A Travellerspoint blog

A very wet Stirling Range National Park

...trying to build a fire when it's raining sideways.

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After leaving the Swan Valley very late we didn't think we could make our destination, The Stirling Range so headed through the countryside of Perth to the Dryandra Forrest. It was a wet and windy drive but it was all green countryside and we stopped at a bakery and had some warm food sat next to two friendly alpacas.
We camped in the forest and as it was a public holiday it was very busy but the campsite was lovely and a walking group invited us around their fire for drinks and snacks so we had lots of fun. Our destination, after a horrendously cold and wet night was the Stirling Range.

The Stirling Range is a mountain range in Southern WA with the highest peak in the area, Bluff Knoll. This we had our heart set on climbing. We camped at Mount Trio Bush Camp, a farm campground which has showers, a kitchen and a fire pit. We were the only people in the whole place, everyone had cleared out after the public holiday and the weather was cold. We spent the late afternoon sat around a huge roaring fire, ready for some walking in the morning.
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The morning however was torrential rain and wind. Once we had put all our pegs back in our tent, had breakfast and moaned a bit it seemed to start to clear so we quickly got in the car and headed towards the mountain, Bluff Knoll. On ground level there were patches of sunshine but as we headed up the mountain in the car it's like we literally entered the clouds. At the car park and view spots we braved it to have a look but we were been whiplashed and the rain was so bad you could literally see it coming down the mountain. We got back in the car, went back down the mountain and sat in a cafe with a log fire with a warm drink.
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All day it rained on and off, we managed to get a small 1.2km nature walk in around camp in a small patch of sunshine but other than that we either sat around the fire (which took a long time to light, in the rain with wet logs) or under cover playing Jenga or table tennis. We managed to get the fire roaring which is our greatest success in life! and cooked a nice stew and made some Dampar dough which we made some flatbreads and cooked some on the fire. The friendly owner John though we were a bit crazy, camping in the cold and wet but our tent was dry and warm and he assured us it would be gone by morning.
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In the morning, it was only very light drizzle and clouded but we gave up on our Bluff Knoll dreams as the clouds around the mountains were thick. Instead we decided to venture into Porongurup National Park which is very close and is south on our way to Albany. Here there is a 2.2km walk which takes around 2 hours and goes up to a granite outcrop called Castle Rock and the Granite Skywalk. It was cold and overcast but good weather for walking and we set off on the very steep accent up to the top. It is a class four bush walk and the path at points is very over grown and muddy, crossing slippery rocks with outlooks over the farmland and the Stirling Range.
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The last 700m is a steep clim up rocky steps until you reach The Balancing Rock, a huge rock on its end which looks like it could roll off and down the cliff at any minute.
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The last 65m however is the best. There is a rock scramble, which takes you around the summit, over and up huge rocks. It is more like a rock climb than a walk and they have put pegs in the rocks to help but it is fantastic. It leads to a huge granite summit with views and a 7m ladder to climb to get to the top. By this point we were really in the elements, it was very windy and we were being blasted with a fine rain but the climb up to the top was absolutely amazing. Around the top of the rock is a constructed skywalk, a metal walkway that curves around the rock with a sheer fall under your feet. It was worth the sweaty climb to get there and was both scary and exhilarating at the same time.
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By this point it was staring to rain so we made our decent back over the rocks and down the hill. Although the views were a little grey due to the weather the hard climb itself made it worth it and it was so much fun to get to the top of the scary platform.

The National Parks in this area a very different to what we have seen, mountain ranges and granite outcrops, surrounded by flat heath which in spring comes alive with wild flowers. The weather has made it difficult to see everything we wanted to see but we have enjoyed ourselves trying and have all our fingers and toes crossed that we have had our share of rain for now...

Posted by Chelsandliam 02:19 Archived in Australia Tagged australia stirling_range porongurup Comments (0)

Indulging in the Swan Valley

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We headed south down the coast and it was a big shock when we hit the city suburbs. The traffic was relentless and it was a Saturday on a long weekend. It took us a while to get through the suburbs and back out, west. We were heading for the outer boundary of Perth and its suburbs, into the semi rural, Swan Valley. This is a valley along the Swan River renowned for its produce, wine, beer, cheese, chocolate and everything in between so we decided to spend a few days here exploring what was on offer. We booked a couple of nights in swan valley caravan park, and although the campsite was quite vile it was in a good location and the only place with any spaces.

After setting up it was late afternoon and we decided to have a wander around. The valley is basically two roads which join at the top and bottom to form a loop of the valley. Along here is all sorts of places to stop off and buy goodies and the western road has a walking and cycle path so we headed up here with somewhere in mind. We had read that although wine is big business in the valley it didn't have the perfect climate to make excellent wines but on the up in the area were breweries, particularly craft breweries. In only a couple of kilometres north of our campsite are three different breweries. Two of these specialise in German beers but the one we had in mind, called Mash was a craft brewery.

On entering huge stainless steel drums were lined up behind the bar and we were shown to a seat with a menu, full of beers and their tasting notes. We decided to get a tasting platter each and four tiny beers appeared on a wooden board all of them very different but really delicious. It was our first brewery experience and we loved it.

The next day was our only full day in the valley and we decided to walk since there was a walking trail, up the west road, across the river and then to the top to our final destination, Feral Brewery. Walking up the west road and across although was cold was pleasant and wandering across the valley through vineyards was really pretty. On the East however was a highway with no walking or cycle path so we had to detour a few times on the back streets. We had coffees and made several stops at anything that looked nice. We had a wine tasting session at one of the wineries where a friendly man explained to us the difference in all the wines and let us try the different wines on offer and we sat and had a delicious glass of Shiraz.
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Another highlight was the Cheese Barrel. This is a winery and cheese place next door to each other and it has a cheese deli and cafe which has a beautiful verandah overlooking the green rolling hills. Upon entering a lady gives you a slate full of free tasters and their tasting notes and then you can pick a cheese plate to have of build your own from the huge variety on offer. We decided to have the local WA plate which was full of absolutely yummy cheeses from WA, breads, fruit and jams and we had a local glass of wine to wash it down. They give you a leaflet with all the tasting notes to look out for and recommend an order of eating them. We spent a long time eating a lot of cheese and by the time we had eaten five different cheeses and all the bread and crackers we were full up.
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Our highlight of the Swan Valley however was Feral Brewery. This is a beer we have tried a few times while living in Australia and one of our favourites so we were excited to see what was on offer and see the brewery. The place looks like an old wooden pub, with lots of outdoor seating made of old timber on a wrap around verandah. Behind the bar are stainless steel drums and an endless line of beer pumps, there must be over 20 beers to chose from all with crazy names and inventive tastes. We decided to have the tasting board which came with six tiny beers and the bar man recommended we have two different boards and share so we can sample 12 different beers. They came with tasting notes and an order to be drank in and we sat down and spent a long long time trying different beers. There was everything from a 2% watermelon infused summer beer right to an 8% Russian Imperial stout. We absolutely loved trying all the different beers and once we had found our favourite sat down and enjoyed a cold evening with delicious beer. Chelsea liked the Hop Hog, an American IPA while Liam enjoyed Hopfen Phart, a German IPA. We had some dinner and were given cosy blankets and had a beautiful night outside.
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The swan valley we enjoyed however since everything here is based on produce it is best to go with a designated driver. Although it is not far to walk, we probably walked around 6km in total, the roads do not cater for anything except cars. We were there in winter so lots seemed a little run down. We had green rolling hills, wineries and countryside in mind, like the countryside back home in the UK but in reality most of the Swan Valley is quite urban and developed. Nevertheless we have tried some delicious food and drink and treated ourselves far too much.

Posted by Chelsandliam 01:19 Archived in Australia Tagged australia swan_valley Comments (0)

Heading south through farms for a walk amongst the Pinnacles

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After leaving Françios Péron national Park we drove through Shark Bay and headed south, with no clear destination in mind. After driving a couple of hours we had a look in our camping book, Chelsea rang round a few spots and we headed towards a homestead called Oakabella which did camping for $10 each. The journey south quickly changed from red and dry to green rolling hills and it was a beautiful easy drive.

Oakabella Homestead is in a perfect spot, surrounded by farmland, nestled between the hills. It is surrounded by green fields and is ran by a lovely lady called Loretta who greets you with so much warmth no one could possibly dislike her. She was covered in flour from baking homemade scones and took us into the kitchen to have a look. We quickly set up our tent and went back for freshly baked warm fruit scones, jam, cream and a pot of tea in the tiny cafe she has. On the way into the homestead there is a sign that reads, 'complimentary ghosts' which confused us a little on the way in but whilst we were eating our Devonshire tea, we were given some articles which cleared that up.... Apparently Oakabella is the most haunted house in WA! There has been a lot of paranormal activity and we read article after article with accounts before we decided not to read any more as we were a bit creeped out.

We pitched up in a beautiful green field with our own fire pit and they gave us a wheel barrow to get some firewood of the huge pile they provide. The homestead has nice warm showers and we had a walk around the old buildings and farm animals at sunset. It is a very nice spot and the clear sky made for another fantastic sky scape that evening.
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We enjoyed our first homestead stay, and although they sound intimidating on paper is was one of the friendliest spots we have found.

The next morning we packed up nice and early and headed further south. We were heading for the Nambung National Park and The Pinnacles. We stopped off in Geroldton in the morning as we were in need of some warm clothes and footwear. The weather is getting colder everyday and is too cold for shorts, especially at night and our flip flops will soon need to be packed away. After a quick shop for food, jumpers, woolly hats and shoes, as well as a wifi stop we were off again. Chelsea called around some places and due to the public holiday long weekend for WA Day everything was busy and expensive. Since we enjoyed our stay at the farm so much we called and booked ahead at another one, Nambung Station Stay.

The drive south was absolutely lovely. The road hugs the coastline and the Indian Ocean Drive weaved through the Beekeepers National Park right next to the Indian Ocean where although cold, was clear and calm.
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Nambung Station stay is another beautiful spot. There was only one other couple camped up and it had nice warm showers and a friendly owner. It is on a working farm so our tent was surrounded by green fields, cows and a couple of fluffy alpacas. After setting up and showering our neighbours asked us round their camper van for happy hour sunset drinks and we had a lovely evening chatting to them, an elderly couple called Kevin and Jeanie, all the way from Tasmania. It was a clear and very cold evening, our wooly hats had their debut, but it was such a gorgeous spot we didn't mind.

The reason we stayed in the area was to visit The Pinnacles so we decided to do it in the morning after packing up and having breakfast. It is only a short drive and on site there is an information centre with displays, a shop, toilets and information. You can either view the park on a scenic drive or a bush walk so we opted for the walk. It is only a short 1.2km walk which takes you right through the middle and up close to the rocks. The Pinnacles is a desert landscape with thousands of sandstone pinnacles jutting out of the earth. Everywhere you look you can see them, some very small, some much taller than a person. From a distance they look like graves or termite mounds but up close they are a rich yellow sandstone, the same rich colour as the sand. There is some controversy over how they have appeared and no one quite knows for definite how they were made but to walk through the desert surrounded by them is very beautiful. There are several lookouts over the vast desert and towards the shoreline and Indian Ocean. We spent the morning walking in and around these huge rocks and really enjoyed it. It may be our last taste of outback scenery as we are heading south, towards the cold south Coast and the southern forests.
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Posted by Chelsandliam 00:54 Archived in Australia Tagged australia farmstay the_pinnacles Comments (0)

Françios Péron National Park

Red cliff, crystal clear seas and a whole galaxy of stars

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Sat outside our tent at Monkey Mia an employe of the park was painting the posts around our camping area. He was chatting to us asking if we had been up to the National Park. No, is it any good Chelsea asked, 'only the best in the world' he replied. On his enthusiasm alone we decided to drive up and we are very pleased we did. François Péron National Park is world heritage listed, of the four natural wonders that a park has to have to be listed it is one of the few to have all four within its boundaries. It is a meeting point of two climates and the vegetation that grows there, the temperate southern regions and the dry, arid desert north and East. This means that there are lots of plant species that can only be found in the park as well as lots of endangered mammals, reptiles and birds. On top of this it is a place where the big ocean currents meet the shallow waters of Shark Bay and so there is an explosion of life under the water, teeming with Ocean mammals and fish, grass and a reef as well as the huge ocean rays and tiger sharks.

Access to the park is four wheel drive only, there is a station to pay your car fee and camping fees which get posted in a box on your way in. It is $10 per person a night to stay at one of the bush camp sites that dot the coast to the north. The first section of the road, to the old homestead is unsealed but ok for any vehicle and then there is a tyre pressure station where you are required to deflate your tyres to 20psi to carry on the four wheel drive track. It takes around an hour and a half to get to the top and it is a single lane, soft sand track, full of corrugations. It is a slow and steady wins the race kind of drive but Brian made it up with no issues. On the way up we saw two big echidnas crossing the sandy road, leaving behind perfect little footprints in the sand.
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We decided to stay at Gregories campground which has six spots in total, half quiet and half, further away where you can take a generator. We went for the nice quiet spots. They are patches of bright red sand, in the dunes overlooking the ocean. It is a stunning spot, overlooking a curve of rocky beach and bright blue ocean, with a reef braking the surf off shore. It feels like you are alone in the middle of nowhere as soon as you get out of your car. There was one other elderly couple camping a few spots on but nothing else for miles.

We spent three nights here basically just sunbathing, relaxing, stargazing and sightseeing. We have walked on the beach, looking in the high tide mark for beautiful shells, watched the huge ocean gulls fish and enjoyed every bit of sunshine, since soon we will be heading south into colder weather.
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We are only a few kilometres from Cape Péron, the top of the peninsular and Skipjack Point, a view to the left of the peninsular. At Skipjack point there is a boardwalk that hugs the edge of the cliffs for magnificent views along the coast and out to sea. It ends at a lookout where the blood red cliffs fall dramatically onto the sand and into the perfect crystal clear waters of the ocean below. Here the water is so clear and so full of life you can stand a spot animals in the waters below. We saw baby sharks, a huge manta ray and a massive sting ray gliding in the waters below as well as lots of other smaller rays. We also decided, instead of driving up to the Cape to walk it from Skipjack Point. It is a 3k return trip which takes you through the red dunes and cliffs, along the coastline and up to the point. It is a beautiful walk and you can see all different footprints in the sand as well as spotting lots of lizards scurrying over the hot sand. At Cape Péron the open ocean reveals its crazy currents which you can see churning the waters below and on the sand huge numbers of cormorants gather at the shoreline. They look like penguins from a difference with there shiny black bodies and white bellies and we were surprised how big they were. They stood on the shore together drying their wings in the sun or jumped into the water, diving for fish, watching them was a pleasure.
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The sunsets over the ocean has, as always along the west coast, been gorgeous. We have had beautiful soft pinks and purples spanning three hundred and sixty degrees as well as blazing orange and reds, over the blue ocean. At night time it is cold and the stars are unreal, from horizon to horizon the black sky is so bright with stars we have not put our lantern on. We can see constellations, the milkyway, the satellites moving across the sky and have seen so many shooting stars. It is just breathtakingly beautiful.
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On our last night just before sunset we were approached by three French people who has got a lift up from the homestead by a fisherman and were now stranded at the top of the national park with no warm clothes, food, water or anywhere to sleep and night was fast approaching. We didn't want to drive them back in the dark as its a really bad drive in the day, and neither did anyone else, but we offered them to stay and we could take them back in the morning. Between us and our neighbours a few spots on, we pooled enough blankets for them to sleep in our cars, our neighbours fed them and we drove them back in the morning. They were embarrassed and grateful but we have been helped so many times by kind people it was our turn to help out.

François Péron National Park is beautiful, and is hundred percent worth the effort to get here. We are extremely lucky and grateful to spend our time surrounded by such beautiful nature and we love nothing more than falling asleep to the sound of waves and waking up to beautiful early morning cool sunshine warming up the red sand. Being in the middle of nowhere with our tent, for us, is just the most perfect place to be :)

Posted by Chelsandliam 00:49 Archived in Australia Tagged australia shark_bay françios_peron Comments (0)

Shark bay and monkey Mia

From the beginning of life on Earth to Dolphins frolicking in the shallows

Another short drive from Coral Bay, led us down the coast towards another peninsular on the west, Shark Bay. On the way down we stopped at Carnarvon to get supplies, go shopping, make some phone calls and get some internet. We then drove to the beginning of Shark Bay, Hamelin Pool. There is a small caravan park here which we decided to spend the night at. It was extremely cheap and friendly, run by an elderly lady with an old cat walking around and chickens following you around, pecking around your tent. It was really cute, the camp kitchen looked like someone's kitchen from 100 years ago and everyone was super helpful and friendly.
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After a very cold and wet night we were up and ready for some new sights. Our fist stop was Hamelin Pool and the stromolites. This is one of only 2 places on earth where you can see these prehistoric forms of life. They are over 3,500 Million years old and are significant in the evolution of life on Earth as the first organisms that put oxygen into our atmosphere. They are basically bits of rock that get colonised by different forms of bacteria that grow on them, producing oxygen. The sea here gets extremely warm and is very very salty but these organisms still thrive like they have for millions and millions of years. There is a boardwalk over the sea so you can view them and signs explaining there significance to the planet. This is one of the reasons that Shark Bay is classified as a world heritage site but also because of its sea grass. It has a huge area of sea grass that supports an eight of the worlds dugongs.
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From here we drove in and up the peninsular and we stopped for a break at Shell Beach. Here the salty sea is perfect for cockles to inhabit and therefore is a huge surplus of cockle shells, a beach full. The entire beach is made of tiny, perfectly formed, beautiful shells. As you walk they crunch under your feet and glisten in the sunshine. The white shells against the totally calm, bright blue sea was pristine and gorgeous and we enjoyed a cold paddle and a walk along the shore, playing with the shells and looking in awe at just how many there was. It was like nothing we have seen before and absolutely stunning.
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There were a few more stops up to the main town Denam for views especially at eagle bluff, as well as several stops we decided on to look at the wildlife. There is an abundance of emus in the area and we saw lots in the meadows by the roads, often stopping to admire there bushy feathered bodies. At one point we also stopped to usher an echidna across the road. We will never get tired of how cute there little shouted faces are.
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After arriving at Dennam we were very underwhelmed by the town and were not sure what to do so decided to drive to Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia has its own conservation area, and a fee to enter. Inside is one place to stay, the Monkey Mia Resort which has all different accommodation options. We decided to camp up for three nights as its in a stunning location, right on the beach and the hole camp site is crawling with emus, some more menacing than others. large_9D480E90FAB5DD8A9A580562F1E9CF7E.jpglarge_9D4B8AA5EAC0C8AE300F88DA367571FB.jpg

The main reason people come here is to see the Dolphins. There is a lot of Dolphins that inhabit the bay year round and as soon as we stepped foot on the sand we could see and hear them swimming in the shallows. They come right up to the shallow water so you can see them up close, pushing fish up onto the shore to trap and catch them and we stood and watched them for most of the afternoon. There is a jetty which gives good views of the sea life below and we spotted a big loggerhead turtle relaxing in the shallows under the jetty.
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Monkey Mia and its dolphin conservation also does a dolphin experience four times each morning which we stumbled upon late one morning, around 11.45am. This we found a bit weird, unnatural and unnecessary. Basically a volunteer edges people up to the water, knee deep and a dolphin comes into the shallows. They then talk to you about them and pick two people out of the crowd to feed it a fish each. After talking to a volunteer we found out more about it. It stems from the days when fishermen threw in their catch and the Dolphins would come into the shallows to get an easy meal, then people started to feed them and it became unregulated so the conservation was set up. They are only allowed to feed the same four Dolphins so they don't effect the whole pod and they only get two fish each. This is meant to encourage the whole of the dolphin community to fish for themselves and doesn't impact on their natural behaviours. We found it a little bit unnecessary. This is because you can see the Dolphins up close in the bay all the time, they naturally use the sand as a barrier to catch fish and so we didn't think there was any need to feed them to get up close to them. It was much better to watch them doing there natural thing than to watch it stay still in the shallow water until it takes a fish out of a chosen ones hand for us. It seems a little like a tourist attraction which is obviously very beneficial for them to carry on as it brings in a lot of money to the government. We didn't go to any more of the dolphin experiences but just enjoyed watching them throughout the day, swim in and out of the bay, sometimes playing and jumping out, other times right at the shore line, fishing.
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We have spent lazy days walking on the beach, spotting the turtles, Dolphins and birds and had one beautiful day of sunshine which we enjoyed laying in the warm sun on the sand. The resort is lovely, there is a nice cafe and a bar where the sunset viewing is gorgeous and the happy hour drinks are cheap so have watched the sun set every night over the still, pancake flat Ocean.
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Posted by Chelsandliam 23:54 Archived in Australia Tagged australia monkey_mia shark_bay Comments (0)

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