Driving up the WA coast – part 2

The second part of our trip up the coast of Western Australia saw a great improvement in weather. The days got warmer and no more rain. However the distances between places got longer. We don’t regret the drive though. It was fascinating to see how the territory changes along the way. Here are our stops along the way.

Shark Bay

Shark Bay
Shark Bay

This is a little peninsula off the Western Coast of Australia. Shark Bay was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1991. It is one of the few sites in the world that satisfies all 4 of the natural criteria, which are : 

  1. Shark Bay is a Natural Beauty.
  2. Here you will find earth’s evolutionary history thanks to the Hamelin Pool Stromatolites.
  3. This area is an important habitat to some threatened animal species.
  4. It has an ongoing geological process thanks to the largest seagrass banks in the world.
Seagrass bank in Denham
Seagrass bank in Denham

As you are driving up this peninsula there are a few important stops that you should definitely do.

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites. Stromatolites are layered mounds, columns, and sheet-like sedimentary rocks. They were originally formed by the growth of layer upon layer of cyanobacteria, a single-celled photosynthesizing microbe. These deposits built up very slowly. A single 1m structure may be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Fossilized stromatolites, some of which may date from 3.7 billion years ago, were the first form of life on Earth. In order to view them you can walk on a wooden boardwalk that goes out on the water, the best time is during low tide, which luckily was when we stopped there.

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites

Shell Beach. You cannot miss taking a walk on this unique beach. It is made up of shells from the Shark Bay cockle (Fragum erugatum). Shells actually replace the sand for 120 km of beach! Both the beach as well as the water felt endless. We just kept on going to see what would come next, of course it was simply more beach and more water! Such an amazing place to see!

Shell Beach
Shell Beach

Denham. It is a little port town popular for who likes to go fishing out in the ocean. 

Check out were we stayed: Wildsights Villas

Denham
Denham

Monkey Mia. It is well-known everywhere for being the best place for dolphin interaction in the world. This is the only beach in Australia where dolphins visit daily and not seasonally.

monkey mia

Wild dolphins started visiting this area in the 1960s when fisherman shared their catch with them. As the trust grew, so did the number of dolphins coming in. The number of  visitors grew as well. However this was not good for them because they were loosing their ability to survive on their own.

Since 1994 new controls and regulations have been set in place to control the feedings. The calves are surviving and learning the skills they need to feed on their own food. This is why now during the Dolphin Experience, which happens every morning in a designated part of the beach. The rangers give the dolphins only a small amount of food, as they say a “little snack”. This is only 10% or their daily ration of food, to make sure that they keep on feeding naturally as well.

monkey mia feeding

During the Dolphin Experience, visitors are invited to stand knee-deep in the water in the dolphin meeting place. This gives plenty of depth for the dolphins to move around. If you are lucky they will show up, swim in front of you. If you wave at them, they will actually look your way, they like that form of interaction! Researchers have studied the dolphins in the bay for more than 20 years.

monkey mia

When I learned about Monkey Mia, I thought it would be a great experience for the kids. These dolphins come naturally to  the bay area, there is no type of forcing. I also read that at times they will swim in the bay area also in different times of the day. Once we arrived in the afternoon, we went on the beach right away. There they were! We spent all afternoon on the beach and there was always at least one dolphin coming close. One of the most beautiful sunsets unfolded right int front of our eyes, while dolphins played happily in the water! We  could not have asked for anything more magical than this!

Check out were we stayed: RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort

Sunset in Monkey Mia
Sunset in Monkey Mia

Carnarvon

As we sadly left the dolphins behind, after driving more than 300 km we decided to take a few days off from driving. We stopped in Carnarvon. This is a great little town that has grocery stores, gas stations and lots of bananas! In fact the town produces 80% of WA’s total fruit and vegetable crops.   

bananas

Carnarvon has an impressive jetty, also known as One Mile jetty. It was built-in 1897 and is one of the longest in the Southern hemisphere! The purpose of building it was to help export wool and livestock in the region down to the port of Fremantle. However in 1966 it stopped being used. The community though didn’t give up on it and used it simply for walking. Unfortunately it is now closed because in need of major repairs.

One Mile Jetty in Carnarvon
One Mile Jetty in Carnarvon

While we were in the area we could not miss out on seeing the Blowholes. They are only 75 km away and are a perfect example of another impressive effect of nature. They are powerful jets of water forced with great strength through a hole in the rock, sometimes the water can go higher than 20 meters! You can also continue driving on the rugged coastline. Explore more and witness how the force of the ocean hits against it, it is pretty impressive!

Blowholes

Exmouth

Originally our last stop was going to be in Coral Bay. We learned the hard way that it is actually high season here so everything was booked!  The only option for us was to spend the last leg of our trip in Exmouth, it was the beast choice ever!  We did though stop in Coral Bay, swim and enjoy the beautiful view for a few hours.

Coral Bay
Coral Bay

Exmouth is 1267 km from Perth, on the tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. It was built-in 1967 as a support town to the US Naval Communication Station which is still in the area, in fact on the tip of the Cape you will still see the communication towers which track ocean movements.

Exmouth beach

Exmouth’s most fascinating characteristic is the fact that you can experience both the range thanks to the Cape Range National Park as well as the famous Ningaloo reef on the many beaches along the coast.

Cape Range National Park

We stopped in Turquoise Bay for lunch. Swam in the crystal clear water and then snorkel in Oyster Stacks. We also checked out the beaches on the tip of the cape which were much more appropriate for surfers because of the huge waves!

Oyster Stacks

While we were there, we decided to venture out and swim with the whale sharks. We picked 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive for our whale shark experience. The whole experience was truly unforgettable. The crew was extremely prepared and careful to everyone’s needs. They did their best to make this a great experience for everyone. Also Luca got a chance to jump in the water. However he preferred playing on the boat! As we were getting to the area where you can usually see Whale Sharks, we also saw many humpback whales. In fact this is the time of the year when they pass by the Ningaloo Reef.  

Check out were we stayed: Potshot Hotel Resort

whale shark

A few interesting facts about whale sharks:

Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish. They can weigh up to 12 tons, that’s 24,000 pounds or nearly 11,000 kilos! Despite their size they move slowly. They have a very gentle nature and for that reason you can swim and snorkel with them safely. On the other hand scuba diving might be more complicated because the bubbles disorient them and make them go away. In fact as soon as they feel threatened they dive back into the depth of the ocean.

Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive
Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive

They feed on tiny plankton, small fish and crustacean by sucking in water and filtering through their gills and pharynx.

Whale sharks have about 3,000 tiny teeth (less than 6mm long) but they don’t use those teeth to eat.

They are cartilaginous fish. Whale shark skeleton is made of cartilage instead of bones, just like sharks.

Female are bigger then male.

Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive
Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive

Each whale shark has a unique pattern of spots and stripes. This enables researchers to use photo identification of them. It is like having their own digital marks. Every time a tour takes people swimming with the whale sharks they have to first photograph it. In order to identify it and keep track of the ones that come back to the area.

Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive
Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive

Whale sharks are migratory. They stay in tropical and warm temperate sea.

Whale sharks aren’t the fastest swimmers, reaching speeds no higher than 5 kmph. They swim by moving  their bodies from side to side, unlike other sharks like the great white, who just use their tails to swim.

They can live around 100 years.

Our experience with the Whale sharks concluded our stay on the Western Coast of Australia.

Concluding our time here

We enjoyed every moment here! We had a chance to see some beautiful places. Experience many different environments, from valleys, to ocean, to desert, to woods, to lakes and rivers. We saw all kinds of animals: some crossed our road, some were in the wild, some in zoos. Shared moments with many friendly people all along the way: some just for a chat at the park or on a beach, some invited us over for coffee, some were just being helpful in a moment of difficulty. We ate great food and drank great cappuccinos! This adventure just keeps on getting better!


Make sure to check out our next posts about driving up Western Australia: Tips on driving up the WA coast and Driving up the WA coast – part 1

Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Australia!!!

Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive
Photo Credit to David Palfrey from 3 Islands Whale Shark Drive

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