I recently visited Shark Bay where Monkey Mia can be found. It wasn’t the first time I had been there – I was lucky enough to be a tour guide in Western Australia for six years and had the privilege of visiting this remote peninsular a number of times – but it was definitely the most fascinating. Unlike my previous visits, when I stopped only at the main icons such as Shell Beach and Monkey Mia, this time I spent some quality time investigating the Shark Bay World Heritage Area thoroughly. (Read about why Shark Bay is a World Heritage area). Don’t get me wrong, seeing the pod of dolphins that visit the beach at Monkey Mia each day is very, very special, but I discovered a number of other places that are equally as interesting.
The Shark Bay World Heritage Area covers 2.2 million hectares on the Western Australian coast. This is an area slightly bigger than Wales and approximately half the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland. Shark Bay is located approximately 800 kilometres north of Perth and has a population of less than 1000. Almost all of these people live in the fishing village of Denham, but it is Monkey Mia that is the most famous place to visit because of the Bottlenose dolphins.
The first stop as you head west from Overlander Roadhouse is Hamelin Pool and the Stromatolites. If you are a geologist this might be the main reason you visit the area because the Stromatolites are incredibly unique and special both in their discovery and their purpose. The Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool are approximately 2000 years old, but they give an insight into the formation of the Earth 3.5 billion years ago!
After immersing yourself in the fascinating geology of the Stromatolites, next stop is Shell Beach. As the name suggests this is a beach made entirely of shells. Beautiful, small, perfectly white shells. Billions of them. Ten metres deep, one kilometre wide and approximately ten kilometres long. This has to be seen to be believed. The water here is usually calm and clear and great for swimming, so take your bathers.
A short drive away is Eagle Bluff. This is spectacular spot to stop and have a look at the amazing coast-line. Often schools of sharks can be seen swimming in the shallow water below! If you want to get up-close to some sharks and other marine wild-life make sure to stop at Ocean Park Aquarium. Here you will see loads of marine creatures, as well as shark feeding!
Denham has lots of accommodation options and is a really lovely little coastal village. I stayed there instead of a Monkey Mia and was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I got to vote at the local primary school whilst I was there and discovered a nice, new school far better in facilities than most of the schools in Perth! The local pub is good fun and if you are there out of peak season you have a good chance of talking to some crusty old fisherman that have some wild tales to tell. You might even jag yourself a trip on a fishing adventure.
Obviously Monkey Mia is worth a visit. The beach here is beautiful and great for swimming. The Bottlenose dolphins come very close to the beach so you an take loads of photos of them. You cannot touch them because this causes them harm but the staff do choose a few people each day to feed the dolphins so hopefuly you are one of the lucky ones.