Shark Bay has long been a major drawcard for people wanting to experience Australia’s remote northern waters and exotic marine life.
And for good reason. In 1991 the Shark Bay region was declared a World Heritage listed site and one of the few sites that satisfy all 4 criteria for inclusion-
- Major stages of the world's evolutionary history
- Geological and biological processes
- Natural beauty
- Threatened species
A Giant Wading Pool
Situated in the arid Gascoyne Region of Western Australia, the bay covers an area of 10,000 km², but maintains an average depth of only 10 metres making it a reasonable shallow waterway. This shallow average depth combined with the clean sands allows visitors the chance to wade in highly transparent waters with the marine life.
The bay itself houses numerous smaller bays, inlets and islands and is the home of a mass of seagrass meadows which are vital to many marine species within the park.
Shark bay is home to about 10,000 dugongs (sea cows), over 230 species of bird (of which 26 species are threatened), nearly 150 species of reptile and over 323 fish species including numerous sharks and rays.
The dolphins at Monkey Mia have long provided a tourism drawcard for those wanting an up close and personal experience with these animals.
Other attractions within the Shark Bay area include Hamelin Pool, the Stromatolites, Shark Bay Marine Park, Francois Peron National Park, Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve, Zuytdorp Nature Reserve, Useless Loop, Shell Beach and Little Lagoon
The town of Denham services the region and apart from the resort at Monkey Mia provides most of the accommodation, shopping and human interaction likely to be experienced within the park. The hiring of equipment or the booking of tours and charters mostly occurs between these two places.
With only around a thousand residents to 1500km of coastline, Shark bay can’t provide all the amenities of Sydney, but what it does provide in spades is the opportunity to self-drive the region and discover the attractions, by yourself, in reasonable solitude.
More than just Dolphins
Monkey Mia will always be busy with an influx of foreign visitors wanting to see the dolphins but the Shark Bay Park offers much more than just the chance to get up close to the marine life.
Places like Useless Loop, Steep Point and Dirk Harthog Island have long been a mecca for recreational fisherman from the south of Western Australia. Many of them make the pilgrimage year after year, camping on the beach and chasing the abundant schnapper colonies and pelagics.
Many of the top fishing havens are accessible only by boat or 4WD and the abundance of sand tracks, beaches and lookouts make Shark Bay a great place to bring a 4WD. This doesn’t mean to say great locations and fishing can’t be had by 2WD, just that there is so much more off the beaten track.
Shark Bay’s history stretches back further than the settlement of Australia with Dutch Captain Dirk Hartog first landing in 1616 followed by William Dampier in 1699 and Francois St. Allouarn laying formal claim to the territory for France in 1772.
Shark Bay may well be the first place the Aboriginal people of Australia made contact with Europeans.
Combining the nautical history, the stunning location, the abundance of things to see and do, a fantastic climate and the ability to get away from it all - creates a place that must be included on any travel itinerary of the north of Western Australia.
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