Western Australia Roadtrip

We have seen the beginnings of life on Earth. In a secluded corner of Western Australia, within Shark Bay, near Useless Loop, is Hamelin Pool.  And here are stromatolites.

Shell Beach & Stromatolites
Shell Beach & Stromatolites

“Hamelin Pool is home to the most diverse and abundant examples of living stromatolites in the world. Also referred to as ‘living fossils’ these creatures are monuments to life on Earth over 3500 million years ago; a time when no other complex creatures were present on the planet. They are rock-like structures built by microbes (single-celled cyanobacteria) which were the first life forms to appear on Earth. The cyanobacteria trap sediments with mucous to form enormous mats or great reefs of rock-like structures called stromatolites. At first glance these don’t even seem to be living. Each structure is actually a very slow growing microbial colony that may grow less than 1mm per year.”

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

I was blown away, speechless. This is literally the beginning of life. And it’s still happening in this area that has the perfect conditions. The seawater is twice as salty as normal seawater, few predators and competitors can live here and so the stromatolites grow. This is one of only three places in the world where stromatolites still exist and thrive.

On our way to Hamelin Pool, driving north from Perth, we enjoyed more stunning scenery along the Western Australia coast.

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

A couple of hours’ drive north of the Western Australian capital of Perth, lies The Pinnacles, within Nambung National Park. These tall limestone pillars are more of Australia’s extraordinary visual landscape. We wandered around enjoying the sights.

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

Australian roadhouses are a thing of beauty and definitely joyous! We stopped at many, to get petrol, a bite to eat, stretch our legs, and often to enjoy fun and funky art and curiosities.

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The little town of Denham is quiet and isolated. They have their own town generator for electricity, and the cell signal drops out when you leave National Route 1 for the turnoff to Denham. After about 100 kms a couple of bars start to show, and you know you’re getting close to civilization! If your car breaks down on this road, you just have to hope someone drives by soon!

Sunset at Denham
Sunset at Denham

Denham is a great place to stay for a few days and relax, and it’s within easy reach of the stromatolites at Hamelin Pool, and the beautiful dolphins at Monkey Mia. You can go sailing, fishing, lay on a beach, go quad biking or hiking. If you go to Denham, check out the beautiful, comfortable Airbnb place we stayed.

(click on photos to see them full-size) 

Wild bottlenose dolphins have been coming close into the shore at Monkey Mia for over forty years, possibly drawn by fishermen cleaning their catch. Now there are rangers and a visitor centre. Twice a day, tourists are allowed to stand ankle deep in the water, in a large roped off section of beach, where the rangers bring out buckets of fish, and a very few lucky people are chosen to hand feed the dolphins. We’re not allowed to touch the dolphins, but they come in close, turn on their sides and gaze at us. There is a dolphin research project here, and the dolphins are only fed a very small amount of fish, so they don’t become reliant on humans.

Monkey Mia
Monkey Mia

“The research now encompasses thousands of hours of systematic data collection in the field and many more in the lab. Hundreds of dolphins are surveyed and cataloged each year. Their behavior, ecology, genetics, development, communication, social structure, predators, and prey are all being researched at Monkey Mia, making this one of the most important dolphin research sites world-wide. What’s more is this is all accomplished non-invasively, without tagging or capturing the dolphins.”

Monkey Mia
Monkey Mia

Outside of the roped off area of beach, swimming is allowed, and if you’re very lucky, the dolphins may come in and join you. As in much of Western Australia, emu dads lead their pack of teenage chicks around the beach, completely ignoring the humans!

Emus on the beach at Monkey Mia
Emus on the beach at Monkey Mia
Pelican at Monkey Mia
Pelican at Monkey Mia

And so after a few days of road-tripping and sight-seeing our way up the coast of Western Australia, we reached Exmouth, where we stayed for a month, scuba-diving on the fabulous Ningaloo Reef.

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Monkey Mia
Monkey Mia

2 thoughts on “Western Australia Roadtrip”

  1. Georgeous! I used to live in Western Australia, many many years ago, but never got to the pinnacles or to Monkey Mia. What a fabulous place!
    Wonderful photos, that capture the intense colours of Oz.
    Alison

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