Started with a visit to the Quobba Blowholes – they were impressive! Passed thru Carnarvon for a grocery stop and met our fellow Explorer owners, Pete & Ruth, who gave us fish for about four meals as they’d caught more than they could eat on a fishing charter. Drove to Denham in Shark Bay and had fresh fish for dinner, and gave some away to our CP neighbors. I wanted to see dugongs (large, herbivorous marine mammals aka sea cows as they graze on seagrass) again so we went to Monkey Mia and did a nature cruise on an 18 meter sailing catamaran. Luckily we did find a dugong and saw her quite close up although it was a cloudy day so the visibility was not so good. We also saw lots of dolphins playing out in the ocean and we did see one being fed at the beach (the “standard” Monkey Mia experience) as we boarded our boat. This is a very pretty area and Little Lagoon was another great sight we passed on the way.
Visiting Ningaloo and now being in Shark Bay, both amazing marine environments where we have seen dugongs, whales, sharks, manta rays and dolphins quite close up in the wild, has been good. In fact, it feels like a special privilege to be able to spend time in these world heritage environments, and to see some of nature’s best being appreciated and protected for future generations.
Francois Peron NP, named after an early French explorer who made a significant contribution to recording the natural and social history in this area, is a great camping area for 4WD travellers. There was a lot of French exploration on the WA coast, and that comes through in many of the names. We visited the Peron homestead which has an interesting self-guided walk through the original sheep station and a wildlife display, but the best part was the artesian bore water hot tub (40C water). After a 50 k drive along very soft sandy roads (tires were down to 15 and 25 psi, front and rear) we found a nice campsite about 2 minutes from the beach with great views. Finished the day with a sunset beach walk and met a Swiss couple (Peter and Suzanne) camped near us. They had a roof top tent and were freezing as it was quite cold and windy, so we invited them in for an after dinner cup of tea and chat, which was very much appreciated. We feel very lucky to have a warm place to eat and sleep in, especially when its cold, windy or raining.
Enjoyed a slow start (ie 10:30 sleep in), and then got my sand driving practice by driving to Cape Peron where we were met by stunning scenery – red cliffs, white sand and beautiful blue oceans. Its also the spot where bay and ocean waters converge (Shark Bay and the Indian Ocean). Did the cliff walk to Skipjack point; lots of wildflowers, thousands of cormorants along the shore, saw seagrass meadows and a turtle and manta ray in the water and four feral goats on the land. Very easy to understand why this is also a world heritage area.
As we left Peron NP we stopped for another soak in the artesian bore hot tub, and then met up with Pete and Ruth (Explorer owners) for a coffee in Denham. We covered various points of interest we had missed on the way in – Town Lookout, Thong Shack (where people attach their old thongs), Eagle Bluff Lookout (saw a shark and a ray in the water), Shell Beach (made up entirely of Hamelin Cockle or Coquina shell) and then we went to Hamelin Pool to see the Stromatolites. These are the oldest living organism and give a glimpse into life over 3.5 billion years ago. We did see the electric feral proof fence across the narrow neck of the peninsula which is designed to keep feral animals out of the area as part of a program called Project Eden. A number of almost extinct species (ie bilby’s) have been successfully reintroduced into this important and diverse habitat. That completed our time in Shark Bay which satisfies all four natural criteria (natural beauty, evolutionary history, ecological processes, & biological diversity) for world heritage listing.
Note for anyone travelling in WA – buy a WA park pass as soon as you arrive. We would have saved heaps as we visited 13 of the 18 parks in the NW area alone.