Travels Downunder – A Reminiscence: Part 14

Our intrepid explorers survived their taste of the bush and have set off for Shark Bay…

Having recovered from our scary bush walk we set off north again heading for Monkey Mia in Shark Bay. It’s a beautiful spot and attracts a lot of tourists to see the abundance of wildlife there. The ocean is crystal clear and dolphins are almost certain to be spotted close into shore and there are also dugongs, sharks, rays and turtles that can sometimes be seen in the shallow waters. The one thing you won’t see is a monkey. No one seems to be sure how the place got its name but some people believe it is to do with Malaysian pearl fishermen back in the 1850s who had a boat called Monkey, and that Mia is an old Aboriginal word for home or settlement. There was plenty to see and do there so we stayed for three nights before moving north again to the next place of any size, which is Carnarvon.

We arrived there on the 24th April and stayed at a caravan park where we met lots of people that evening who told us that the following day, the 25th, was Anzac Day. It is a very important day in Australia and New Zealand and is their equivalent of our Remembrance Day, and commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli on that day in 1915. It is taken very seriously by most people and is actually a Public Holiday. We were told there was to be a dawn service next morning, starting at 5.30am, so we set our alarm very early and arrived at the war memorial at 5.15am. There was already a large crowd there and the local army cadet force and other military personnel and buglers were already on parade. I have to say it was a very moving experience. When it was over we all adjourned for breakfast at the local yacht club. As I say, remembrance is important to Australians and almost all towns of any size will have an RSL club, that is, the Returned & Services League, where anyone can visit and get a good meal quite cheaply. The Last Post is played, and Lest We Forget is spoken every evening at 6.00pm.

Our next destination was Coral Bay, a tiny place, but as the name implies is full of natural beauty. The caravan park there was full so we carried on further north and found a good spot at Exmouth where we stayed for three nights, before backtracking to Coral Bay where we stayed a further three nights. Exmouth and Coral Bay are also very popular tourist destinations as there is a coral reef, the Ningaloo Reef, which stretches for about 160 miles right along the coast and which is easily accessible as it is only just offshore and you can almost wade out to it. It is a notable place to spot whale sharks which despite the name are actually fish, not whales. They are the world’s largest fish, and If you are lucky you can actually get to swim with them as they are totally harmless.