s the surrounding regions geography and natural spectacles. The Shark Bay Discovery Centre and Visitor Centre is a good starting point for all your inquiries and if you wish to pay $11 you can enter the educational complex. Although as it was another bright sunny day we gave it a miss in favour of some exploring. A short 4km outside Denham on the road to Monkey Mia is the aptly named “Little Lagoon” a scene of white sand and turquoise water is appealing to the eye but we required sunglasses to view it on account of the swarming shit flies.  

Hot Tub Time
Denham sits on the southern tip of Francoise Peron National Park which occupies the entire peninsula. The park is named after a French naturalist who sailed on the Le Geographe in 1801. The park is renowned for turquoise waters, red dunes and white sand beaches. Although you do require a decent off road vehicle to make the most out of your visit. Sadly Dave’s Getz and Dustin’s Ford Falcon were a little wasted. If like us you are bound to tarmac or shallow gravel then there is a consolation in the form of the “Peron Homestead”. A former sheep station which now houses an educational centre which resembles Norman Bates’ root cellar from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Psycho”. Specimens of native mammals found in the park have been kindly stuffed and exhibited for the public’s pleasure. It’s a taxidermists dream but really freaks out everyone else.

 The local birds were flocking to see us 

To our groups joy the historic merit of the homestead is nothing more than an interlude to the main attraction which sits out back in the form of an artesian hot tub. An ideal chance to kick back with the lads and enjoy watching the emu’s wander around. Sure the water pongs a bit but then again this bit of kit is more than fifty years old and who cares about smelling a bit when you have to sit back in a sweat drenched car anyway. Sadly this hot tub was not a time machine so we set off back to the main road and the remaining 10km to Monkey Mia.

The sunning shark bay at monkey mia

After hearing such good reviews about this strange named place (apparently it’s an Aboriginal name and has nothing to do with primates) in Broome we were all a bit surprised to find out that the place consists of a resort camp site, jetty and a beach. We checked in at the resort which cost $18 each per night per car. It’s got great general amenities you would expect from a camp site and a reasonable cafĂ©, bar and restaurant. With a few hours of daylight remaining we set up camp and wandered the beach to see if the place lives up to the hype. The constant stream of tourists seems to draw the wildlife and walking the white sand beach and admiring the gentle sweeping coastline as the sun set we were pleased to see a few turtle and dolphins in the shallows. We even had our first up close encounter with pelicans after we strayed too close to a group scrounging for scraps from a fishing boat.

Tuesday 9th June 2015

When the wildlife practically throws itself at your feet even an amateur photographer can take great pictures

We all woke early to grab a good spot by the pier in time for the 7:50am dolphin feed. They have a few slots each day but we felt the first feed would offer the best chance to get a unique view of these extraordinary creatures. I have to admit when I heard that the dolphins come to shore I had visions of domesticated dolphins like the ones trained at Seaworld in the U.S.A that rely on humans and can’t be depended on to survive in the wild but I was wrong. The local marine biologists have used Pavlovian conditioning like you would train a dog to attract in dolphins mothering calf’s to help assist the young dolphin’s growth. They only allow a few visitors to feed the mothers and you are unable to stroke them as it has been found that they can contract ailments and virus from humans.  The young calves are left briefly in the shallows awaiting the mothers to return and allow them to feed. Basically what I thought was going to be a tourist gimmick that does more to harm the creatures is actually a well-managed conservation programme. They have even banned the ever prominent selfie sticks. Probably because they had to issue a few dolphins with eye patches after some over enthusiastic tourists poked a few porpoise pupils out with the bloody things. 


On the day we visited there was a pod of around a dozen dolphins in total and everyone was able to get some great snaps for the photo album.

Its a nice spot but there are a few turtle heads floating by the pier
Encouraged by how unfazed the local wildlife was to humans Jono, Dustin and Bastiaan decided to spend the day snorkelling in the shallows while Dave and I wandered further down the coast to get away from the crowds and search for another pod. The other guys had the better luck in the end as all we found were more pelicans which made us feel like a couple of pelicans whilst the others performed synchronised swimming routines with flipper.

Just when we thought we had seen it all we stumbled across this conga line of caterpillars

As the day hit mid-afternoon we had no choice but to leave Monkey Mia behind as we searched for a suitable lay-by to pitch the tents. In the end we opted for a track close to a lookout spot called Eagles Bluff. Despite it being inside the national park Dave and Dustin assured us the spot was ok and if it wasn't the park rangers would move us on. 

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