Highlights of Shark Bay
Introduction to Shark Bay
Shark Bay is in Western Australia, at the most western point of the continent of Australia. The bay includes two spectacular peninsulas that run along the mainland, and is backed by a fertile marine park.
The bay’s three outstanding natural features are its immense sea-beds, its population of dugong (sea-cow) and its stromatolites. There are also five species of endangered mammals and large populations of dolphins; turtles; sharks, and rays. Whales use the bay during their migration.
Shark Bay was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991.
Shark Bay Gallery
Guide to Shark Bay
Shark Bay is located at the point to the most west of Australia. Its three stand-out natural features are the immense sea-beds, the population of dugong and the stromatolites. The bay has beautiful coastal and island scenery.
The large shallow bay is approximately 13,000 square kilometres in area with an average depth of nine metres, and is enclosed by numerous islands. Shark Bay’s immense sea-grass beds are about 4, 800 square kilometres and are the biggest and most rich in species in the world.
The bay has wonderful marine fauna. It has a population of over 11 000 dugong, one of the biggest in the world. Southern right whales and humpback whales use the bay during their migration; bottlenose dolphins are found in the bay; green turtles and loggerhead turtles make their nests on the beaches. Large numbers of sharks, including bay whaler, tiger shark and hammerhead, are seen in the bay. There is also a large population of manta rays and other rays.
The Shark Bay region is an important zoological area, mainly as its peninsulas and islands are isolated from ecological disturbance. Five twenty-six species of endangered Australian mammals are found in the bay – the rufous hare-wallaby, banded hare-wallaby, the Shark Bay mouse, the western barred bandicoot and the boodie. The region also has over 230 bird species.
The main town in Denham is Shark Bay. Denham is also Australia’s most westerly town. The town has a lovely beachfront and clear blue water, and is a good base from which to visit the marine park, Monkey Mia, and the national park. Denham was originally a pearling town, and some shell-brick buildings are still standing. There are a few accommodation and restaurant options in Denham.
Visitors to Shark Bay can take indigenous cultural tours to learn about the land from the indigenous people’s perspective. Local aboriginal guides lead bushwalks that also incorporate the local aboriginal language, native medicine, and bush tucker.
Twenty-six kilometres from Denham, the beach of Monkey Mia is world-famous for the wild dolphins that arrive in the shallow water to be fed every day. At Monkey Mia there are also heritage walks, camel trips, sailing and diving.
Video of Shark Bay
History of Shark Bay
Aboriginal people inhabited Shark Bay from at least 22,000 years BP, when most of the area was dry land. The bay was flooded by rising sea levels between 8000 BP and 6000 BP.
The Malgana, Nhanda and Inggarda peoples inhabited the Shark Bay area and utilised both the sea and the bush in their survival. Many aboriginal sites have been found in the area, providing evidence of some of the foods that the aboriginal peoples used from the waters and land.
Shark Bay is the location of the first reported European landing on Australia, by explorer Dirk Hartog in 1616. This means the local aboriginal peoples were very likely the first indigenous Australians to meet Europeans. Shark Bay was named by the English sailor William in the late 1600s.
For nearly 3,000 million years microbes were the only thing populating Earth. The only evidence of the microbes’ activities is preserved in stromatolites. Stromatolites are hard, dome-shaped deposits formed from algae colonies. They preserve evidence of the microbes and their growth environments. The stromatolites at Shark Bay are akin to those that inhabited the oceans in ancient times. They help in the comprehension of the nature and evolution of the biosphere of Earth.
Getting to Shark Bay
Most international airlines have direct flights to Perth, Australia. If not, it may be necessary to connect from Melbourne or Sydney, Australia.
Denham is approximately 800 kilometres from Perth, and may be accessed by bus or car. Alternatively, a regional airline flies into Monkey Mia airport from Perth several times weekly.
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