This was the first time on our trip that I was actually depressed to be leaving a location – we all could have easily spent another week or two in the beautiful Exmouth area! We dragged ourselves away and drove to Coral Bay, stopping at Kairis Seafood for some prawns and bugs (Tiran really wanted to try some crabs but none available) and pictures of the Big Prawn. Coral Bay is pretty tiny and built completely around tourism – but you just never tire of the colour of that water!!!! It is totally impossible to resist snorkelling (unless you’re Tiran of course) – the coral in the bay is very close to the shore, but some of it was bleached which was sad to see. Still plenty of colourful fish to see.
At 3:30pm was the daily fish feeding spectacle – the fish can tell the time of course so they congregate at the appointed place to be fed handfuls of fish pellets. A couple of them were nearly as big as Tiran and they really go for the food and whatever else happens to be near it, including your toes (had to bury them in the sand to keep them)! It was great fun, especially the squeals of laughter from all the kids gathered around.
We spent the next 3 nights at 14 Mile Beach at Warroora Station, an absolutely massive sheep station (these things are measured in thousands of square kms) with a good amount of ocean front land set aside for camping. By chance the caretakers had left that day, so we slipped into their oceanfront camp spot – very nice indeed! The first day’s boating saw Michael land a very nice sized spangled emperor – such a gorgeous fish, it was sad to eat it! Tiran actually ate half himself (he has declared it his favourite so far). And we experienced something we hadn’t felt in over 4 months – rain! Well it was more a spittle of about 12 drops of rain, but still…..forgotten even the concept of rain!
It’s sheep shearing season around the stations, so we wondered over to the homestead where the travelling shearing crew (6 shearers and 4 assistants including a wool grader) were busy getting through the hard work. Talk about back-breaking work! The kids loved the little lambs hanging in the paddocks waiting for their de-fluffed mothers to return – sadly sometimes the separation becomes permanent and the abandoned lambs die (saddest thing I’ve seen!). We followed that up with a snorkel on beautiful Elle’s Beach (got so close to getting Tiran in the water, but still no luck). It was amazing having the beach all to ourselves – like your own little piece of paradise.
I made us backtrack to Coral Bay to visit the shark nursery (we’d been so enthralled with snorkelling last time I had completely forgotten about it) – about a 1km walk from Bill’s Bay is Skeleton Bay which is a very large, very shallow lagoon where reef sharks come to breed from November each year. We couldn’t get too close to the sharks – they swam away as you neared – but it was a lovely sight to see anyway. I was really annoyed we hadn’t brought the snorkelling gear with us because if you lay in the shallow water with your mask in the water, they approached close enough for a good look.
We spent one night at Point Quobba near the blowholes – lovely area, but it was late afternoon and cloudy when we arrived, so we didn’t really get to enjoy it. The next day we drove the short distance to Carnarvon and picked up the Gascoyne Food Trail brochure – all the tourist magazines had made it sound as if there were fresh food stalls every 2km, but in reality there were perhaps half a dozen plantations that sold direct to the public (gotta be careful not to believe everything you read!). We did the drive around and picked up a few things – some fabulous strawberries (best since Tasmania actually), corn, beans, paprika and some free-range eggs too. We had intended to experience One Mile Jetty, but since we had to pay for the privilege of walking on it, we decided to view it from the shore instead (not all that impressive really).
There was a big storm forecast for the area which thankfully didn’t really eventuate – got more rain, which is really putting a strain on the wonderful bubble we had built around us (where weather hasn’t really been a factor of consideration in our day to day planning). Spent one night at a lovely lookout rest area and then drove into Shark Bay Heritage Area. We stopped first at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites – now they aren’t much to look at, but much respect must be shown to the lumps of cyanobacteria (clumped together with lots of sand and sediment) as it is through their mighty efforts that the world was oxygenated sufficiently to allow life to evolve. The stromatolites in this area are only about 2000 years old, but they are the descendents of those from 3 billion years ago. Next stop was Shell Beach – an entire beach made up entirely of very small bivalve shells – a bit hard on the feet! I had no idea shell grit has so many uses: road base, cemented together to make brick-like blocks for building, even as a calcium additive to chicken feed (apparently strengthens the hardness of their eggs).
A quick stop at Denham to get some information and to see the Shark Bay Discovery Centre (what a complete waste of time and money!) and then off to Monkey Mia resort which was totally booked out for the long weekend (luckily Michael had booked us a camp spot about 3 hours prior!). We met up with new friends P & K and their 3 kids for a sunset drink on the beach while the kids played happily together for a couple of hours. The next morning was dolphin feeding time – the lovely bottle-nose residents come by to feed 3 times during the morning, starting around 8am. There must have been nearly 200 people on the beach for the first feeding, but thankfully reduced dramatically for the next one around half an hour later and Kia got picked to feed them. This of course led to a very disgruntled Tiran – we negotiated that he could chose a movie to watch that night and have his favourite dinner (chicken nuggets); he was so happy with this arrangement that he actually refused to stick around for the last feeding in the hopes of being chosen! Actually the highlight of the very commercial and overcrowded endeavour was the viewing of the newest addition – a 2-day old baby dolphin; wanted to grab him out of the water and cuddle him to death!
We then took our own boat out dugong spotting – these things are pretty hard to spot. Luckily K had gone on a cruise the day before and gave us some tips on what to look out for – basically scan the water surface for a blob of brown! We only managed to get close to a couple of them (and I couldn’t get a good picture from so low in the water) but we spotted around 8. The dolphins came frolicking around a couple of times as well which was beautiful. Not really sure what we think of Monkey Mia – it’s certainly a beautiful spot and the sea-life spotting was great, but would we put it on our must-do or return-again list? Probably not.