‘Peter, do exactly what I say! Look at me and do not panic. I want you to stand up and walk towards me nice and steadily. Whatever you do, don’t panic, there is a snake just behind your heel’. With that I quietly got up from my seat at the bar at Monkey Mia Resort in Northern Western Australia and walked towards my wife all whilst trying not to wet my pants. It was a glorious afternoon in Monkey Mia, the crystal blue waters of the world heritage listed Shark Bay were lapping the bay and the local bar was dotted with travellers from all over the world downing a nice cold one.
I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word snake I run as fast I can, screaming like a 4 year old girl who didn’t get an ice cream from the Mr. Whippy van. So it boggles me that when the world snake was shouted out in the bar, instead of the crowd erupting into panic, everyone got their cameras out and tried to take a photo with it. You’ve got to love European and Japanese tourists. I also loved the great Aussie character, who pops up every bar, skulls a XXXX and then shouts out “that one’s a really deadly one” before doing a Steve Irwin and shooing it off back towards the camp site (Not sure if you can actually shoo a snake).
Niki and I were in Monkey Mia stopping over for two days on the way to Carnarvon for a spot of fishing with my grandfather. Monkey Mia is arguably Western Australia’s most visited tourist destination and this is due to the iconic dolphins that come in to feed at the beach. Some decades ago when Monkey Mia was just a hideaway for locals and long before mass tourism came along, families would feed the local pod of dolphins as they camped in the area. The dolphins realising the benefits of the food free for all, hung around and before long things started to get a little carried away. Today Monkey Mia is regulated by the Department of Conservation and Environment and there are strict laws in place to protect the dolphins. Feeding is still allowed however only a hand full of people will be chosen by volunteers each morning and there is not guarantee dolphins will come in. Incidentally, they only feed the female dolphins as the males can get too aggressive. Niki was lucky enough to be selected and she was cooing with the best of them.
So here are a few tips to be selected to feed the dolphins. First of all, forget about it in the first session at 7.45am. This is when all the tour groups are there and you will be fighting the crowds. Come back for the second feeding a little later in the morning. Some mornings there is also a third feeding. Don’t stand next to children; you have no chance ending that match made in heaven. Niki was chosen as she stood right at the end of the line and some of the dolphins often timidly sit to the side of the main cluster of people. Also people aren’t aloud to feed the dolphins twice. So try to remember who fed in the first session and stand next to them in the second session. Finally, work out who the feeding volunteers are as they are usually staying on site (backpackers) and buy them a drink.
Monkey Mia isn’t just about the dolphins, there also plenty of activities such as snorkelling, swimming and hiking as well as the chance to get involved in some local indigenous tourism. There was plenty of native animals for the wildlife lovers with emus, kangaroos, dolphins, dugongs and various reptiles witnessed. Monkey Mia is about a ten hour drive north of Perth or a quick flight if you’re stuck for time. It’s one of my favourite ecotourism destinations in Western Australia and you’ll understand why when you make the drive through Shark Bay. Oh by the way, please don’t chase the dolphins like some of the gaffers we saw in spite of yells and protests from everyone around, they are more likely to swim up to you if you’re quiet and relaxed.