We are always shocked at the remoteness of things, even now. I congratulated us all for getting to Monkey Mia quickly (pronounced Myar- not Mia, like Mia Farrow). It just happens that the resort is an hour and a half away from the turn off so we weren’t quite as quick as I though.
Our van is small- some might say too small, with a barely double bed in the back- no floor space and essentially a single bed in the roof, which you have to access by a ladder outside. So far one of the boys has refused to sleep up there each night so Mike has to endure the joy of the ‘coffin’. You get what you pay for I guess.
There is no storage in the van, which to anyone who knows me will understand how difficult I find this: Storage is everything. Give me a set of stacking storage boxes and I am a happy woman. Not in this van though, not now, not this time. *puts hand to head and wails*
Currently everything we need has to be packed carefully under the seats. If you put the bed up and forget to pick out your pyjamas like I did last night- you’ll be sleeping in your clothes unless you want to wake the person up who is already asleep in your bed- usually a child. First World Problems, yes but also annoying when you’re living it. The day to day is still day to day wherever you are, after all.
It sounds like the van is starting to feel small, doesn’t it? Well you might be right.
Monkey Mia was eagerly awaited, situated in Shark Bay and known to have dolphins aplenty- but also for a $30 upgrade we could have a couple of nights in a flat bed and with easy access to our bags seemed like luxury, so we took it.
Part Campsite and backpacker hostel, part high-end resort, it was a lovely place to stop in the middle of nowhere. It is known for having a family of dolphins who visit every morning to take fish from volunteers hands- and we couldn’t wait for our first dolphin experience. We went out to the pool which overlooked the bay when we arrived and I shot up, thinking I’d seen a shark fin in the water. It was in fact our local friendly dolphins, coming right up to shore! Amazing, amazing, amazing!
We are in a country, it seems which loves both rules and its wildlife- so naturally, there were many boundaries put on human interactions with the dolphins. If you are swimming and you see one, please stand still or get out- so as not to crowd them. Got it, loud and clear! We were so pleased to be so close to wild dolphins, we’d agree to anything they asked us.
We arrived brimming with excitement on the first morning, queuing up at the jetty to have a talk from the ranger- anyone who didn’t follow the rules would not be chosen to feed the dolphins. 1 might come, 7 might come- it depends on them. They are not called, they just naturally come up to the rangers to be fed no more than 10% of their daily food intake, so as not to discourage them from feeding themselves and teaching their calves natural dolphin behaviours.
Amongst the 250 people there, watching the dolphins we weren’t picked on the first morning. The next day we wore our most colourful clothes and stood at the front, doing as we were told with our biggest smiles on our faces.
We were 1 of 5 chosen families that morning to feed a wild dolphin- we were so close but weren’t allowed to touch her- I had to work hard not to step on her tail in fact. I couldn’t believe how close to shore she came and swept the fish away with a big grinning mouth. Pure majestic beauty, what lucky souls we are.
Later that day, we were planning to hire kayaks (time to get back on the horse after the last disaster!) but the winds were too high. We had been planning, since we arrived to go to visit the shark nursery a 40 minute ride around the bay- it is Shark bay after all! It would be a shame to miss it, but each day we were there the winds scuppered our plans. Bloody wind.
So we just bummed about the beach, watching the Pelicans and dolphins playing and fishing in the shallows- stunning. Absolute paradise, apart from the high winds, but we’ll take it.
Two dolphins came in close to shore and we were all sat on the beach, watching. Archie paddled nearby and started running along in the shallows with the dolphin, absolutely beside himself with joy, getting so close to the dolphin as she was fishing.
‘Get out the water!!! GET OUT THE WATER!!’ I hear- surely not at us?! Oh dear. Told off again. Memories of the V&A and school flooding back…
I mistakenly thought Eldest Boy would be fine in the shallows, but apparently he was scaring the fish away and inhibiting the dolphin engaging in natural dolphin behaviours. Wrist well and truly slapped and we sloped off down the beach to RUN WITH PELICANS!!! It wasn’t all bad after all.
Our next stop was Carnarvon- there were no free campsites available anywhere near where we want to be, so we found one online for $30 that looked ok- the office was shut when we got there and stopping for the loo, realised we had stepped into a post-apocalyptic vision.
Big trucks, machinery partly dismantled and tattered tarps flapping in the hot wind. Red dust, dying trees and an old man sat chuckling to himself in a battered straw hat. All eyes were on us and even the children asked to leave- please- this place is weird.
I was fascinated by the place just like I am fascinated by all things apocalyptic, but they were kind of right. For an extra $10 we could go round the corner to a place with a pool and a complementary upgrade to a private washroom at the pitch! Hooray for Google. Though this did mean I couldn’t ask what that old man was building at his pitch… I bet he was a Prepper of the first order. We would have been soul mates, I bet.
Breaking out to find supplies we found the ‘Town’, which is a loose term, the further North you go. These days, it means a playground (really good ones, everywhere,) a rank of shops and an IGA shop that charges a fortune as everything has to be carried so far away from the manufacturer.
Carnarvon was a different beast though, Carnarvon had tourist attractions. One was ‘Bumbuks’ which was a mango and banana plantation that sold ice creams- none of which our boys liked (fail) and a Space and Technology Museum.
Happily setting out the next morning to go towards Coral Bay, we stopped first at the museum, with minimal expectations.
We arrived to a HUGE satellite dish and a very warm welcome from its volunteer staff. We were instantly asked if we’d like to fly to the moon? All dressed up in orange jumpsuits and bundled into an Apollo simulator. We lay inside and watched the rocket burst through the atmosphere in flurry of flames, whilst the real footage played at the screen in front of us. It was so exciting.
We spent a good 2 hours there, and at $25 (15 quid) for a family ticket it was a bargain. There were rooms set up as the site used to be a tracking station from 1967-1986 and had a huge satellite dish that enabled contact with several space missions. Free tea and coffee too- I hadn’t been able to boil the kettle for weeks as the wind has been too strong so the tea was heaven!
Rammed with space and astronaut memorabilia, live feed from the ISS and a genuine space mission control desk, the boys spent hours pretending to man Mission Control. There were also a couple of ‘Space Invader’ consoles which Mike had to drag me away from… this, boys is what a REAL video game looks like. Watch Mummy Go! (actually I couldn’t get past the first level. Sad face.)
When we left, I had to stop myself from hugging the volunteers, I loved the place so much. We stepped out into the searing heat and bright white light and into the van. Air con and tunes on, it was time for the last leg of our journey north- to Coral Bay and Ningaloo reef.
Where we stayed:
Monkey Mia Dolphin resort- 25 GBP per night for a 4 bed dorm. Right by the sea in a resort with a pool and dolphins swimming about in the bay all day. We even got picked to feed one of them! Amazing.
Coral Coast Caravan Park, Carnarvon 25 GBP per night with pool. We got a free upgrade to a pitch with our own bathroom- bonus.