Sunday, 7 April 2013

Outback meets the ocean

Francois Peron National Park 
28 March 2013

Waking up at and looking out the window here is a real treat. The sun is still low in the sky, the shadows are long, all the reds look even more red. I can see a red sandy track and low scrubby bushes that can survive in arid climes and beyond those, I can see the blue waters of Shark Bay. Early in the morning the water is dark blue and the sky is light blue but those shades will change through the day.

We are staying at Gregories with a reef  about 100m off-shore. Bottle Bay is just around the corner and has a white sandy beach and small red cliffs that contrast with the blue water.

This landscape really is where the outback meets the ocean.  To reach our campsite we travelled for more than 1 hour from the old homestead along a red sandy track through scrub that never got any taller than Otto, with the odd tree as tall as Hugo.

Just before we reached our destination we travelled across a birrida, a claypan with purple coloured vegetation growing on it.  Definitely an arid landscape. The landscape itself is not why people come here – they come because of the marine park and life.  The waters are home to 10% of the worldwide dugong population, the largest seagrass meadows in the world, and the oldest living microorganisms in the world.  It’s also home to sharks, manta rays, sting rays, sea snakes, turtles (the world’s biggest loggerhead turtle population nest on nearby Dirk Hartog Island), and is famous for its dolphins (this is where Monkey Mia is).

We trekked back into town this morning so Otto could visit the nurses so made the most of the journey and headed to Ocean Park – an open air aquarium. The guided tour of the tanks was really educational and to my absolute delight we got to see a sea snake moving through the water. 

We also saw a whole catalogue of other dangerous and not so dangerous marine animals including a loggerhead turtle, moray eels, western rock lobster, lion fish, stone fish, blue spotted sting ray, shovel nosed ray, lemon sharks, nervous whaler (another type of shark), sucker fish cleaning a shark and clown fish and their anemones. It was a great way to spend the morning.

To top it off I got to speak to my sister who turned 40 today, and she was celebrating with all of my family – we were the only ones missing. I felt really sad to miss her birthday feast and the chance to see all my family (it’s always a rare event).  Happy 40th birthday from way over here! 

Isobel caught a fish Thursday evening for our dinner, Hugo caught us our lunch on Friday and Simon caught our dinner on Friday night.

It’s a marine wonder land and we look forward to seeing more of its famous locals. 

Photos from Ocean Park - as you can see our budget doesn't allow to buy a milkshake for EACH child!

These blue spotted rays are endemic to Shark Bay - and I saw one of them when snorkelling at Gregories (our campground).  After spotting my fifth sting ray in about 3 minutes I decided it was time to stop snorkelling!

(This is the only sea snake we saw!) 

Our Easter campsite at Gregories. 

Our 1 hour journey to camp from the homestead looked pretty much like this the whole way. 

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