According to Mr Ed Fenny, marine biologist and charismatic captain of Shark Bay Dive and Marine Safaris, it is common on scuba dives to see dolphins, turtles, tiger and lemon sharks, dugongs and rays too.
As we make our way by boat to the Zuytdorp Cliffs on the outer edge of the bay, he narrates the biology, geography and history of the region from the 17th-century arrival of the Dutch to the present day.
Named after the Dutch ship that wrecked near here in the early 1700s, the cliffs culminate at Steep Point, the most westerly point of mainland Australia, and from the water, the cliff face looks like the profile of a Dutchman screaming out into the waves.
Steep Point is famous for land-based sport and game fishing, and we see half a dozen fishermen on the rocks with lines flung out into the deep, hoping to catch trevally, Spanish mackerel and sailfish.
Back on the Peron Peninsula, we meet Mr Harvey Raven, owner of Monkey Mia Wildsights for a four-wheel-drive tour of Francois Peron National Park.
As we drive past ashy, barren-looking depressions along the road, he explains that while they look dead now, they are actually gypsum lakes, locally known as birridas. When water collects during high tides or after heavy rains, they become a hive of invertebrate and bird life.
“There’s nothing spectacular-looking about this part of the country… until you get to the coastline. Then it’s really spectacular,” he says of the burnt orange dunes and rust-coloured cliffs which pop against the white sand and turquoise sea.
Shark Bay is at the cusp and confluence of different environments – where the outback meets the coast, eucalyptus meets acacia, tropical fish meet temperate.
The wildflower season in September and October is also sensational, he says, with over 700 species of flowering plants. “It’s like the countryside has been painted in swathes of purple, yellow and white.”
We spend the afternoon walking along the cliffs, beaches and sand dunes of the park. I cannot stop gazing at the wild beauty around me. The colours are so vivid, they are visceral.
The beauty continues when we arrive at Dirk Hartog Island and walk from the water to the Eco Lodge just 30m from the beach. Fuchsia bougainvillea crown the tin roof of the former sheep shearer’s quarters, which was converted into six ensuite rooms when the island transitioned from a sheep station to an Eco Lodge in the early 1990s.
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