We'd spent a fair bit of time umm-ing and ah-ing about whether we should head to Monkey Mia. It certainly seems like a very popular spot, especially for its dolphin feeding experiences - it almost seemed crazy to be so close but not go there. On the other hand, we'd heard a number of people commenting on how expensive it is and that only a couple of people out of the crowd get to actually get near the dolphins. On balance, given that we've lined up some dolphin activities for Perth, we decided to give Monkey Mia a miss.
We did however stop further south on Shark Bay to see the stromatolites. The Hamelin Pool at the southern end of the bay is one of only a few places left on earth where these exist. What are they, you may ask? They're examples of the oldest living organisms on earth: colonies of Cyanobacteria (single-called bacteria) which first appeared about 3.5 billion years ago. They were also responsible for increasing oxygen levels in the atmosphere to the point where other life was possible. Apparently the other main place they still appear is in the Bahamas. The water in Hamelin Pool is very high in salt concentration as it doesn't get much tidal flow, which means the stromatolites have few predators. As you'll see from the photos, they basically look like rocks and until the fifties were thought to be just that. They can take many years to grow even a centimetre.
The location is remote and peaceful and, when drenched in sunshine, pretty idyllic. Just nearby is the old overland telegraph station where we found a table for lunch.
Continuing down the coast we made it to a free rest area on the Murchison River near the turn-off to Kalbarri National Park. It was a popular and attractive spot, and Sal and the kids headed down to the river which actually had some water in (so many we cross are dry). As well as finding some terrific bird life, they met a couple with a dog who didn't mind dressing up a bit.