Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Day 2 – Monkey Mia

The helpful staff at Denham Tourist Information Centre had detailed to us what was required with going to see the dolphins at Monkey Mia when we had popped in there the previous day. So we took a quick breakfast and drove off in the early dawn towards Monkey Mia. After paying our park entry fee we parked our car and made our way towards the beach just after 7:30. We had been informed that a guaranteed feeding time occurred every day at 8:00 and after that two more feeding times at random times dependent on the different dolphins being in the feeding zone. As we made our way along the boardwalk to the beach we saw several boats moored to our right.A large catamaran was over to the left.Signs telling us to wait on the boardwalk were placed down on the beach but could be easily read. Even though it was still ten minutes to go there was a crowd of a few hundred people gathered along the boardwalk waiting for an invitation from the National Park staff to move down closer to the water. Dolphins were easily seen swimming and occasionally diving back into the water after surfacing.Just on 8:00 a National Park staff member came out and on reaching the water’s edge invited us, via speaker, to slowly make our way closer. She spoke for about twenty minutes detailing the dolphins’ life and habits, the history of feeding them here at the beach, how much they are fed (only about 10% of their daily requirements), how many families there were and how they can be identified and the research they did. All very interesting. After that three registered volunteers made their way to the water with buckets holding some small fish in them. They were spaced out along the beach. Each volunteer held a bucket with a dolphin’s name on it. I guess this is how they keep track of which dolphin has been fed.Over the next few minutes they each selected five people to give a dolphin a fish. As we were in behind a line of other people neither of us was picked but we could see most of what was happening. We did note that children seemed to have a better chance of being selected.It was also apparent that it wasn’t only the dolphins who knew it was feeding time with quite a number of pelicans hanging around hopefully.Once the fish allocation hand been fed the dolphins swam off and the crowd dispersed. From what we knew there would be two more feeding times. As to when, that was up to the dolphins and the National Park staff. They would be looking for different dolphins to feed. We made our way along the beach passing a few pelicans still living in hope of snaring a free fish. We found a seat and sat down for a rest as we had been standing in the one spot for quite a while. We could see a few boats on the move and some dolphins swimming around as we sat and chatted together. To our surprise an announcement came over the speaker system about 9:00 saying the second dolphin information and feeding session was about to start. It was only about half an hour since the last one had finished so we were pretty pleased. A different ranger came out and spoke but the information was pretty similar although she named different dolphins who were now swimming around waiting for a feed.This time the assembled crowd was quite a bit smaller and Karen had managed to find a position in the front row but when the volunteers picked people to help she was quite disappointed not to be selected. We chatted together at the end of the session and decided to wait around for the third session providing it wasn’t too long. We had a quick chat with one of the volunteers, who was near the Ranger’s office, while we waited. She explained that the third session could come quickly or could be quite late in the morning. Fortunately an announcement came over the speaker system soon after. A different ranger again came out to conduct the information session. We knew most of it but as the dolphins swam near her she did explain how they could identify the dolphins and which ones were hanging around. The good news was that the crowd was smaller again. When the volunteers started to select people to help one asked who would like to help. Karen was quick to call that she would. First a man fed a fish then Karen had her turn. The dolphin she fed was named Surprise.Having achieved her desire Karen was happy to head over to the nearby resort cafe for a second breakfast to celebrate. As we came away from the resort we noticed a couple of signboards with details of the family trees of the dolphins. Surprise was mother to quite a tribe (or should I say pod) we noticed.Back in our car we drove back along the coast as we made our way back to our caravan for lunch and a relaxing afternoon.

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