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Shark Bay Marine Reserve, Western Australia

by Lisa Ikin 2 years ago in australia
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Monkey Mia dolphins, wildflowers and dugongs “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

Shark Bay Marine Reserve, Western Australia
Photo by Andy T on Unsplash

”So long and thanks for all the fish” was the last ever message the dolphins in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” left for the earthlings before vanishing.

By Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Almost one year ago a good friend and I roadtripped to Monkey Mia in the North West of Western Australia. Monkey Mia is around 850 kilometres North of Perth and it is situated in the stunning Shark Bay Marine Reserve.

By Simon Maisch on Unsplash

Our trip was planned around the premise that we were volunteering our time to take part in the Dolphin Experience run by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions at the Monkey Mia resort.

When I left Monkey Mia to return back to earth and my earthly job of teaching I told the rangers that I would be back and that I would love to volunteer again. My plan was to return in the October school holidays this year. This plan is now dependent on whether or not the Covid19 restrictions have been been lifted.

Having made the trip once before this is how I envisage it happening again.

My packing list will be much the same.

By STIL on Unsplash

My standup paddle board, my camera, a notebook for writing, a book to read, some swimming attire, a pair of reef shoes for volunteer duties and my a bag of clothing for warmer weather with a couple of warm items for the cooler evenings.

By Damir Spanic on Unsplash

The Monkey Mia Resort has many accomodation options from unpowered camping sites to fully-furnished and serviced holiday apartments. Last time we camped in the unpowered camping site and found this to be adequate for our requirements. The facilities at the camp grounds are more than satisfactory with a fully equipped kitchen complete with fridges, stoves and toasters.

This time I will book ahead to secure a furnished a apartment room or chalet. I would like to have a little more luxury and privacy this time around. Shared bathroom and kitchen facilities are fine over a short stay but I hope to be there for a few days longer this trip. I have already seen the accomodation I desire on the beach front, a stone’s throw from the warm,lapping ocean and the possibility of swimming with dolphins, turtles and rays at any time of the day or evening.

Beachfront villa

By Jen Milius on Unsplash

By Jakob Owens on Unsplash

On my last trip we stopped overnight in Geraldton in a backpackers To break up the long journey. So I will probably shop at the local supermarket and stock up my esky for the remainder of the trip. Geraldton is a 4.5 hour trip from Perth along the Indian Ocean Road. A delightful trip with the ocean to your left and the expanses of green saltbush and shrubs rolling off to the right.

By Danny Lau on Unsplash

Geraldton is not a big city but it does have some lovely eateries. The Thai restaurant we ate at last time, Tanti’s, which served authentic Thai cuisine, is to be recommended as well as the tapas bar we stopped at on our return journey.

The final part of the road trip is a good four hours so it is important to set off early to allow some time to stop and take photos of wildlife, flowers and the stunning scenery.

I know that there will an abundance of wildflowers at this time of the year and being the enthusiastic nature photographer that I am I will be disappointed if I am unable to stop and take photos.

By Ryan Stone on Unsplash

About 2.5 hours into the journey from Geraldton is the infamous “Billabong Road House”. This bastion of the Australian outback is definitely worth a stop. If only to visit the toilets and get yourself an espresso coffee and something to eat. The wall of tattoo photos and the kitsch souvenirs are also worth checking out. Aside from this Billabong is nothing but a road house in the middle of nowhere, with some very basic accomodation should you be caught short on a long drive.

On the remainder of the drive there will be signs warning of emus, goats, echidnas and kangaroos. It is important to keep an eye out for these roadside creatures. More photo opportunities! At this time of the year the male emus are out with their babies and can be seen on the roadside and on the beach at Monkey Mia Resort.

By Matthew Meredith on Unsplash

Upon reaching Shark Bay Marine Park I will take advantage of the many opportunities to stop and enjoy the incredible colours that this areas offers up. The blue of the ocean against the red of the earth is pretty hard to pass by without stopping.

I will definitely make a quick stop in Denham, a typical Western Australian fishing town, to pick up essentials such as take away alcohol or food stuffs. However, the Monkey Mia Resort general store does have fresh bread and milk and a limited amount of fresh meat and vegetables should I run short.

On the drive from Denham to Monkey Mia there are places with names like “Shell Beach” and “Little Lagoon”. Names that pretty much describe what they are. Stunning and well worth having a photography stop for.

Being school holidays the Resort will be pretty busy. Being a teacher means that all my holidays I am surrounded by children and families. This is also the time when the Department of Parks and Wildlife require volunteers for the Dolphin Experience. I can’t have one without the other unfortunately.

I will volunteer with the dolphins again and I thoroughly recommend the experience. The Department manage the experience and currently feed only a small amount of dolphins under very controlled conditions. Food is measured and weighed and only 10% of the dolphins’ daily intake is provided to the adult dolphins. People are limited in the feeding area and all care is taken to allow the adults to feed their babies without interruption from the public. If you miss the experiences which are held in the mornings the dolphins swim freely in the bay and will pass very close to you as you swim or paddle around the area.

Turtles, rays and dugongs can also be sighted in the bay along with sharks (the bay is not called Shark Bay for no reason). While there, I will take a trip out onto the bay on one of the giant catamarans. Eco tourism specialists will take me to areas where the dugong graze and will even allow me to take further trips if I don’t see what I expected to see.

I will sip cold beers and snack on bar snacks at The Monkey Bar whilst watching the sun set over the bay. I will dine at the restaurant and enjoy local seafood and Western Australian wines. I will get up close and personal with dolphins, turtles and dugongs. I will paddle my standup paddle board and have long walks on the beach. I may even explore the neighbouring Peron National Park.

Above all I will commune with the dolphins before I have to leave their earthly presence as they say once again “So long and thanks for all the fish.”

australia

About the author

Lisa Ikin

Freelance writer, amateur photographer, occasional performer of personal stories @Barefaced Stories. Lover of nature, music and art. I write content and copy for small businesses and teach part time in Perth, Western Australia

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