What makes a holiday memorable? Jaw dropping scenery sure, balmy weather absolutely, good food and wines does it for me too and of course the people you meet along the way. But, some of the stand out experiences on our last road trip were the encounters we had with animals.
The experiences we had are now forever etched in my memory and will be synonymous with place names such as Hamelin Bay, Monkey Mia, Steep Point, Francois Peron National Park and Cape Range National Park.
Caravanning holidays and free camping are a great way to experience Australia’s wildlife up close and personal. One thing you will notice pretty quickly are the road signs warning of what animals to look out for. You could find anything from kangaroos and emus, to station cattle and sheep and even some lesser known animals, roaming across a road at any time.
It is therefore even more important to be especially watchful at dawn and dusk. However sometimes they are just gonna be there because they can! Take for instance this monitor lizard just ambling down the road as we drove into Cape Range National Park. Or the emus for that matter in the towns of Denham and Exmouth who just wander around the streets of town and do what they please.
Some of the more memorable encounters I had were seeing, touching, feeding and just being in the presence of some incredibly big and gentle manta rays at Hamelin Bay. While you stand in just ankle deep water these huge creatures sweep along the shoreline looking for any free fish coming their way. There is an abundance of fish life for them to live on where they are, but some still come looking for the odd fish or two handed out from local catches. The strength of the rays wings were so much that they would actually push you off balance as they brushed by.
Monkey Mia was another incredible brush with marine life. Some people have scoffed at the apparent regimental way that the dolphins are fed by a lucky few, but if you listen to the rangers it all makes perfect sense and is imperative if these beautiful family pods are to continue visiting and breeding in this area. Just seeing the dolphins swimming back and forth along this stretch of coast is reward enough but when you are in the sea and they choose to swim around and past you, you appreciate the trust and special bond these creatures have with humans.
Another great spot for encounters with marine creatures is in Cape Range National Park near Exmouth where turtles are prolific and will go about their business whether you are observing them from the rock ledges or sharing the water with them.
On many occasions we had kangaroos and euros hop across our path while driving, thankfully mostly on dirt roads when we were travelling slower and assumed we would see them. Some of them were just a blur as they raced across the road, others stood defiantly looking at who dared to be travelling in their lands.
The bravest creature we came across though was a mother emu who darted out from the bushes as we were driving through the Francois Peron National Park with three young ones racing out close behind. As they all made it out onto the dirt road she stood her ground in the middle of the road and eyeballed us, giving her youngsters a chance to run ahead and then off into the scrub on the other side of the road. Once they were safe she took off and joined them. Not the slightest look of fear or intimidation in her eyes as she stared down the landcruiser.
For friendliest and most likely to make themselves at home, you can’t beat the kangaroos at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park, Esperance. What I thought would just be pure luck, to see kangaroos on the white sand down on the beach, was an everyday occurrence. Not only were they on the beach and near the water but also nosing into our fishing bucket, lounging around our campsite, joining us on a walk to the beach and the best…..feeding from mum under the shelter of our caravan awning. Beautiful creatures and no enticement needed.
Cutest would have to be the baby fruit bat that obviously got caught out in the morning when we found him in a very low tree. He was trying to get to sleep but had to put up with a few photos and views from people in the caravan park at Lake Kununurra first. Eventually he was left alone and got to sleep.
It was at this caravan park that we also saw one of the less pretty animals but he was friendly enough. George the freshwater crocodile is a regular at Lake Kununurra Caravan Park and just hangs around waiting for the odd fish that might get thrown his way. He was usually happy just lolling about in the shallows but there was one morning where he was up on the bank.
And as for the dog in the thumbnail picture? Well he had a face that only his mother would love so I didn’t even get out of the car to take his photo in Broome. I’m sure he has a great personality.