Western Australia – Pinnacles & Monkey Mia, Shark Bay (2011)

Thousands of huge limestone pillars rise from a stark landscape of yellow sand to form one of Australia's most intriguing landscapes. Monkey Mia is a popular tourist destination located about 900 km north of Perth, Western Australia. The reserve is 25 km northeast of the town of Denham in the Shark Bay Marine Park and World Heritage Site. The main attraction are the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming close to shore for more than fifty years.

🙂 Dolphins! Dugongs!

🙁 Australian Driving Ban (only discovered 5 years later after receiving notification that it had expired!)

We had travelled from Tokyo on a fairly quiet flight so landed in Perth at 10h05 feeling rested. Luggage came through quickly while we admired the sniffer dogs doing their duty as the cases turned on the carousel. Changed into our shorts and went to collect our hire car which was a red 5L V8 Ford Mustang! We stopped at a roadhouse for food – $80 later – Australia has become very expensive!! Spotted kangaroos by the side of the road. Feeling energised we stopped at the lunar landscape of the Pinnacles.

The Pinnacles are amazing natural limestone structures, formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago after the sea receded and left deposits of sea shells. Over time, coastal winds removed the surrounding sand, leaving the pillars exposed to the elements. The Pinnacles range in height and dimension – some stand as high as 3.5m!

Exactly the same as per our 1995 trip! We stopped off to see the amazing stromatolites which are the earth’s oldest living life forms which peaked about 1.25 billion years ago!! There are only two well-developed marine Stromatolite areas in the world: in the Bahamas and at Hamelin Pool in the UNESCO site in Shark Bay area of Western Australia. Hamelin Pool is perfect for Stromatolites because it’s hypersaline. Sea grass forms a ‘barrier’ between Hamelin Pool and the rest of the ocean, preventing ocean circulation, which would dilute the super-salty water. They are stony structures built by colonies of microscopic photosynthesising organisms called cyanobacteria.

We stopped off at stunning vista points where you can spot sharks swimming in the clear water. Shell Beach is a beach in the Shark Bay region of Western Australia, located 45 km south-east of Denham. Situated on the northeastern side of the Taillefer Isthmus along the L’Haridon Bight, the beach is covered with shells for a 60 km stretch to a depth of 7–10 m.

Hit the road at 140Km/hr but noticed that all other vehicles were sticking to 80Km/hr … we got to Monkey Mia at 21h15 – just in time to grab a pizza and drinks at the bar which was just closing. **Five years later I received a very official looking envelope from Australia – I opened it and was informed that my ‘5 year driving ban’ was now over following being caught on speed camera doing 143Km/hour in Western Australia!!! There was a reason why I had diarised that all drivers were only doing 80Kms/hr!!! And a real sense of Déjà vu as Paul has also incurred a speeding fine for doing that exact speed in 1994!** Once the girls were asleep Paul and I went for a walk on the beach. Some youngsters were having a beach party. We sat on the pier and watched the ocean for a while before also heading to bed

We were up early at 07h00 and could spot the dolphins in the sea from our little beach cottage! (The very same ones that we had coveted on our last trip in 1995 when we had promised ourselves that we would be back!). There were loads of people gathered to listen to the talk and we did not manage to feed the dolphins.

It was so good to be back. The dolphins were now fed from the pier rather than being in the water with them as had been the case in 1995. A mom whose pectoral fin had been damaged by a tiger shark and her calf were first to feed followed by the others.

Had a HUGE breakfast in the restaurant – all newly built but retained it charm. The emus were hoping for a snack! We then lay on the beach and snorkelled – it was cold!

We boarded the Aristocat 2 Catamaran at 10h30 – another bucket list from 1995! We enjoyed the exhilaration of sitting in the boom netting! Paul chatted to a chap called Joh who said he had cerebral palsy and is a paraplegic Olympian swimmer. The dolphins loved swimming in our wake! A curious turtle checked us out but we had no tiger sharks or dugong sightings.

We stopped off at a pearl factory which was quite interesting. They showed us how the little ball is inserted into the scrotum and then harvested once a pearl has formed three years later. Lovely bit too expensive! We enjoyed some sparkling wine on board before disembarking.

We headed back and enjoyed a delicious seafood platter although we were a bit nervous of the emus who were trying to steal or food!

After lunch we took the girls fishing to the spot where we had fished with Trent in 1995. They loved it!

Time flew and we soon had to board the Shotover for a sunset catamaran cruise. We met a lovely family from South Africa and who are great friends with our friends Mark and Mary Dain! Small world. Chatted and drank wine and went for a pizza after the cruise. The sunset was spectacular!

After dinner we went to the Didgeridoo Dreaming evening with an Aboriginal fellow who burnt sandalwood, played the didgeridoo cooked fish on the embers and talked about the stars and traditional customs. Interesting and humbling. What a magnificent day enjoying the sun, sea and sand back in Monkey Mia – we loved it even more than the first visit!

We were up early and cooked blueberry pancakes and Eggs Benedict for breakfast – yum! Girls desperate to fish again so we headed back over to our favourite spot. While we were fishing the dolphins swam right up to us. We got in the water with them but although they stayed close, they kept their distance. Only two dolphins actually went to the feeding area, the rest played around us!

We enjoyed the peace and quiet until after midday when a loud and obnoxious Greek / Australian family pitched up swearing and being generally rude and disrespectful so we just packed up and had some lunch at the restaurant. We boarded the Shotover Wildlife cruise at 13h30. we were s pleased as we saw two dugongs! 🙂 Lots of rays, turtles and dolphins! Fantastic cruise and highly recommended!

The girls insisted that we do more fishing so we went to the pier and got a bite every two seconds! Such fun!Paul caught an estuary rock cod which actually caught another fish that we’d just hooked – LOL!

Go to: Monkey Mia 1995

It was blissful and the sunset was spectacular!

We took the estuary cod took back to cook with sausages. Had a nice chat to Trent on the phone.

Another beautiful day in paradise! So sad that it was our last night ….

The next morning the girls forced us to fish for an hour after breakfast before packing up and heading off. We stopped at an aquarium for the shark feeding.

Headed into Perth and stopped in to visit Phil and Janet (Paul’s cousin) and their daughter Heather who was lovely. They took us to a stunning look out point for a great view across Perth. Great to catch up with them but far too brief as we had to leave to get our flight to Melbourne at midnight. Western Australia again surpassed all our expectations. We will be back – next time to head even further North to visit Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth …. watch this space….

Go to: Australia

Go to: Western Australia (1995)

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