Shark Bay Region Part 2 – Dolphins and New Experiences
After waking up to 80% humidity in Denham with the car and caravan wet and trees dripping, it was time to move on to Monkey Mia. It’s only 26kms from Denham on the other side of the peninsula but still within the Shark Bay Marine Park. Everyone has probably heard of Monkey Mia as the place to have a close encounter with dolphins, so close in fact that they come in every morning and are hand fed by a lucky few people chosen by the rangers.
We were definitely lucky to be here at this time of year as the crowds weren’t too big and so chances of being able to feed a dolphin were better than in peak holiday times.
Let’s start with the resort itself. Everyone entering Monkey Mia has to pay a fee (different to the National Parks fee) of $12 per person, per day or if you are staying for a holiday it’s a one off fee of $18 per person. This is on top of your accommodation choice. You can stay in anything from a swag to a caravan to a resort beach front cabin and while you’re here everything else is in walking distance.
There are two bars with restaurants, an info centre, a supermarket, swimming pool, hire equipment for the beach and of course those incredible dolphins.
We were lucky to be at Monkey Mia when one of the family pod of dolphins had her 8 week old baby (calf) with her. The rangers at the park explain very well each morning at the dolphin feeding why they run these sessions as strictly as they do and it all makes perfect sense. Having learnt over the years what is best for the dolphins to be able to stay wild and not rely on humans, it’s a beautiful mix of seeing these gorgeous creatures up close and personal and letting them be wild and free, without interfering with their normal instincts and routines.
Both Harry and I couldn’t believe our luck, I was chosen on our first morning to feed one of the dolphins called ‘Surprise’ and on day 2 Harry got to feed the mother dolphin, “Piccolo”. Absolutely amazing to have these guys eyeball you and then take the fish from your hand. What an unforgettable experience.
As the rangers were telling us about the dolphins (same rundown every morning but with a few different facts thrown in) and about the calf which is named Dizi (pronounced Deetsy) they were explaining that they need to see the newborn’s underbelly to tell what gender they are so they weren’t sure about Dizi yet. I of course was snapping away madly with my zoom lens and after the presentation noticed I had actually got a picture of the calf on his back in the water. I went to the office to see if it could be useful and they were very excited and wanted to take a copy from the SD card in case I had the ‘money shot’. Unfortunately though it looks like Dizi was just a bit low in the water and they couldn’t quite make out the gender. The rangers will keep taking photos daily to see if they can get the right shot.
The days we were at Monkey Mia were in the high 30s and low 40s so the resort pool was a welcome place to spend some time in the mornings. We made use of the pool lounges, shady palm trees and cool, cool water whilst looking at the pristine beach out front.
Every afternoon we would head down to the beach and sit, swim, loll about in the clear and cool water and watch in awe as the dolphin pod, sometimes up to 9, would swim by us and at times between us in as little as hip deep water on their way back and forth in the bay. This included the mother and calf, so it made for some incredible GoPro footage. They would swim through a number of times a day and each time was absolutely magic and such a privilege to see so close. The trust they have with humans is wonderful and a real credit to the management practices of this marine park.
One afternoon we decided to get a little more active and seeing all the hire equipment on the beach, thought we’d have a go at Stand up Paddle Boarding. It’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while so no time like the present, where I can make a complete fool of myself in front of strangers! Actually I liked the idea that it wasn’t too crowded in the water and is really shallow for a long way out. So we bit the bullet and confidently hired a SUP. After one spectacular and unglamorous spill I actually started to get the hang of it, first kneeling on the board and then standing up and paddling around. Great fun, and something I hope to try again. Luckily the GoPro footage didn’t work so I can spare everyone from the ‘how not to paddle board tutorial’.
The two bars / restaurants they have at Monkey Mia are the Monkey Bar, a more relaxed beer garden type setting popular with the backpackers and families, and the other is the Boughshed. The Boughshed overlooks the jetty and dolphin feeding area end of the beach and is a bit more upmarket looking, while still being casual enough to dress according to the climate and humidity, bathers are fine.
We had our last night dinner here and it was the best meal we’ve had in WA so far. Our seafood meals were delicious and topped off with great wines, can’t say no to desserts and really friendly and engaging staff, it was a great way to end this section of the trip.
Sunsets weren’t bad but the light at sunrise was great for taking photos and at any time of the day have your camera and a zoom lens on hand to get the dolphins as they make their way back and forth along the beach.
So many times we were just so enthralled with them coming past us in the water though that photos didn’t matter, just soak it up while you’re there.