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On Walkabout At: Monkey Mia, Western Australia

Arrival at Shark Bay

After the long lonely four hour drive from Kalbarri National Park we arrived in the small Shark Bay city of Denham. Denham is literally in the middle of no where. This map should give you a good indication of how isolated Shark Bay is from the rest of Australia:

Denham is located towards the tip of a long peninsula that extends up the middle of Shark Bay. Geraldton which is six hours down the road to the south is the only city of any size from Denham and Perth the state capitol is a 10-12 hour drive south of Denham. All the other dots you see on the map are either roadhouses or ranches. If you ever wanted to drop out from the world, Shark Bay is one of those places where you could do it.

Fortunately we rolled into Denham at a good time because the sunset over the Indian Ocean was going to begin soon. We rolled into a local caravan park where the friendly owner talked my ear off about Shark Bay. He wouldn’t be the last one though because a reoccurring theme a found from talking to people who live in the Shark Bay area is that they truly love living there. Once we got our campervan parked and everything settled the wife and I took a down to the beach to see the sunset. Denham’s harbor is filled with small sailboats, fishing boats, and even pearling boats. This is still a well known area in Australia for pearling and Denham has many shops that sell pearls at wholesale prices. Here is a picture of the sunset over the Indian Ocean from Denham:

Shark Bay Sunset 2

Shark Bay Sunset 1

As you can see from these pictures their were quite a few clouds in the far horizon so we couldn’t actually see the sun set on the ocean, but it was spectacular none the less.

Monkey Mia Beach Resort

The next morning we woke up early to head to the main attraction of the Shark Bay area and that is the dolphins of Monkey Mia. We left Denham at 7Am to travel to Monkey Mia. It only took us about 30 minutes to travel across the peninsula to Monkey Mia. Once we got to Monkey Mia we parked the campervan and proceeded to cook some breakfast. After eating some eggs and bacon, not to mention a big, fat cup of coffee we then proceeded down to the beach:

Beach at Monkey Mia

As you can tell from this picture the sand at Monkey Mia is a mixture of red and white grains. It really is a beautiful beach. The resort itself is really quite nice as well. The resort has a great museum that has displays about the dolphins and other wildlife of Shark Bay along with other displays that provide a historical perspective about the place. For example the name Monkey Mia is derived from the fact that many of the old pearlers that came to Monkey Mia in the 1800’s were from southeast Asia and Japan and many of them kept monkeys from their native lands as pets.  The local Aborigines did not have a word for monkeys since there are no monkeys in Australia and adopted the English word of monkey to describe them along with the Aboriginal word of mia which means many. So literally speaking Monkey Mia means the city of many monkeys. There may no longer be monkeys here anymore, but there sure are a lot of dolphins, as we were about to see.

Here is a picture of the resort from the beach:

Monkey Mia Beach Resort

The resort also has a theater with many interesting movies about the area, a well stocked gift shop, a restaurant that really isn’t that expensive considering how far out in the middle of no where you are, a hotel, cabins, and a caravan park. The resort also has a multitude of tour operators that can take you fishing, sailing, off roading, and a host of other activities. The resort is also well landscaped and even featured beautiful green grass, which is a rarity in this part of Australia:

Green Grass of Monkey Mia

The resort also had other visitors beside the tourists there. The beach was also filled with these guys, giant pelicans:

Pelican at Monkey Mia

Don’t mess with these guys though, because they are aggressive and I saw them chase some people around the beach when they got to close. However, the only thing on our mind was seeing the dolphins that come in every morning to feed that makes this place so famous across Australia.

The Dolphins of Monkey Mia

We intentionally picked this day to see the dolphins of Monkey Mia because this day November 7th, was the same day the Melbourne Cup horse race was happening which meant everybody was watching the horse race and not the dolphins. So we had a much smaller than normal crowd to contend with to see the dolphins:

Waiting for Dolphins at Monkey Mia

If you look closely, on the far left of the picture you see a guy with a red shirt holding a video camera. This was the same Korean travel documentary TV crew we had run into back at the Pinnacles. Were they ever surprised to see me again. Anyway it was about 8:30AM now and this is when the dolphins are supposed to start coming in. You could feel the anticipation in the crowd growing. Then my wife spotted the first dolphins to come in:

Monkey Mia Dolphin 7

Monkey Mia Dolphin 6

The first dolphin to visit Monkey Mia was back in the 1960’s when a dolphin named Holeyfin befriended the local fishermen. Holeyfin had offspring who she taught to also visit Monkey Mia and the local fisherman. This is what caused the dolphins today to be so friendly with the locals of Monkey Mia. Today four adult females visit the beach every day and park rangers feed the dolphins a small helping of fish. The park rangers never feed the dolphins too much because they don’t want the dolphins to become depended on humans and lose their skills to hunt for fish on their own. To learn more about the dolphins check out this link from the Monkey Mia Dolphins Organization. The dolphins came in real close to everyone standing in the water and I was able to get some really great shots of the dolphins:

Monkey Mia Dolphin 4

Initially only two came in but eventually all four showed up. We could see other dolphins out in the distance that were to shy to come get food from the park rangers. The park rangers knew every dolphin by name. If you are wondering how the park rangers could tell apart the dolphins it is because each dolphin has a distinctive dorsal fin:

Monkey Mia Dolphin 3

The park rangers also picked people out of the crowd to feed the dolphins. They understandably picked the kids to go feed the dolphins usually.  As people were feeding the dolphins the Korean TV news crew that we ran into over at Nambung National Park was out filming the action:

Korean TV Crew at Monkey Mia

At least one critter was jealous of all the attention the dolphins were getting and decided to crash the party and get some attention of his own:

Bird At Monkey Mia

By getting this close to the dolphins you can really feel how intelligent the dolphins are. When you look into their eyes it just feels like it’s an intelligent animal looking back at you:

Eye of the Dolphin

All in all it was a great way to spend the morning hanging out with these wonderful dolphins. Actually throughout the rest of the day the dolphins would randomly pop up at the beach to check people out. However, only the park rangers are allowed to touch and feed them because people can transmit disease to the dolphins while feeding them can cause them to become depended on humans for food. So if you go to Monkey Mia and the dolphins come up to you on the beach, don’t try to pet or feed them. For me I was impressed enough just watching them.

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