Shark Bay to the Coral Coast

 And I was thinkin’ to myself
‘This could be heaven or this could be hell
Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way…

From Hotel California written by Glenn Frey (may he rest in peace), Don Felder and Don Henley

There is a touch of heaven in the Coral Coast. A place where the sun’s warmth enters your bones. A feeling of contentment washes over as you lie quietly in the warm water watching parrot fish, wrasse and the blue angel fish nibble at the Ningaloo Reef. And a type of hell. Knowing that very soon you must move on. But for the moment we are camped in the Peoples Park at Coral Bay township lazing and swimming and snorkeling.

Glenn Frey, dead at 67, was, of course, a founding member, guitarist and lead singer of the Eagles. I am sure at different stages in his life he experienced hell but we will be forever grateful for his band. And now he rests in rock and roll heaven. Hotel California may be his legacy although I am not sure anyone actually understands the meaning of the song.

Stromatalites at Hamelin Bay

But first after moving on from Kalbarri we spent an enjoyable few days in Denham, Shark Bay. Shark Bay or Gutharraguda (Twin Waters) to the Malgana people is now a World Heritage area encompassing some 2.2 million hectares of natural landscape and ocean. It contains Francois Perron and Dirk Hartog Island National Parks. At the base of the bay is Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve. It is one of only two places in the world where living marine stromatolites are known to occur. These are microscopic organisms that concentrate, recycle nutrients and combine with sediment to form domed mat formations called stromatalites. So what, you say. Well the stromatalites have been at Hamelin for 3,000 years but more importantly the organisms that formed them are the earliest forms of life on earth. These are sort of what eventually emerged from the ooze some 3.5 billion years before. One of them could be your many x grandmother. Close by Hamelin Bay is the Shell Beach. Formed entirely of spent cockle shells and at 70 kms long and up to 10 metres it is also unique. At times the shells fuse together and can be cut into blocks. The Old Pearler restaurant in Denham is the only restaurant in the world built of shells. Yep. Really.

Nearby is Steep Point the western most point in Australia and only accessible by 4WD. Also nearby is the famous Monkey Mia (myah) beach and resort where there is a daily dolphin feeding. The bottlenose dolphins swim into kneedeep water for breakfast as people stand around watching. They are all named and recognisable by their fin shape. Unfortunately it is as gauche as it sounds. The beach and resort/campground are nice though. We spent a pleasant half hour chatting to the ranger, Mary who is married to a Frenchman from Bretagne. He runs the kite surfing school in Denham. As can be imagined at the moment there is not a lot going on – in kite surfing or dolphin feeding crowds. It is time to be off to Coral Bay via Carnarvon and Quobba Point.

We had a night in Carnarvon on the coast. Everyone seemed to have left for the long weekend. Carnarvon was… well a bit like a large Himitangi on a bad day. This is unfair of course because Carnarvon is responsible for a significant portion of W.A.s prawn, scallop and crab harvest. It also has a significant indigenous and colonial heritage. For a period it was also home to Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith the aviator who set up the Gascoyne Trucking company in 1924 which financed his flying exploits including the first Trans Tasman flight. We also had a night at Quobba Point. Famous for its blowholes which really are spectacular. The beach and rustic camp – unpowered – were a highlight. The reef just off shore was appealing but it was a miserable day so we left it. A pity because it is known by locals as the Aquarium. Some boys snorkeling told us they saw turtles and reef sharks.

Next stop and next instalment is Coral Bay. The weather is improving and we are nearing the late 20s so snorkeling is definitely on the cards. Coral Bay is a one street town beside Ningaloo Reef so Scout ( Please call me Scout as I do all the investigating – she does) is getting very excited. Snorkeling and whale watching are the big tourist drawcards here.

3 thoughts on “Shark Bay to the Coral Coast

  1. Great travelogue and photos again Mike. Looks like a stunning and relatively unspoilt part of the world – Don’t corner the Emus – encyclopaedia Brittanica lists the Emu as amongst the 6 most dangerous birds in the world – wives & girlfriends excluded! Hehe
    Cheers Randal


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