Shark Bay, located in the most westerly point of the Australian continent, is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. This comes as no surprise given it has the largest and richest sea-grass beds in the world. The beds are home to many creatures, including 10,000 dugong, a strange looking mammal, rather like a manatee. I wanted to add Shark Bay to my WA itinerary, as it’s famous for its ‘Monkey Mia Dolphins’, a pod of bottlenose dolphins that regularly visit the beach. It took us about 4.5 hours to drive north of Geraldton along the Coral Coast to Denham.
I chose Denham, Shark Bay’s gateway town, over the Monkey Mia Resort as I didn’t want to be stuck on the resort with limited dining options. Denham is a quiet seaside town with several restaurants and supermarkets. We stayed at the Heritage Resort Shark Bay which was nice but also a bit stuck in an 80s time-warp. As it was so windy, we didn’t get the chance to use the hotel pool.
On arrival late Friday, none of the restaurants looked that appealing (a lot of the cafes shut around 2pm). Instead we picked up some bits for a picnic from the supermarket and had a blustery picnic on the beach opposite the hotel.
The next morning we woke early to head to the Monkey Mia Resort, a 25 minute drive from Denham. Dolphin feedings take place up to three times a day, between 7:45 am and 12:00 pm. Dolphins began visiting the area in the 1960s when a local fisherman began to feed them part of his catch. The area is now part of the Monkey Mia Dolphin research project and under tight controls. We received an introduction by a local park ranger at 7:45 am. Then we were invited to stand quietly in the shallows and allow the dolphins to approach. It was a spectacular experience to see the dolphins up close and personal. The rangers even chose a lucky few to come from the crowd and give the dolphin a fish.
After viewing the dolphins, we ate breakfast at the resort before embarking on our next sea-life adventure, a trip on the Aristocat 2. This 18 foot catamaran, run by Perfect Nature Cruises is the only boat licensed to interact with marine life in the ‘Exclusion Zone’. This means its worth booking in advance as the cruise does get busy, especially in high season. We spent 2.5 hours aboard the Aristocat 2, seeking out turtles, dolphins and the famed dugong. The area is breathtaking and the cruise made more informative by the chat from the captain and his daughter.
Later that afternoon, coffee in hand thanks to Shark Bay Cafe (Denham lacking on the plentiful coffee front!), we strolled along the seafront promenade, admiring the vast expanse of the ocean. That night the Denham dining scene threw up an unexpected surprise, one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten at Shark Bay Pizza I’m not saying you should drive 9 hours north of Perth just to taste it but add in some dolphins and you could sell yourself a weekend in Shark Bay!