Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay – Nature’s Paradise

Our first destination on April Fools Day was Cape Peron National Park in Shark Bay, a World Heritage protected area renowned for protecting threatened animal species.

Cape Peron – Wulyibidi

Steve, our Coral Geographer master mariner expert, had given us a potted history of the first Western mariners to land on the Western Australian coast. The Portuguese, Dutch and English preceded the French navigator Nicholas Baudin who named many of the landmarks on this coast. With his naturalist Francois Peron, Baudin landed near Dirk Hartog Island in 1801. Peron tramped over the red pindan sands to locate euros and wallabies and even tried to communicate with the native Malgana people. We made a wet landing at Cape Peron, below the Wanamalu trail which led over the red sand to Skipjack Point.

Start of the Wanamalu Trail

Keith, our ecology expert pointed out euro, goanna and skink footprints. Unfortunately there were also goat tracks and we even spotted a couple hiding under the headland overhang. Feral animals are a constant threat to native ones and have mostly been eradicated.

Euro and goanna tracks

The Malgana call Cape Peron Wulyibidi a meeting place and it represents the intersection of arid and south west temperate climate zones. At Skipjack Point we watched reef sharks circle below but were not lucky enough to spot dugongs or manta rays which I learnt have evolved from sharks.

View to Wulyibidi (Cape Peron) from Skipjack Point.

On our return we startled hundreds of pied cormorants or Wanamalu in Malgana.

Pied Cormorants

Our snorkelling off Bernier Island and Oyster Bridge at Bateman Bay provided more highlights of coral, fish and shells.

Snorkelling at Oyster Bridge

We had entered the Ningaloo Coast. Our full day tour from Exmouth did not include swimming with the whale sharks but we did swim with green turtle, black and white tipped reef sharks and beautiful angel and parrot fish. And the extraordinary plate coral at Turquoise Bay.

Plate coral with neon fish

The North West Cape famously houses the Harold E Holt naval intelligence base established in the 1960’s by the US. We witnessed the 13 satellite towers higher than the Eiffel Tower from our vantage point at Vlamingh Head.

North West Cape

Vlamingh was one of the first Dutch mariners to chart the coast. Numerous shipwrecks occurred here including the Croatian barque, Stefano in 1875. Ten young seamen made it to shore but only two survived for 6 months, nurtured by the local indigenous tribes before being rescued by an English pearling entrepreneur. The Vlamingh lighthouse was built in early 1900’s to prevent further shipwrecks.

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse

We continued down the Cape Range National Park past ancient rock formations. Western Australia has some of the oldest rocks in the world, estimated to be 4.4 billion years old. Along the coast at Yardie Creek we saw ancient coral fossils on the walking trail several kms inland among desert plants as well as the rare black flanked wallaby.

Coral fossil
Yardie Morning Glory

Our final destination was South Murion Island, a turtle nesting site (we did not disturb the dunes) where we were served drinks at Turtle Bay and finally returned to a sunset lit ship for dinner.

Tuttle Bay South Murion Island
Coral Geograher

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