Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
79Trip End Ongoing
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We were excited as we turned onto the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive. We had been told of all these fabulous camping spots along the road into Denham and were keen to choose one to stay in for the night. We pulled into some spectacular lookouts; small bays with crystal clear water lapping against white sandy beaches and some like Eagle Bluff where we had extraordinary views down off high cliff tops into water so clear below we could see schools of fish.
We phoned to get an overnight camping permit and there was only one location with a permit left and whilst it would not have been our choice of the locations it would be a novelty
We were so lucky… lucky to get a site at such late notice and due to a cancelation we were given what we felt was the best site in the park! We were right on the far end of the park with unobstructed views of the beach and we could just walk our kayaks straight into the water from our site. It was awesome!
We spent a day around Denham, putting our kayaks in out the front of our site which was at the north end of town and then kayaking right along the foreshore and quite a distance the other side. The water was clear and it was a calm day so we didn’t have to contend with too much of a current or swell.
We drove out to Francois Peron National Park and spent a day exploring. The track was 4WD only and there were stations with air compressors at the entrance to make life easy for everyone rather than having to pull out our own compressor at the end of the drive. We deflated our tyres to the recommended psi and took to the track.
The roads were thick red sand and it was a challenge to pull over in the really soft sand every time we came upon another vehicle, however it was loads of fun. After miles and miles of thick red sand we would come to a clearing and drive across a saltplain before heading back into the thick red sand again. It took ages to reach Cape Peron but was well worth the trip. `
The massive red cliffs just drop into the clear water below and had it been a clear day we could have seen the abundant marine life from the cliff tops on a walk from Cape Peron to Skipjack Point. It was however really windy and the water was so choppy we couldn’t see anything except for a massive flock of cormorants eager to catch their daily food intake. Despite missing out on viewing the marine life this area was so scenically magnificent that we were not perturbed.
After visiting Skipjack Point we worked our way back along the track stopping in to admire the little bays along the way. We had made up a thermos of coffee and some Turkish bread for lunch, when we saw a gas BBQ at Gregories we decided it would be nice to heat them up. So we marveled at the fact here we were in the middle of such an isolated national park having toasted Turkish bread and flat whites for lunch!!
It was around 4pm when we arrived at Big Lagoon and whilst it was too windy and late to put the kayaks in we knew straight away that it would be awesome to paddle around and so our next days plans were made.
We were up early and at Big Lagoon with the kayaks in the water at 10am, with a packed lunch, water and grand plans we headed off for the day. The water was crystal clear and we had the added pleasure of viewing through the Perspex bottoms in our kayaks. We paddled directly opposite to the red sand hills we had admired in the distance went ashore and climbed to the top rewarding us with great views out over the ocean as well as further along into Big Lagoon. The wind was blowing and the current was strong so it had been hard work and we were glad of a break.
Back in the water we paddled further along and again crossed the large lagoon, across the top of massive sea grass beds (in the hope we would come upon a Dugong) and to another spectacular bay. We pulled ashore for lunch and whilst standing in the shallow warmer water I noticed movement and started to follow these amazing creatures, Rod had walked off in the other direction and came back to identify them as Shovelnose Sharks… excuse me… did you say shark!!
I was out of the water so fast thinking that maybe they were not so cute, however after the initial shock I did reason that they were small and would not be able to harm us. Lucky I reframed my thoughts as we walked along the edge of the bay and were joined by upwards of 8 of them!
The water was really shallow and we had to walk the kayaks out some way prior to getting back on them, I felt I had come along way to know that these 'sharks’ were there and that I walked back into the water. (On further research they are also known as rays, a term I was much more comfortable with!)
After lunch we went further into the lagoon and enjoyed the surroundings immensely. The rich red sand of the surrounding cliffs, dropping down to pristine white sandy beaches and then into crystal clear water had us in awe. It was then we realized that we were quite a way from our car and needed to start on our way back, working against the current it was a long and arduous paddle back to the car. Picking out landmarks along the way and drawing towards that before rounding a point and finding another point, it was best in bite size pieces! It was an amazing day and one that we will remember for some time… apart from the muscle aches over the following days it was just a breathtaking experience… no pun intended
Needless to say we stayed out of the water the following day and enjoyed visiting places such as Shell Beach and back to the lookouts along the drive into Denham.
After five days at Denham looking straight out over the bay and our many activities it was time to move on out to Monkey Mia. Being that it was merely 30kms along the road we were there early and as we arrived the dolphins had just come back in so we parked the van and went straight down to be greeted by the regular dolphins. What a great start to our Monkey Mia experience!
After the dolphin feed we went and checked in to a great site affording us views over the bay. Once we were organized we headed out behind the park and up into the sand hills along a nature trail. It wasn’t long before Rod had spotted an elusive Echidna. We were thrilled. We stood and watched it for a while as it shoved its long nose deep into an ants nest. As it sensed we were near it snuggled down close to ground and became perfectly still looking like a plant. It blended so well with the surrounding habitat that had we not seen it move, we would have been oblivious to it. We were able to get as close as we liked, though opted to stay a foot or two away so as not to stress it too much.
We eventually tore ourselves away and continued our walk along the ridge, down the sandhills and onto the beach. At a shallow secluded bay away from the main tourist attraction of the dolphins themselves we were treated to an array of rays; Shovelnose included!
We soon got into a routine of going down to the first of the dolphin feeds in the morning, (they do a maximum of three per day and only between 8am and midday), watching the dolphins frolicking close by in the clear waters, followed by a walk along the beach and a kayak.
We enjoyed being able to once again just carry the kayaks down to the water from our campsite and paddle for as long as we liked. Long after the crowds leave in the mid to late afternoon the dolphins come back and even knowing they will not be fed put on a delightful show. They come in really close to the shore and chase schools of fish and just hang about.
On one of our afternoon kayaks Rod was innocently paddling away and dolphins were all over him; sides, front, just amazing and such a great experience. On another occasion Rod disturbed a massive turtle munching away on the abundant sea grass, he took off as Rod initially unaware paddled over the top of him.
We were at Monkey Mia for the transition into school holidays… One morning we were amazed to find the majority of people moving on and the park was empty for the day and night, it was awesome, we just loved having the place to ourselves. And then it happened… they all started to arrive in large groups and there was loud noise, crying, kids everywhere and the mayhem started!
A couple of months ago, when we found out how hard it was to get sites up north during July, especially during school holidays we did our best to book as many days during the school holidays as we could. Most of the parks are booked out 3 or 4 years in advanced at these times!
We managed to cover the second week, however not the first so we asked if they had any cancelations if we could extend. This worked beautifully for us and we ended up spending up spending five relaxing nights at Monkey Mia.
Having been lucky enough to visit Monkey Mia some 17 years ago we were concerned that it may have become too commercial, however we were pleasantly surprised by how well it is run. Whilst taking a responsible approach and limiting the interaction and feeding we don’t feel that DEC has ‘taken away the fun’, whilst you can no longer touch the dolphins and food is restricted this is in the best interests of the dolphins who still come in each day of their own free will.
Likewise, whilst last time we had a cabin right on the beach which now seems to be behind a newer set and a two story accommodation block has been built there is a great guests kitchen, a fantastic bar… Monkey Bar, where a glass of wine or beer is around $5 and a meal is under $15, it offers value for money and the sunset is priceless.
Highlights of Shark Bay:
- Francois Peron Nation Park
o The drive
o The sightseeing
o Kayaking Big Lagoon
- Monkey Mia
o Dolphin interaction
o Close encounter with an echidna
- Shovelnose rays… not sharks!!!