For travel dates to Shark Bay in Western Australia, refer to the Travel Map.
This was my second time in this part of WA and I was determined to enjoy it thoroughly, since last time I was running low on the dollars and couldn’t afford the detour (I ended up running out of money in Exmouth, having to borrow some to make it all the way to Broome, back in 2008).
Shark Bay is one, if not THE favourite place in Australia for me. The endless horizon, the red sand melting into a perfect white beach splashed by turquoise waters, make it absolutely unique. One can go for a walk by the sea and watch sharks swim in the shallow waters, or one can walk to Hamelin Pool and see Stromatolites, structures built (and still being built) by cyanobacteria, one of the oldest life forms on this planet. They’ve been around for a mind-boggling 3,5 billion (!!!) years and were among the first organisms to release oxygen into the atmosphere. This absolutely blows my mind! It also has the largest known Seagrass area and all it’s unique features make it (well deservedly) a World Heritage Site.
I came down from Carnarvon and had gotten a tip to camp at Gladstone, just off the Highway before turning towards Denham, from an elderly couple of teachers I’d met at Mt Augustus. They said it was quite cheap and one could camp just by the waters of Hamelin Pool. I found the turnoff and met the ranger who told me the tourist season was over, and I could camp for free, for as long as I wanted. Now that’s a nice welcome!
The days were quite hot but windy, with the nights cooling down substantially. I was happy to have a fire going in the mornings to cook my porridge and coffee, and warm myself. I tried to go for a dip in the water (my last shower had been a fair few days away), but it was just too shallow. Only a bird-bath was possible. Better than nothing though. There wasn’t a lot to do, apart from reading and doing some writing, so I left for Denham after a couple of days.
One is allowed to camp on the beach and almost everywhere else, as long as one informs the Tourist Information in Denham. I’d stopped at Eagle Bluff on my way in and seen a lagoon a little further off a side track. This is what I had in mind for my camp. I trusted my car to get me there – as long as there was no soft sand, I’d be fine. I registered at the Tourist Info and went back. The lagoon was too windy though, so I went a little further towards the beach, just next to the flow that connects the lagoon to the ocean. I watched the sunset while sipping some red wine (they sell it in Denham before 12 o’clock) on the beach. After dark, I was quite entertained by some fluorescent shrimp in the shallow water of the lagoon flow. I was so pleased with my situation that at no point did I think about tides. I went to sleep with my thongs, my chair and my esky outside, like I always do. When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t find my thongs. I thought maybe a dog grabbed them during the night… That’s when I saw that my chair and esky where standing at weird angles, with seaweed wrapped around their bases. I dawned on me that there was something called tides in the ocean, and I realised that I’d slept with my car (with me inside) in about a foot of water. Luckily the ground I’d parked on was well compacted and I didn’t get bogged.
My next stop was going to be in Monkey Mia, to see the Dolphins that regularly come up to the beach. There’s a fee to pay, which was fine and I got to the beach with a bunch of other people, but no Dolphins. We waited for a while but no sign of them. I thought this is still a beautiful speck of land and went for a walk. Now, this was a great decision because while walking over the red sand dunes, I encountered the Shark Bay endemic subspecies of the Shingleback lizard, the Shark Bay Shingleback (Tiliqua rugosa palarra). What a great morning! Back at the beach, all tourists had dispersed since the Dolphins didn’t show up. Shortly after I got back from my walk, I saw a fin not far from the beach. I walked out on the jetty, and there they were! Five Bottlenose Dolphins swimming towards the beach. It took everyone else some time to realise their presence, so I got to enjoy the moment on my own for a while. I’d never been this close to Dolphins before, what an incredible animal!
This was a glorious ending to my Shark Bay experience and the next day I went south, back towards Perth and the southwest.