Salt water meets sand of red centre

Emillie Foster is one of our two The West Australian Young Travel Writers for 2018.

She headed north on assignment to Shark Bay and Dirk Hartog Island with Australia’s Coral Coast tourism, and this is her story... 

My ears fill with hushed tones as hundreds of welcome swallows sing us the songs of the ocean. Their name appears fitting as they greet us on our sunset cruise with Perfect Nature Cruises.

With me on assignment is my fellow Young Travel Writer competition winner, Tallulah Davison. We are exploring Shark Bay with Grace Millimaci, a travel journalist for The West Australian, and Renee Pearce, a representative of Australia’s Coral Coast.

Looking down towards the ocean, the sun’s ray’s contour golden flecks over the iridescent sea. The bird’s wings beat ceaselessly as they simultaneously wave goodbye to the day and hello to their new visitors. 

The horizon blushes a combination of rose on blue as the sun fights for its final moments of recognition.

It’s our first night staying at the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, aptly named, as we will later discover the friendly marine wildlife along the pristine foreshore.

The following day, as dawn arrives, so do we, at Dirk Hartog Island. We travel with Shark Bay Aviation on a small six-seater plane. 

I look around to share a smile with Tallulah as we begin to realise the immense beauty and individuality of the area. It’s unparalleled by anything I have ever witnessed.

The matrix of salt mountains known as Useless Loop is framed in rectangle-like shapes by varying hues of blue and white. 

The horizon appears to expand infinitely. Red sand speckled with green shrubbery grows closer as we make our descent.

Upon landing, we are greeted by Kieran and Tory Wardle, the operators of Dirk Hartog Island Eco Lodge. 

During our four-wheel-drive adventure, Kieran explains Return to 1616, the ecological restoration project that is currently underway and which aligns with his own visions for this World Heritage area.

We are astonished by the variety of wildlife in the region. 

Loggerhead turtles play in the waves near Natural Bridge, which frames the meeting of teal waters and pale blue sky. Lemon sharks, white-breasted sea eagles and stingrays are a sample of the species we encounter.

On arrival at Cape Inscription, we find ourselves eating Anzac biscuits while looking over at the turquoise waters where Dirk Hartog and his crew first landed in 1616. Generations of Australian history, experienced under my feet, held in my hands and seen through my eyes. It’s a surreal feeling. 

Flying back to the mainland, we witness another of Shark Bay’s spectacular sunsets. The sun displays bright auburn colours, reflected only by fire. And when it meets the water, the orange tones are ablaze, setting the clouds that surround them alight. Oranges, yellows and pinks, the final burning embers of a perfect day.

We meet with Darren “Capes” Capewell, from Wula Gura Nyinda Eco Cultural Adventures, on our last morning. Capes teaches us some of the traditional practices of the Malgana people, highlighting ideas of education, understanding and respect.

Reaching down, I cup a small handful of sand and release it into the lagoon to pay respect to the water energy. I suddenly feel an overwhelming sense of unity with the land and sea. I am not just standing on the sand, I am standing with it. “Gutharraguda,” Capes tells us, “is the indigenous term for the region, meaning ‘two bays’. It is believed that the red sand brings desert energy from Uluru, and when combined with the saltwater energy, creates a biodiversity hotspot.”

Kayaking through the water gives a unique view of the area. What we had witnessed the day before from a bird’s-eye view, we now see from an alternate perspective, each detail and intricacy visible, above and all around us.

While most people see Shark Bay for what it is, Capes sees it for what it was and what it can be. And as my eyes and spirit fill up, Capes perfectly describes the message of his tours. “Our aim,” he says, “is to introduce people to a different side to Shark Bay. Country is about feeling rather than seeing. We want you to take something away when you go.” Capes points to his heart and a moment of silent understanding is shared by all.

Shark Bay is a place you will never want to leave nor forget; a kaleidoscope of Western Australian history, culture and scenery.

It's a breathtaking World Heritage area - and it's right here in Western Australia. Duration: 05m 48s

Fact File

Natural wonders no dream on Coral Coast

Shark Bay opens your eyes and fills your soul


Emillie Foster, Tallulah Davison and Grace Millimaci were guests of Australia’s Coral Coast tourism. They did not review or approve these stories.


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