I don’t know if place names get much sillier than ‘Monkey Mia’. It just sounds dumb. And very touristy. The actual history behind the name isn’t fully know.
It was indeed a very touristy place (existing really for one big reason, which I’ll get to), but also a very pretty place. And when you are up before 6am, it’s also a very quiet place.
As I like to think, the average person will see many sunsets in their life but not many sunrises. So they get two pictures!
It just so happened that a nearby pier also held a small wildlife surprise. The first sighting of a sea turtle! Well, possibly second sighting. A couple people from our tour were up until 4am and drunk and claimed to see one as well. But at least I got a photo!
The turtle and the beautiful sunrise/sunset on the beach isn’t why people flock to Monkey Mia (and no, there are no monkeys either). The reason showed up around 7 in the morning.
Wild bottlenose dolphins. They come in to shore at Monkey Mia for feeding, as they have been doing for years. They aren’t trained or captive, these are wild dolphins. Apparently years ago a fisherman began to feed some nearby dolphins part of his catch. They started to follow him home, and he began feeding them from shore. Eventually the public found out and it has been a major public attraction ever since.
As can be evidenced by the crowds.
It’s all pretty controlled now. The dolphins have a set morning feed time, and whether they show up (and what number) is entirely up to them. Only the females get fed, and there is a restriction that only 5 living females are allowed to be fed here, period. So even if there are 10 males in the area and no females, the crowd just gets to watch the dolphins rather than feed. And if some ‘other’ females not part of the feeding program show up, they can’t be fed either. This is put in place to minimize impact to the dolphins themselves.
The dolphins will come pretty much within inches of you if you stand still and there happens to be a fish nearby that has caught it’s attention. Pretty cool!
The big part of the morning is of course, the feeding of the dolphin. A few lucky people were selected from the crowd to hand feed a dolphin. As numerous sickly-sweet kids were in attendance, I wasn’t selected. Children, scourge of the earth!
But there aren’t just dolphins in the area that want food. Seeing the large crowds and apparently knowing what was going on, this massive pelican came over and started snapping at everything and everyone until he got fed.
You don’t realize just how BIG those things are until it waddles up next to you.
The festivities of the morning finished, it was time to leave Monkey Mia. There isn’t much more to the resort besides the dolphin feeding and the nice scenery. Our next stop was Shell Beach.
While the picture might not convey it overly well, this spot was stellar. It’s a beach where the sand has been replaced (through natural means) by millions and millions of shells. But not only that, the water is incredibly saline and shallow for a great distance. We walked at least a few hundred meters out and the water was only to our knees. When laying back in the water you can easily float due to the high salt content.
After relaxing in the water and splashing around a bit, we got together for a group shot.
Then we relaxed on the beach for a bit and soaked up the sun.
Millions and millions of little shells!
Our day wasn’t finished and we still haven’t even had lunch! The next stop was Hamelin Pool.
This spot may not look like much, and scenery wise it was enjoyable but nothing that stood out. What stood out was the life in the area. Ancient life to be specific, in the form of stromatolites. Stromatolites are amongst the oldest known organisms on earth with their ancestors appearing around 3.5 Billion years ago. These stromatolites are some of the very few still remaining to this day, though only thousands of years in age. These things take hundreds of years to take shape and are remarkably delicate, despite looking like rocks themselves. You can still see cart tracks through them from the 1960s.
The main patch of stromatolites. It was a pretty neat area if for the historical significance. Plus, Bill Bryson had been here on his journeys through Australia and it was fun to sort of follow along and see some of the places he had mentioned in his book (In a Sunburned Country).
From here we had lunch and drove through the afternoon and evening to our next destination, Coral Bay. It was time to start exploring what lived UNDER all that pretty blue water.