Thursday, 20th September – Monkey Mia

Got up with the lark (not that they have larks round here) to go and suss out the “dolphin experience”. Literally hundreds of people had the same idea. We were eventually addressed via microphone by a ranger for the Monkey Mia reserve, who explained what was going to happen. We could see three bottle-nosed dolphins cruising in the shallow waters just off the beach anticipating what was to come, so as soon as the word was issued, down we went to the water’s edge.
Being tall here definitely helped – one could see over the heads of others to take pictures of these rather attractive animals, who were obviously fairly used to human company. Great care is taken, however, to ensure that they do not become dependent on humans to feed them and officially nobody is allowed to touch them. They must approach you, not the other way round. All very sensible.
The lead ranger walked up and down in the shallows and the three dolphins followed her so that everybody along the shoreline got a good view and photo opportunities galore. Volunteers then brought down buckets with suitably procured fish for selected members of the throng to offer to the dolphins. As expected, kids were the main beneficiaries of this exercise. (Far too many of the little so-and-sos about for my liking).
This was quite an enjoyable experience, rather to my surprise, even if it was rather artificial. Well organised and informative. Weather was fantastic, too, which always helps. A couple of pelicans provided an entertaining sideshow.

We then decided to drive to the town of Denham, named after Henry Mangles Denham who did a lot of hydrographic work in this region. Expectations not high, but we visited the Shark Bay Discovery Centre on the off-chance, which was an absolute delight. Certainly the highlight of the stay here so far. We even got concessionary entry fees….. 
This was full of beautifully presented information about the history, geology, conservation efforts and far more besides on what is a truly fascinating area of Western Australia, not visited by many (yet). It did also help to put the Monkey Mia reserve into context, because, to be quite honest, we didn’t really understand why this was regarded as so important. It’s still a bit of a building site, but it appears that there has been dolphin research here since the early 1980s and the whole area is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Back to the resort (Jean drove for the first time in Australia!), where once again we bumped into a couple who’d been on the ship with us round the north-west coast of Australia, and shared experiences over a couple of drinks. Then a very nice meal in the resort’s main restaurant before retiring to bed.

A long drive in prospect tomorrow – over 700 kilometres to Exmouth Gulf. Still struggling with the enormous distances in this island continent. It looks tiny on the map.

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