Leaving Ningaloo reef and its beaches behind was nothing easy, but after 10 days we hit the road down south to Australia’s westernmost point with the promising name of Shark Bay. It was there where the first European (a Dutchman by the name of Dirk Hartog) set foot on Australian soil in 1616 – 154 years before James Cook’s arrival. The Aboriginees call the place “Gutharraguda”, meaning 2 waters, because the region is formed by 2 peninsulas that protect the pristine waters of its sheltered lagoons. The name Shark Bay was given by an Englishman in the late 17th century just because of the amount of sharks spotted there. Pretty straightforward.
Heading down the rough coast, Point Quobba
We first visited Monkey Mia, apparently the number 1 tourist attraction in Shark Bay, famous for its wild dolphin feeding taking place right at the beach. Since the 1960ies when fishermen started giving them their leftovers, they show up every day for some treats. Nowadays the feeding is controlled, touching of the animals is prohibited and the amounts fed are far too small to make the dolphins depend on them. Although the feeding itself is a big circus with hundreds of people lining up and hoping to get to feed them a fish, we had to correct our negative first impression after spending the day in Monkey Mia. The dolphins make their appearance at 8 o’clock sharp every day and we thought they would disappear as quickly again out into open waters after their snack. That was not the case though. We had found ourselves a nice spot at the shore and were reading a book when all of a sudden a dolphin splashed out of the water right next to us! Later we rented a kayak to paddle through the lagoon and soon after departing had 5 dolphins circling around us. The temptation to jump in and swim with them was huge, but we were stricly advised to leave them alone and not to touch them. Which makes a lot of sense, but still …
Dolphin next to our kayak at Monkey Mia
Anyways, we are talking about Shark Bay, aren’t we? According to the lady in the visitor centre the lagoon was totally safe for swimming, although she recommended the kayak to see the “heaps of sharks out there”. Sounded a bit contradictory to us, so we decided to check out the beasts from the safety of the kayak. Not long after the dolphin experience the first shark made its appearance. It stood still in the crystal clear water, but then all of a sudden took off like a flash at an incredible speed. It is scary to see those animals from so close in the shallow water, regardless if they are carnivorous or not. Definitely no swimming for me that day! Later on we had a second encounter with a shark, this time with a real biggie. I guess it was about two metres and now I got really uneasy … I couldn’t help but picturing the worst scenes of “Jaws” and already saw our yellow boat floating around in a sea of blood. Well, a few cynical comments from Fritz brought me back on track.
The abundance of marine life in the lagoon in general is remarkable. Turtles popped out their heads next to our kayak and countless sting rays gracefully floated underneath. Regarding that, here’s the kind advice of Monkey Mia’s visitor center: “Don’t just step into the water when there is seagrass, shuffle your feet in the sand so you don’t get stung by the rays or step on a poisonous stone fish”. Australia, you gotta be kidding me!
Next day we headed on to the southern tip of Shark Bay, there lies Shell Beach, another of Australia’s weird wonders. The name is self explanatory: the whole beach up to a depth of 10 meters fully consists of snow white little sea shells. The unique coquina shell for some mysterious reasons seems to exist only in these hypersaline waters. There are so many they were even quarried as building material, but today it is forbidden to take them away from the lagoon.
Walking on shells
Further down the coast: another national park. In Kalbarri we skipped the gorges and rivers (we have seen plenty of that) and went straight down to the rugged coast. We thought the town of Kalbarri would just make for an overnighter but ended up staying for another day. The coastline there was beautiful and the breaks that roll in should give us a first idea why Australia is a surfer’s paradise. The spot we liked best was Blue Holes Beach. From the car park you would think it’s impossible to swim there because the only thing you see are waves and rocks. However, when you make it down to the shore there are cristal clear swimming holes protected from the waves where you can actually go snorkelling. With the big ocean swell just a few meters away this place is just amazing.
Blue Holes Beach, Kalbarri National park
Kalbarri National park: Why is this lake pink?
Our last stop before Perth was the fishing town of Cervantes, gateway to the Pinnacles desert. In this hot desolate landscape thousands of limestone pinnacles, which are basically vertical pillars of rock formed of the desert’s sand over time, make for yet another surreal scenery.
An army of sand soldiers
And this is it! Tomorrow it will be big city life in Western Australia’s capital after 7.000 km without a major agglomeration of people or buildings. To be honest, we are quite excited about finally spending some days in a not so rural environment. It might sound strange to some, but I actually miss the city buzz … quite a lot … 😉