Monday, 20 October 2014

Denham, Monkey Mia and the cool things we did there.

Having sat in the wind at wonderful Red Bluff for a week, we'd had plenty of time to count out our days before we had to be in Perth for a long awaited catch up with the McGary's, Noosa locals making the trek across the country to see what we'd been up to. And those days were short: part of our itinerary would have to be cut with our stay at Red Bluff shortened and Kalbarri gone altogether. Denham and Monkey Mia were the winners though and we headed here next.

Tough times... directly out the front of our campsite at Denham.

We sped out of Quobba, and down the North West Coastal Highway, passed endless low scrub, marvelling at the different rigor mortis poses of dead cows by the road. Seriously the bovine suicide rate is outrageous. 
These emus had walked through town, down the main street and along the shorefront right passed our caravan park.

There's a newish app all our gypsy friends have been using called Wikicamps, which is just like Trip Advisor but more specifically aimed at all camping related things. Users can log on and give reviews of caravan parks, free camps, even dump points and information centres.  Of course like Trip Advisor you have to wade through the odd numnut (for example, a caravan park which had been lauded for its shady sites, natural bush setting and well kept amenities received this review: "Terribly maintained. They need to cut down some trees. Couldn't get any TV reception even with the satellite out."), but I'd just got the hang of it and had used it to make the decision to camp in Denham itself rather than at Monkey Mia (more on that later). Wow, I'd forgotten how crowded caravan parks could be!
On the way to Cape Peron.

We squeezed in right next to some loud talkers from Perth (we meant to avoid them but they avoided us first, taking one look as we tumbled out of the car all Red Bluffed and surfie feralled up) and across from some touring Italians who almost died when we began talking to them, such was their elation at talking to somebody, anybody! And with friends down the road from Marguerite's infamous chicken dance class in Noosa and the Doves camped over at the overflow... Well it felt like we were back at Cape Range all over again.
The stunning colour contrasts of Francois Peron National Park.
Some cute little spunk on the lookout boardwalk.

So Denham is a fishing village with a few very cool tourist hospots nearby.  The first is the Francois Peron National Park, a peninsula of natural goodness just a sandy 4WDrive away from town. Here red cliffs tumble onto white beaches and azure water teems with life. We went up to the main lookout and within the half hour watched as a shark attempted to hunt a dolphin and her calf, manta rays majestically flew about under water and a dugong with a calf in tow slowly ambled out to sea, not to mention the schools of fish which zoomed passed at regular intervals. What an amazing spot! Of course Fiela got all funny in the groin and we had to stop and fish (not the other f word you filthy minded readers). He had a try for whiting just off the beach and got enough to realise there wasn't quite enough for dinner. Sigh. The kids ate well that night at least.
A weird tusk fish sans one tusk in on of the holding tanks at Ocean Park. Apparently this fish hunts by sight and was hungry when we came by, so he would rush at us believing we had food and flick the kids with water.

Another day we headed over to the Ocean Marine Park, an excellent attraction with lots of holding tanks including a large one with sharks, each with its own set of compatible marine life. We were there as it opened and by the time our tour finished, about three others were underway and it was no problem to go and listen in on the bits we’d missed taking turns corralling the children. They also have a cafĂ© serving lovely food.
Sharks at Ocean Park.

The next day was Fiela’s birthday, and in an extremely unusual birthday tradition (actually every morning tradition), he was able to rouse himself out of bed so we could drive out to Monkey Mia 20 kilometres away and witness the dolphins feeding at 7:45am. I thought this was all a bit naff, and from comments of other travelers, completely over capitalised with at times hundreds of people standing on the beach, jostling to get a view of wild dolphins up close. Nevertheless, we paid the entry fee and lined up on the shore with only another 50 or so tourists, Marguerite beside herself at being able to feed a dolphin… for five minutes by which time she was off chasing seagulls and patting any available dogs.
Patiently waiting to get the green light to go down to the water, dolphin in the distance.
The dolphins visit in family packs.
They are wild dolphins and are only fed one little whiting over three possible feedings over one day. Apparently they need kilos of fish per day to survive, so three whiting aren't going to disturb their wild hunting ways.

But around the pod came, even hunting some fish right into the shore. And here I was, the greatest cynic of all, picked out of the crowd to hand feed a wild dolphin a slimy dead whiting. It was pretty cool and I was suitably ashamed at my previous comments.
Me, Caesar and a handfed dolphin.

Marguerite on the front of the catamaran.
Gets her moves from her father.
After we’d had our fill of dolphins on parade, we went and paraded ourselves at the breakfast buffet up in the resort hotel, looking out over the bay as the dolphins came back again and again, sometimes being fed by the rangers on the beach and sometimes hunting their own fish. We also cursed Wikicamps a bit as the bay on this side of the peninsula was windstill, the caravan park didn’t look that overcrowded and the pub was generally pretty amazing for a relaxed drink..

Dolphins cruising the waves
off the catamaran.
Continuing on the tourist train we hopped on a catamaran and had a cruise through Shark Bay, spotting the odd dugong and the rare sponge nosed dolphin- no joke, check it out. And because it was Fiela’s birthday, we got hamburgers, beers and perched ourselves in the sun, over looking the bay at Monkey Mia, toasting to an awesome day in general.
Riding the catamaran net out the back.
Marguerite and Fiela before the skipper really revved up the engines. And no, we didn't lose Marguerite off the end, she chose to hop out after five minutes or so.

Back at camp, Fiela held court while we had drinks with all our old and new friends. Yes, Denham had been great and it was with bittersweet feelings we packed up the next day and headed south to Perth, into the cold, the rain and the arms of friends who had been sorely missed. 

Happy birthday to my husband, what an amazing legend you are!

The view from the pub at Monkey Mia out to Shark Bay.

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