Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cape Peron

This is the tip of the peninsula at Cape Peron. Notice the rocky foreshore
rather than the soft sand. The water was really warm and like at Skipjack
Point, very clear.

Peter with fly net in use

I am sure that this is just the photo that our New Zealand family and
friends have been waiting for. We never thought that we would need to wear
one of these fly nets but they certainly do help.

Clear waters and marine life at Skipjack Point

If you look very carefully you can see some of the marine life in the water.

Manta Ray in the water at Skipjack Point

This was one of the Manta Ray that we could see in the water - we were
looking from a distance of about 100 metres straight down the cliff. The
water was very clear and we could see the small fish swimming as well but
difficult to take a photo from that distance.

Peter on the platform at Skipjack

At Skipjack Point there were two platforms built out over the cliffs. From
here we had an excellent view down the cliffs to the crystal clear water
below. The platforms had information of the types of marine life that you
may see. You will see in this picture that Peter was putting his fly net to
good use - he had it sitting on the brim of his hat just in case it was necessary and he could then just pull it down.  Fortunately there weren't huge amounts of flies but those that were hanging
around were very clingy. They just love to stick to the face, nose, ears
etc and are so annoying.

Skipjack bay

We decided to drive the full length of the park (about 47 kms direct) and
then stop off at the various bays etc on the way back. Our first stop was
at Skipjack Point where there is a short walk (some a sandy track and when
it was hilly a wooden boardwalk had been added). This view is of the bay as
we made our way to the two platforms. The various colours of the water were
striking against the red of the cliffs.

Long sandy tracks

This photo gives an indication of the length of the tracks - they seemed to
just stretch off into the horizon and then you turned a bend and there was
another long stretch. Occasionally we passed another vehicle coming towards
us - it was necessary to pull off the track as far as you could to give
sufficient width for the two vehicles to pass.

Soft sandy tracks

We soon experienced what the tracks were like and why the tyres needed to be
deflated. The tracks were sand and very soft - we seemed to sink into them
and often the car took no steering, it just followed the sand track and it
was a matter of keeping going.

Lowering the tyre pressures

So this is the man at work - it is surprising how long it takes to deflate
the tyres and it was certainly hot work even though it was quite early in
the morning.

Instructions on how to lower tyre pressures

Picture instructions were provided so that it didn't matter what language
you spoke, you had the knowledge of how to deflate your tyres.

The track must be bad - lower tyre pressures

We are often amazed at the facilities provided in the National Parks.
Francois Peron National Park had a tyre inflation station at the beginning
of the track and all 4wd and towing vehicles had to lower their tyre
pressure down to at least 20 psi.

Entrance to Cape Peron

On the road out to Monkey Mia is the turn off to Francois Peron National
Park. This park lies within the Shark Bay World Heritage area and marine
park. It covers some 52,500 hectares. The distance from the original Peron
Homestead to Cape Peron and Skipjack Point is approximately 47 kilometres of
sand track. The area was originally managed as a sheep station until 1990
and the homestead and some of the original station buildings are open to the

We were interested in travelling the tracks to the cape so planned this as a
day trip. We were uncertain exactly how long the trip would take initially
but soon found out it was a full eight to ten hours. There are a number of
camping facilities within the park which can be utilised with camper
trailers and tents. Certainly no caravans.

The park was mainly red sandy plans with small shrub type plants. There was
also a large area of gypsum claypans known as birridas. It is important not
to drive on the birridas as it has a dry crusty top and soft underneath.
Apparently many 4wd vehicles have had to be rescued from the birridas and
this would not be cheap.

We read that the park is particularly colourful during spring when the
wildflowers are in flower. We couldn't imagine it but apparently there is a
creeper with mauve to pink flowers that looks striking. Again, we would
have loved to have seen them.

As the park is part of the world heritage and marine area the popular
pastime is to spot the various marine life and fishing, both from boats and
land based. There are also a number of varieties of animals within the park
including nearly one hundred reptile and amphibian species. We were on the
lookout for the snakes that often bask in the sun, but fortunately we didn't
see any. We did see a number of emu, but they are very common in these
parts. The following photos were taken on our day trip.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Camel riding at Monkey Mia

Another activity on the beach for the tourists was camel rides. These
varied in cost from $20 for ten minutes to $70 for an hour and I thought I
might have a go. However, when we got in from our catamaran trip around 2
pm it was so hot, and we hadn't had lunch, so decided to give the camel
riding a miss today. Camel rides is also a popular tourist activity at
Broome so I will wait until then. Bet the price is more there!

Dolphin swimming beside the boat

The dolphin were not in too much of a hurry to leave the boat - at times we
had up to ten dolphins swimming alongside us.

Dolphin swimming with the boat

For quite some time we had three, then two dolphins swimming ahead of the
catamaran in the bow wave. They certainly could swim fast.

Dugong underwater

Even though in this photo the dugong was underwater, it is possible to see
the unique shape of the tail. They swam around the boat for quite some time
before swimming (or more like floating) off into the distance.


The skipper of the boat was very keen for us to see at least one dugong -
and I was keen to see one as well as I have never seen one before. The
dugong is a large grey mammal with a paddle-life flipper, fluked tail and
portly body. They measure about three metres and weigh up to 450 kilograms.
It resembles an overweight dolphin. I understand that it is closely related
to the elephant and looks a little like a hippopotamus.

We were very fortunate to see three different dugong. They were hard to
photograph because they mainly stay under water eating the seagrass on the
sea floor but do come up briefly for air when they put their snout only out
of the water. They like warm reasonably shallow waters and are found in the
Shark Bay area.

The skipper of the boat thought that the ones we saw were male and between
400 and 500 kilograms in weight. They were swimming on their own, away from
each other, and also away from the dolphins.

Dolphins in front of the boat

As we sailed around the bay we had lots of dolphins with us.

Cleaning the oyster shells

These people are cleaning the oyster shells of rubbish and growth and then
the shells are returned to the water for a further year before the process
is repeated. The pearls are harvested three times, and each time they are
harvested a new foreign object is implanted into the oyster. This foreign
object causes irritation which the oyster counteracts by secreting nacre to
surround the object and this produces the pearl.

Two of the people in this photo were volunteers. They are backpackers
visiting Australia who must complete three months volunteer work to be
eligible for a further twelve month visa. The Irish guy in the front of the
photo said that they work approximately six hours per day and live back in
Denham. I am sure that I would have wanted another type of "volunteer" role
rather than cleaning smelly oyster shells for six hours every day.

Pearl farming explained

Receiving an explanation of the pearl farming process and seeing examples of
the pearls in the oyster shells.

The dog was a good assistant and soon took the group of people listening to
see the wild pink snapper coming to the surface of the water behind the boat
for the bread being dropped in for them.

Berthing at the Pearl Farm, Monkey Mia

We stopped at the pearl farm where we were given an explanation of the pearl
farming process before we were able to visit the on-pontoon shop. From what
I saw, I don't think there were any customers today.

Pearl Farm at Monkey Mia

During our trip on the Aristocat II today we paid a visit to a pearl farm
which is on a pontoon in the bay. This particular pearl farm gained a lot
of recognition through the "Farmer wants a wife" program as Jamie who is one
of the owners was a recent contestant. Jamie wasn't at the pontoon today
(apparently he and his mother were working in the pearl shop in Denham) but
we met his father and his brother.

Jamie didn't succeed in getting a wife from being a contestant on the
program, but it certainly put Monkey Mia on the map and increased the
tourist numbers into the area so was very worthwhile from that perspective.
We even heard the rumour that he only entered for the benefit of the family
business but who knows.

Enjoying a day on the water at Monkey Mia

As you can see it was a beautiful day and just perfect for a few hours on
the water. Notice the additional colour on Peter's hat - this is his new
fly net tucked up on the brim of his hat so that it is ready just in case he
comes across any flies. It wasn't necessary fortunately today.

Camping at Monkey Mia

There was a small camping area within the Resort - there were about four
waterfront sites which would have been extremely popular. The beach at
Monkey Mia is lovely and safe and popular for swimming and water activities.
It was 35 degrees there today and no wind.

Monkey Mia Resort

A view of the motel accommodation at the Monkey Mia Resort - these
waterfront units are very popular and certainly do not come at the cheaper
end of the price spectrum. There were quite a few further units of varying
sizes within the resort but not waterfront.

The jetty and Monkey Mia Resort

The jetty and Monkey Mia Resort taken from the boat as we sailed out into
the bay. The feeding of the dolphin took place to the right of the jetty.
There are the customary resort reception, café, general store, pool and
toilet facilities in this photo.

Aristocat II Monkey Mia

We decided that it was important to experience as much of the Monkey Mia
area as possible so took a cruise on the Aristocat II. This is large
catamaran. We were lucky that there weren't too many on and there was
plenty of room to walk around the boat. The trip took us to visit a pearl
farm and then went looking for ocean wild life.

The advertising guaranteed a smooth trip, with a refund of $100 if a
passenger was seasick. They couldn't guarantee that we would see the wild
life. Fortunately for me, the sea was flat and we had a very enjoyable four
hour trip.

Emu at Monkey Mia Resort

The philosophy of Monkey Mia is that all animals at the Resort remain wild.
There is signage in a number of languages to ensure that the animals are not
fed. These emu were wandering around the resort - they would be
domesticated to some extent as they were not frightened when people were

Pelican at Monkey Mia

There were a number pelican on the beach while we were watching the feeding
of the dolphin. Apparently these pelican come to Monkey Mia from Lake Eyre
in South Australia which is many thousand kilometres away.

Dolphin at Monkey Mia

Dolphins playing in the bay at Monkey Mia

Dolphins Monkey Mia

Just twenty six kilometres from Denham is the Monkey Mia Resort which is a
well-known part of the World Heritage coastline. It is well known as a
dolphin reserve as every day a number of dolphins are fed in the shallow
waters in front of the resort. There is also a dolphin information centre
staffed by marine biologists who study the dolphin biology and behaviour

Monkey Mia Resort has accommodation including motels, cabins and very
limited camping facilities. A park entry is charged and this entitles
visitors to use of the resort facilities and to see the dolphin feeding.
The resort is not flash, which is a little surprising considering its lovely

The first feeding of the day is around 8 am so we got up early (especially
for me) to be there then as we had booked on a cruise at 10.30 am leaving
from Monkey Mia and would possibly miss any later feeding time.

There were a number of dolphin swimming around in the bay when we arrived.
These dolphin are wild and there are only five dolphin currently in the
feeding program, the rest just join for social interaction. To be in the
program the dolphin must be female, more than twelve years old, respond to
hand feeding and do not bite.

It was interesting to watch the dolphins playing in the water and there was
no apparent aggression from the other dolphin when the feeding of the five
dolphin took place. Volunteers assisted the resort staff with this process.

Even though it was early in the day, the water was lovely and warm and was
apparently about 22 degrees. Again it was a beautiful day, with no wind and
don't ask me how they achieve it, no flies.

ANZAC Memorial Shark Bay

It was ANZAC Day and as we arrived into Denham in Shark Bay it was just
before 11 am so we look the opportunity to join the local ANZAC Day service.
A small gathering but we knew that we were joining many thousands of other
Australian and New Zealanders who were acknowledging this very important

Bilby signage

Another wild animal sign - this time the bilby. We haven't seen any but
know to look out for them!

Eagle Bluff

After leaving Fowler Bay we stopped off at Eagle Bluff. This is another of
the World Heritage camping areas provided and is a very important sea grass
area. There is a boardwalk on the top of the cliffs which provided a good
viewing platform.

Beautiful Fowlers Bay

This is the view we woke to at Fowler Bay. We were the last campers to
leave - we weren't in a hurry as we only had about twenty kilometres to go
into Denham, Shark Bay.

Beautiful sunset at Fowlers Bay

What a lovely view of the sunset we had from our caravan when camping
overnight at Fowlers Bay.

Camping at Fowlers Bay

We travelled about 350 kilometres from Kalbarri and the trip is not the most
interesting. In many ways it was very similar to the journey across the
Nullabor Plain with long straight plains and scrub covered sand landscape.
From Kalbarri to the Shark Bay township of Denham there are no towns, only
two roadhouses where fuel is sold and the occasional sign of a station.

Soon after our experience with the flies at Shell Beach we decided to call
it a day. World Heritage Drive leads into Denham and close to the town
there are four camping areas which are provided free and campers can stay
for twenty four hours if they have a permit. We decided to stop at one of
these overnight before going into Denham on ANZAC day. We chose Fowlers
Bay. There were already about six groups of campers set up when we arrived.

We often find that in free camping areas people are very friendly and soon
everyone was chatting. This was hard for us as we were still struggling
with the flies - those nets are really necessary.

The bay is really lovely and after dark the flies settled and it was really
pleasant. This is a world heritage park and it is great that camping is

Shell Beach

On the drive towards Shark Bay we stopped off at Shell Beach. This beach
has billions of tiny white "coquina bivalve" sea shells rather than sand.
The shell deposits are apparently about ten metres deep and apparently go
out into the bay. I have to say "apparently" as we commenced the walk down
on to the beach to explore and the flies were so bad we didn't even make the
water. They were so bad - by far the worse we have seen. The annoying
thing about these flies is that they are clingy. They hang around your
face, go in your ears, try and go up your nose and it is impossible to work
out which part of you you should be fanning first.

We decided we couldn't put up with this any longer - we walked back to the
car and the next shop we arrive at we will be looking to buy some fly nets
as we cannot find the two we have in the caravan.

So we can't tell you much about Shell Beach other than there is no sand, but
shells which are very deep and that the beach is supposedly about sixty
kilometres long. I understand that there are only two beaches like this in
the world and the other one is in Florida, USA. Perhaps when we visit
Florida again one day we may visit the other shell beach and here's hoping
they have their flies under control!

The rock climb, Kalbarri NP

I am not as young as I used to be and this is evident when I have to clamber
down rocks like these, but I did it!

Murchison River, Kalbarri NP

I had to climb down the rock track to the river - I had to visit somewhere
like this and not go the whole way. The path was quite good but was steep
in places, and then the track finished and you had to clamber over rocks to
the river. Still I made it and had to have this photo taken as proof!

I agree with Peter, the flies were terrible and I was pleased to get back to
the car away from them and I was quick to turn on the air conditioning as it
was extremely warm. No more walks for me today.

Ross Graham Lookout, Kalbarri NP

The second lookout we visited was Ross Graham Lookout. This was very
similar to the Hawks Head lookout but was further up the river. From the
lookout there was a further walk down to the river but Peter had had enough
of the flies so he decided he wasn't about to walk down the river just to
have to climb back up fighting the flies all the way

Great facilities at Hawks Head, Kalbarri NP

The excellent park facilities that are provided to park visitors - they are
always great to see. The $11 park fee is worth paying when toilet
facilities (and there were picnic facilities as well) like these are

P & G at Hawks Head

We left Kalbarri on Tuesday heading towards Shark Bay. Our journey
commenced with a drive through the National Park and we made a stop off at
both Hawks Head and Graham Ross Lookout before we met with the main road.

Hawks Head had a short walk to the lookout with a view down the gorge.
Again it was pretty impressive. What is particularly interesting is that
from a distance it is impossible to see the gorge as it is deep and narrow
and you don't see it as it blends in with the landscape - this is really
hard to describe. You will just have to visit to see for yourself.

The days have been really warm - most days around 34 degrees by 11 a.m.
Walking certainly zaps your energy. The flies are getting really bad too -
we have never seen anything like them and they are much worse here than what
we experienced in Central Australia.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mallee fowl signage

Another sign for my collection - we haven't seen this sign before, nor did
we see any of the Mallee fowl. However, as I was getting back into the car
a wild goat did cross the road in front of us. No sign for them though.

Banksia trees, Kalbarri

I have loved seeing all the Banksia trees that grow wild in Western
Australia and thought it was time to take a photo in case as we move north
we don't see any more. The colour on the trees is beautiful and it is hard
to believe that these haven't been planted and are growing wild. Apparently
this area is full of wild flowers in the season and these would be amazing
to see.

Rocks and the loop, Kalbarri National Park

The track leading to Nature's Window required us to walk around the edge of
the rocks at the top of the gorge. This photo gives an indication of how
far down the Murchison River was from where we were standing. It was
possible to go down to the river and we could see some people down there,
but we decided not too today. The walk is eight kilometres long, beginning and ending at the Nature's Window. Only the real adventurous woud have done it today.

Close up of rocks, Kalbarri National Park

The formation of the rocks was really interesting and this close up photo
shows the coloured layers.

Natures Window, Kalbarri National Park

This is nature's window, and is the view that is on all the publications
advertising Kalbarri National Park.

P & G at Kalbarri National Park

There were a number of people checking out the sights today - we met a
lovely Asian couple who were visiting from Perth along with their parents.
They carried a tripod all set up ready to take their photos. They were very
organised and were quick to offer to take photos for us.

Murchison River Loop

This photo was taken as we walked out towards the top of the gorge - the
Murchison River looping it way towards the coast. A very popular place for

Nature's window and the Loop signage

As I said earlier, the flies were really bad today. We had taken a picnic
lunch with us (the National Park has limited facilities of environmental
toilets and shelters only) and there are no shops. We had planned on
utilising the picnic tables in the shelters but the flies put an end to
that. After lunch sitting in the car it was time to complete the third walk
for the day - down to see the Loop and Nature's window. There was a series
of stairs behind this sign down the cliff face and then an easy 500 metre
walk to the top of the gorge.

There are a number of longer walks in the park as well. We saw one couple
returning from one longer walk, fly nets in place and utterly exhausted.
Short walks were enough for us today.