So what happened when we arrived in Denham you ask? All sorts of great things. I could tell you about a great dinner at the Old Pearler or our delightful cabin overlooking the ocean from a high hill… but instead I’ll jump right to our trip to Monkey Mia to feed the dolphins.
Monkey Mia is a conservation area where fisherman used to feed the dolphins in the morning. Consequently, the dolphins came everyday – ready for their feeding. As the fisherman moved to other areas, someone saw a tourist opportunity and a resort was built and conservation folks were dispatched to hold educational dolphin feedings. We arrived just before 8am and just as the dolphins were arriving in the bay. 3 mama dolphins came with their calves. The calves stayed out farther from shore with one of the mamas and then the other 2 mamas came in. They are wild dolphins and everything was run really well to keep them wild. We were very impressed.
They actually didn’t feed the dolphins much – only 6 or 7 fish. Over the course of the 3 “dolphin interactions” during each morning, they feed the dolphins less than 25% of what they will need to eat during any given day. To do the feedings, they choose random people from the audience to each feed one fish. One of the people they chose was Mark!
After such an early start, we had plenty of time to do so much more with our day. Next up, a boat cruise on the Aristocat!
On this cruise we saw all sorts of wildlife – a huge manta ray, several dugongs, at least 100 dolphins, a few turtles, two tiger sharks, and lots of fish. Pretty much all of the pictures turned out horrible because of the angle and the water and everything, but in real life each animal was amazing to see. The dugongs were really special because they are such weird creatures and we got to see the whole animal several times as they came up to the surface for air. Here’s a pic of one that I pulled off the internet to give you a sense of what they look like: They are a little like a manatee, but with a different tail.
The Aristocat also took us to the Blue Lagoon Pearl Farm and walked us through how they make pearls. The big pearl business is up north in Australia – just outside Broome – but in Shark Bay the Blue Lagoon does a pretty sizable business as well.
Another stop on the boat tour was an old restored sailing boat. I don’t remember much of the historical information on this boat (oops!) but now they use it for team builder outings. Isn’t that cool? You could do a staff retreat on this boat and take it sailing on the open seas for a few days! We were lucky that it was in the bay while we were their as they were getting ready to take a school group out for a full week. Wouldn’t that be a wild experience to suddenly be a deck hand at age 12? ha!
All of the above happened before lunch and after lunch, we went swimming! Mom wanted to take a dip in the Indian Ocean and thus was willing to brave the chilly water. Mark, of course, was game and they had a lovely time swimming about. Towards the end, Mark came back excitedly and reported that he had seen a sting ray that was bigger than him. I originally had no intention of getting in the water, but I had to see the sting ray so I braved the cold just to swim 15 ft out to see this giant sting ray. I bet you’re thinking that it had already swum away, but no, I’m happy to report that all three of us got to see this bad boy. He (she?) was around 5-7ft wide and at least half again as long, just sitting on the bottom – probably 10 ft deep below us. There were many sea grasses growing on the bottom, so the sting ray shape stood out clearly. It was pretty amazing!
Last but not least, we decided to end our evening with an Aboriginal walkabout tour – Didgeridoo Dreaming Night Tour with Capes to be specific. We had a campfire, learned much about the local aboriginal culture, and listened to Capes play the didgeridoo. Even though we were pretty exhausted, as Mark said, it was pretty amazing to feel the warmth of the campfire, to lean back and look up at the most stunning sky of stars we’d ever seen, to listen to the sounds of the didgeridoo, and become so aware of being in the Australian bush.
Check this out to hear some didgeridoo that was similar to what we heard!