Shark Bay

Fossils, evolution and modern conservation

Shark Bay is synonymous with a particularly rich natural area in Australia. It is the best place in the world to see manatees in the wild, and that in turn attracts sharks. Bottlenose dolphins are also frequently seen. In this article you'll find the best attractions for your visit to Shark Bay.

This nature reserve is bizarre. It is the best place in the world to see manatees and dolphins in the wild. It is also famous for something strange. At the water's edge you can also find the oldest living (!) fossils in the world. And nowadays it is also the basis for a very prestigious nature conservation project. At Shark Bay you can do several interesting tours

Francois Peron National Park

The coast of Francois Peron National Park.

The little known to us Francois Peron National Park is rugged, even though it is a former sheep farm. The path is only suitable for cars that can handle sand well. Especially for those who want to see the red sand dunes and the coast.
Including the famous Cape Peron, a beach with red and yellow sand. This is rugged Australia. You can rent a car yourself in Denham, for example, but there are also tours available with a driver.

Stromatolites of Shark Bay

Oldest fossils in the world: Stromatolites in Shark Bay.

Shark Bay is actually a glimpse into Earth's history. It is known for the stromatolites that live on the edge of the beach and the sea. These cyanobacteria, or tiny unicellular algae, consist of the sediment that they also hold together. This is how slowly sedimentary rock forms layer on layer in the form of a small dome.
The growth process is comparable to the centuries-long build-up of coral reefs. Stromatolites have existed on Earth for 3.5 billion years (so much earlier than dinosaurs) and are the oldest living fossils in the world. Shark Bay is the most famous place in the world where these fossils can still be seen. It attracts scientists from all over the world to view and research this phenomenon.

Dolphins of Monkey Mia

A park ranger and two dolphins at Monkey Mia.

The dolphins of the beach at Monkey Mia are world famous. The wild animals come to the beach almost every day to interact with people. It used to be the fishermen who gave their bycatch to the dolphins. Nowadays tourists are knee-deep in the water to feed the animals, and take a closer look.
Conservationists have questioned the feeding, and in recent years especially the crowds, but park rangers ensure that the animals remain wild. In addition, a lot of research is being done into the behaviour of the animals and the dependence on food. By the way, pelicans are also trying to get a piece of the pie.

Ocean Park Aquarium

Ocean Park is an aquarium where mainly the animals from the region can be seen. Ideal for taking a closer look or to see species that you had not seen yourself. The highlight is feeding the hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks.

Excursions in Shark Bay

Snorkel with manatees

Anyone who likes to see animals underwater should definitely go into the clear and warm water. A snorkeling excursion is the best way to get to know the many animals. And, with a bit of luck, you will come across peacefully grazing manatees. Or sea turtles or something else. Ask for more information on the spot so that you can make the most of your time.

Swim with manta rays

Manta rays are one of the most graceful animals of the ocean. You’ll have the best chance of seeing these animals when you go for a snorkel (or a swim) in June. And if you’re lucky enough to encounter them, you’ll notice they’re not shy. It’s a special experience.

Backcountry camping

Enjoying camping in Shark Bay.

Camping is part of these wild areas. Whether this is in a tent or a camper. You have many options in Shark Bay, including several places in the Francois Peron National Park. You can pitch your tent or camper by the sea, a lake or inland. Ask for the possibilities on the spot.
By nightfall, keep an eye out for anything that moves, chances are it is a rare Australian jumper. Although identifying is not easy, I know from experience.

Sailing around Shark Bay

The ocean at Shark Bay has the largest seagrass area in the world. It's the basis for a complete food chain, with manatees and sharks as protagonists. To make it complete, the hinterland offers a real sea of flowers in the spring. Countless special animal species can be seen, especially on the surrounding islands.
It’s guaranteed that you’ll see dolphins in this area, but not dugongs. But it’s a possibility, just as turtles, whales and manta rays. And viewing the area’s wildlife from a sailboat is a nice and relaxed way to spot them all, because you can see deep into the clear water.

See salt pans as a nursery

On the left side of the Peron peninsula you’ll find many salt lakes (or birridas as they are locally known). They can be huge, or very small, and over the years were created by the drying up of salt water, leaving behind salty deposits, which can contain intriguing crystals.

Some salt lakes are dry all year, some fill up with water when it rains, and others are still connected with the sea. Many of the salt lakes give life to many crustaceans and fish, so if you look closely you can see all kinds of life in the shallow water.

Best time for Shark Bay

Winter and spring (June to October) are the best time when it comes to temperature. Most flowers will be in bloom. In summer it can be extremely hot.

Geschiedenis van Shark Bay:

De naam Shark Bay (haaienbaai) komt van de Engelse piraat Wiliam Dampier. Tijdens zijn strooptocht in 1699 zag hij waarschijnlijk de vele dolfijnen die hier rondzwemmen aan voor haaien. Waardoor het gebied een weinig vriendelijke uitstraling kreeg. Wat inmiddels is veranderd.

Be aware!

You can no longer swim with dolphins at Monkey Mia, due to the crowds and to protect the animals. These days you have to queue to see the dolphins come in.

In peak season it’s a good idea to book your accommodation, tours and car hire in advance.

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