Aus Update 18 - Denham, Monkey Mia


<Chris> 4th October 2006 - We drove from Carnarvon to Denham. You have to drive south, then head north again up a small peninsula that juts out to the very west of Australia. Denham is Australias western most town. For those of you reading this in New Zealand, suffering through rain and grey days, count yourself lucky. As we headed out of town again we were reminded once again how little drinkable water there is around here...

We arrived in Denham to find that school holidays had filled the first caravan park we went to. Fortunately, the second one we tried had a couple of tent sites left. There was little shelter from the pretty much constant wind, but at least there wasn't red dirt underfoot, there was shell!

We took a little walk along the waterfront before retiring. It reminded both of us of Taupo. I guess it was just the shops/restaurants/accomodation along the front divided from the water by the road.

This shot is of an oyster boat that was built a long time ago, and has been restored and donated as an historic feature to the people of Denham.

Looking along the beach from the oyster boat (left) to the jetty.

5th Oct - We drove a short distance across to the eastern side of the peninsula to a place called Monkey Mia. There really is nothing there but a resort/caravan park, but many years ago one of the caravan park owners started feeding some dolphins visiting in the bay. These dolphins became very faithful visitors. So regular are they that publish their attendance record (99.6%) assuring you that you are pretty much guaranteed to see them. CALM (Conservation and Land Management) have now stepped in and manage the feeding and human dolphin interaction to try and prevent harm to the dolphins and ensure that they don't lose their dolphin to dolphin social skills. Basically what this means is that the first three times the dolphins come to shore before 1pm each day, they are fed by CALM staff who make sure that the human visitors don't touch or feed them. If they return again, they are not fed - this is supposed to encourage them to go out in the bay and feed themselves and play together.

We didn't realise any of the above until we got there, so we missed the feedings, however we were told that there was some quite good snorkeling in the bay, and that the dolphins would often come and swim with you, so we headed into the bay with our snorkeling gear. Now maybe we had been spoilt by our experience on Ningaloo reef, and the water looked just as inviting, but it was nowhere near as good. We had purchased a waterproof single use camera so we could share our next snorkeling experience, but don't hold your breath. Visibility was <1m, there was no real reef to speak of, we saw about 3 fish total in over an hours swimming and the dolphins didn't come play either. It was a nice swim though!

After we got out of the water and sat eating our lunch, the dolphins did came back just before 1pm and we were able to see them from the waters edge.

That's not a mutant dolphin, there are two in the shot

Short movie of dolphins (.wmv 101kb)

We returned to Denham again that night and stayed at the same place (hey, 2 nights in one place, check out travel trivia).

On our way south off of the peninsula we stopped at a couple of spots we had passed by on the way in. This lookout over the (aptly named) Shark Bay allowed us to see several sharks and stingrays swimming by...

Shark (you can see his shadow better than him)

Stingray (the whitish grey blob in the middle)

Paula using the binoculars to look at the birds on the island in the bay

We also stopped off at Shell Beach so named because (you guessed it - they have very straightforward names around here) it consists entirely of shells. Tons and tons of them (Cardiid cockles - Fragum orugatum apparently!). A little further down the coast they actually used to mine these shells compacted over the years. They would just use a big saw blade and chop into it. The quarry is now only used for repairing some historic buildings built from it in the area, but they do still take tons of shell from the area for landscaping etc. As the shells continue to pile up it's considered a renewable resource.

The next stop was at an area called Hamelin Pool (not really a pool, just the sea, maybe they didn't get the memo about straightforward names). It is famous for it's living stromatolites. Stromatolites are layered limestone rock built by single cell cyanobacteria (blue-green bacteria) which trap and bind sediments. (No, I didn't know either). Apparently they're usually only found as fossilised remains but this is one of only two places in the world that they are still growing (no, they didn't say where else). The appearances are quite varied...

Four little fish swimming amongst the stomatolites.

We arrived in Geraldton on Friday night, at once noticing the many references to Chapman in all the place names. There is Chapman River, Chapman Valley & Chapman road. We really thought this spot took the prize though, Chapman Road and Glenfield IGA (for those of you that don't know, we usually live in a suburb of Auckland called Glenfield).

We'll tell you what we found in Geraldton in the next exciting update...