Probably the most famous of our stops along the west coast is Monkey Mia. Everyone knows about the dolphins who come in daily for small feeds of fish. There are also dugongs, turtles, sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, fish, pelicans and emus in this area (and lets not forget the millions of flies). We made a quick get away from Denham and were at the resort of Monkey Mia in under half an hour. Once Betsy and Alice were parked we were on the jetty ready to set sail on the Aristocat 2, our first activity for the day. It’s a sailing catamaran and the second ‘sister’ ship to Morpheus, the boat Jules was a deck-hand on in the 1990’s.
This turned out to be our best value activity yet. We left shore at 10:30am and followed some 2-3m wide manta rays for a while before heading over to a black pearl farm where we learnt about the process of pearl farming (with just a sprinkle of sales talk!). The third generation pearler running it turned out to be an inventive type of chap, not only figuring out how to implant gold and opals into the shells and having pearls grow around them but also developing a water cleanser which stops algae blooms and cleans up oil spills whilst not harming the fish or the environment. So good it gets a plug (http://www.marineeasyclean.com.au/) (apparently also fantastic for pools as well!).
Next it was sailing over to the sea grass beds for some dugong spotting where a few females (they’re the ones with mating scratches on their backs) obliged us along with some dolphins and turtles. Somehow the flies managed to follow us out also. It was a beautiful morning out on the boat. On our way back to the jetty there was some boom netting fun to be had by all of us as well.
The next morning we were up bright and early to catch the first ‘Dolphin Interaction’ (why can’t they just call it what is, ‘feeding the dolphins to keep the tourist dollars coming rolling in’). Sam was picked to feed ‘Nicky’, an aging mum who had her calf en-tow. James was very disappointed, but was summarily picked for the second feeding about an hour later – down under frown turned upside down.
I can’t help but wonder if the future seems uncertain for tourism here because whilst many dolphins still turn up just to be fed, the two dolphins that regularly cruise up and down with the staff, giving everyone the obliging cute looks, are both very old and do not seem to have passed this behaviour on to their calves. I’m sure if there was a choice, CALM would choose to protect the dolphins over the significant commercial interests of the Monkey Mia resort.
With the temperature climbing, we jumped in the truck and headed for Wooramel Station, doing our now standard manic ‘fly dance’ to rid ourselves of as many as we can before jumping in the car. It then takes us about 20 distracting minutes to evict the little pests from the car. I think this is more dangerous than avoiding kangaroos at dusk!