20130814_RCH_0872 20130814_RCH_0878 20130814_RCH_0887 20130814_RCH_0891 20130814_RCH_0898 20130814_RCH_0886By divine intervention, I woke up just before the sun started to paint the sky. So, I grabbed my camera and headed to the waterfront to see what came of it. I haven’t had the pleasure of being awake for many sunrises (and photographed even fewer), but I’m starting to learn that sometimes a little cloud makes for a good show and this morning was a perfect example. I wasn’t alone either, there were a few dolphins doing their thing, and a couple of pelicans that enjoyed posing (oh, and a dozen or so other photographers – will supress iPad photography rage. Don’t get me started on the lady taking photos/video using the webcam on her damn laptop, I hope she was sending a live stream to a disabled friend or some other noble excuse…). In through the nose, out through the mouth…

20130814_RCH_0903 20130814_RCH_090420130814_RCH_0909 20130814_RCH_0911 20130814_RCH_0913Monkey Mia is famous for the daily dolphin feedings. The whole process is quite interesting and somewhat drawn out. From about 7:30 people start gathering (about 100 people this morning, which is less than the 720 that were there for Easter Sunday…). A ranger gives a talk for about 30 minutes, and during that time he got us to stand ankle deep in the water. While this was happening, dolphins kept coming and going, equally interested in what we were doing. When they were ready to feed the dolphins, we all had to walk out of the water, which the dolphins have learnt that it signals feeding time. There are five dolphins (all female) that allow themselves to be handfed fish. For each of these dolphins (if they are spotted), the rangers prepare a bucket with three fish (500g). They only feed each dolphin a maximum of 1.5kg (three feedings per morning) to reduce the dependence on human feeding (they supposedly require 10-12kg of fish per day!). The rangers/volunteers (you can apply to be a volunteer here) chose people at random from the spread-out line of eager pundits to lay a dead fish down on top of the water for a dolphin to eat. Only three of the dolphins came in for a feed this morning, which meant that only 9 people got to take part. And, as cute as Risa tried to look, she wasn’t one of them.

20130814_RCH_0924 20130814_RCH_0938After the circus had finished, and the crowds had returned to their tour buses, we walked back down the beach towards the caravan park. One of the dolphins (and her calf) was swimming alongside us. We actually had closer interaction during this period than we did during the official frenzy. They were playful and very inquisitive (popping one eye out of the water to see what we were doing). The mumma (Nicky – named for the nick out of the top of her dorsal fin) was doing some fishing and had a decent sized fish cornered and hiding under a rope close to shore. In the end the fish got away, and the dolphins lost interest in us fleshy pink things and took off to feed.

20130814_RCH_0940While Risa was distracted (I thought at one stage she was going to jump in with the dolphins), I caught up with a super traveller that we first met on the whale shark tour in Exmouth. He (Radioman – radiomanridestheworld.com) has been travelling the world on his BMW and is coming to the end of his OZ trip (South Africa in September). Jealous of his adventures, but I know that I still have plenty of time left to do that, too. He also put the idea of travelling to Australia’s most westerly point, Steep Point, back in to my head. I dismissed it originally as it was about a 300km return trip across sand/dirt just to say we’d been there. It’s also a private road, so you have to pay to access it. I don’t really care about the ‘four points’, but knowing that it was so close made it hard for me to resist.

20130814_RCH_0956 20130814_RCH_0979 20130814_RCH_0980 20130814_RCH_0982 20130814_RCH_0983After we’d showered, had breakfast and packed up ready to depart, we went for another quick walk along the beach. By pure luck they were just starting the third (and final) feeding of the day. This time the crowds had shrunk dramatically (20-30 people) and the numbers of dolphins had swelled. We counted over 10 in the water. Not all of these dolphins submit to human feeding, but even so, all five of the regulars were there. This time Risa got lucky and was selected to feed one of the dolphins (the same dolphin as earlier, Nicky – they are distinguishable by the marks/scars/shape of their dorsal fin). She was quite happy at the interaction, judging by the enormous smile.

20130814_RCH_0978While the dolphin feeding was going on, a rogue pelican, aptly named Rogue, was trying to sneak the fish bound for the dolphins. They tried to lure him away with bait/fish, but he wasn’t playing their game. It was on the verge of being a slapstick routine, with the ranger trying to coax the pelican to leave, and the pelican running (yes, running) around out of control between the bait and the fish in the buckets. They are such ungainly birds, but when they’re swinging that enormous beak around, and snapping at anything near them, they’re also quite scary.

20130814_RCH_0994 20130814_RCH_0996And that was almost the end of our Monkey Mia visit – all the boxes were ticked. Risa tried her luck swimming with dolphins, but by the time we’d walked to the swimming zone, they’d all left, so she didn’t bother. She did find a heap of edible clams on the beach. We collected 20 or so for her dinner (I don’t trust food I find on the beach). We also found a dead crab, but thought it was probably like eating roadkill, so left it for the scavengers.

20130814_RCH_0997The weather was much, much better than yesterday (though still cloudy). Just outside of Denham is this beautiful lagoon, imaginatively called, ‘Little Lagoon’ (Big Lagoon is further up the François Péron N.P.). It looked beautiful from the hill, and I bet it would be amazing from the air.

20130814_RCH_1005 20130814_RCH_1007 20130814_RCH_1010 20130814_RCH_1012We missed the Hamelin Pools on the way into Shark Bay (we were trying to beat darkness), so we popped in on our way out. There are a few attractions there, including W.A’s only remaining telegraph repeater station and a coquina (calcified sea shell) quarry, but it was the stromatolite that we were there to see. They are said to be the original life form on earth (well, the cyanobacteria that forms them – more on that soon) and one of the major contributors to the oxygen that helped to terraform Earth. The stromatolite is a mixture of calcium carbonate that sticks to the blue-green algae that grows in the super saline pools. Over time layers and layers build up to form a lump/surface (1cm takes 30 years). I’ve said it many times before, but there is so much for a geology nerd to geek out on. The area is quite fragile, and protected with a raised walkway – you could still see the damage that carts dragging wool to boats did back in the 1950s.

And that was basically the end of a long and busy day. It was just a two-hour drive to our rest stop for the evening.

20130814_RCH_1017 20130814_RCH_1019Dinner: Risa cooked up those clams (after trying to get them to spit out all the sand that was inside them) with a little Japanese cooking wine. It made for a tasty soup, much to my surprise. Some Chinese vegetables in oyster sauce to help make our instant noodle dinner a little more balanced (not sure where M.S.G is on the food pyramid).

8月14日(水)93日目  イルカーー!!!!!!



この辺りに生息するボトルノウズイルカちゃんは、大食漢で1頭のイルカちゃんにつき、1日に必要な魚の量はなんと10kg!! だそうです。

1回に与えられる魚の量も1頭につき小さな魚3匹づつと限られています。これは、必要量全てを与えてしまうと自分たちで狩りをしなくなり、子育ても放棄してしまうからだそうです。 実際に90年代の初めまでは、観光客の為にいつでも餌付けをし、触ってもよしなどなどかなり自然とは反することをしていたせいで、イルカは野性味をなくし、凶暴化もし、病気になるなど色々問題があったそうですが、この厳しいルールを定めてからは、イルカちゃんも健康に、自然に戻ったようです。

この餌付けは朝7:30ごろから行われます。 昨日は、早起きするのに、寝坊しない様に夜中何回もめが覚めてしまった!(興奮し過ぎ笑)

餌付けの時間は、イルカちゃんが気が向いた時なので、決まった時間はありませんが、 毎日の記録を見ると、だいたい1回目は8時前、2回目は、9時頃、最後は10時前後のようです。

私たちは、朝7時半ごろにビーチに向かいました。まだまだ人は多くはないですが既に5−10人ほどは集まっていました。 イルカちゃんもすでに辺りをそわそわと待っているかのように、数グループが少しずつ近づいてきているのが見えます! わーーい!!


なのに、レンジャーさんはインフォメーションセンターの方でお話を開始。 私たちは一番遠い場所になっちゃってる! がーーん。うそつき、、、
最初に現れたのは、ニッキーと呼ばれるお母さん(現在38歳なので40歳寿命のイルカちゃんにしては、おばあちゃんに近くない?) とその赤ちゃん。 (歳の子ちゃんですね♡)
赤ちゃんは生後まだ7ヶ月ほどで、まだお母さんのミルクを必要とする年齢。 親からはなれるのは、3歳を過ぎてからだそうです。



2頭のみなので、餌付けさせてもらえる人は、6人のみ。 残念ながら1回目は、選んでもらえませんでした。 悲しい、、、しかもイルカちゃん達は、常にレンジャーさんの辺りにいるので、私たちの場所からはあんまり見えなかった。。 早起きしたのにーー。

と残念な1回目の餌付け終了。   かなりがっかりで、へこんだ私。

しかーーし。 餌付け終了後、イルカちゃん達、自分たちで獲物の魚を見つけたらしく浅瀬をびゅーーーんと追いかける追いかける。


イルカは、鳥のように正面がよく見えないので、ものを見ようとするときは体を横にしたり、仰向けになったりします。これは餌付けの際に、おじさんが言ってたので、実際に見られて興奮。 ほんとうに体を横に傾けてる〜。 しかもイルカちゃん達の距離1m以内!!!!  かんどーーーう!!

魚は、ロープの下に隠れています。イルカちゃん達はそれが見えているけど、浅瀬すぎてアタックできない様子。 なので、ロープをゆらして魚を脅かせてもうすこし深い場所におびき寄せようとするも、魚ちゃんもなかなか頭がよろしくそれを知っているので、ひたすらじーーーと動かない。



ロープを揺らしたり、水をばしゃばしゃしてみたり、それが30分ほどつづいて、結局イルカちゃん達は、あきらめたのか、他の獲物をみつけたのか、退散。 今日は魚ちゃん命逃れをしました!!



車に戻り、朝食、シャワーを済ませ2回目の餌付けをのんびりビーチで待とうとしたら、着いたとたんに始まりました。 人もさっきは80−100人程いたけど、今回のは、30−40人ほどのみ! やったー!!


一番多いときで、なんと8頭程が周囲を泳ぎ回り、ジャンプしたり、お互いにのっかってじゃれたり、友達と仰向けになって泳いで遊んでいたり、口を開けて催促しているやつもいるぞ。 それぞれ個性的で、とっても仲がよく楽しそうにしています。




ベテランレンジャーのおばさんが、魚でつってビーチに連れてこうとするも、それにはつられず、自分の羽を噛んでみたり、観客をおちょくたり、奇行を繰り返し、15分程餌付けタイムはストップ。 まったくお騒がせなトラブルメーカーですが、かなりクレイジーなやつでおもしろかった笑




どきどきしちゃったよ〜  ジャニーズとかもう興味ないけど、アイドルと握手するみたいなドキドキだね!




イルカちゃん達は、いつも私の大好きな動物だったけど、もっともっと好きになっちゃいました。 あぁもう最高だぁーー!!!!


ここは、遠浅で白い砂。 船が浮いているようにみえるほどとってもキレイ。

その後は、Little Lagoonという湖のようなラグーンに行き、(ここは、海の青のコントラストが最高にキレイでした。)

その後は、古いテレグラムの跡地、(WA州で残っているのは、ここのみ)と、そのすぐ側の採石場。  この石は、昨日行ったShell Beachと同じ、と貝がつもったビーチが雨などで、固まり、コンクリートのように堅くなったものを採石し、町の教会や、レストラン、その他の建物の建設に使われていたそうです。 いまは、なんか古代の遺跡の跡地みたいになっていて、なかなか印象深い場所でした。

そこからビーチに向けてあるくと、Stromatolite と呼ばれる太古の微生物が岩の様になった不思議な場所があります。

このStromatoliteとは、なんと地球上の最初の生物! これらのお陰で、海に酸素が生まれ20%まで酸素が地球上に増え、他の生物が進化したという、私たちの祖先と言ってもよいとっても大切な生物だそうです。


その後は、ひたすらドライブドライブ。 今日も道端に沢山の野生のお花、ヤギ、動物の骨、骨、骨を見つけました。

途中給油に停まった場所には、インコや、ミッチェルトンコッカトゥー、オカメインコなどなどと、なぜか普通のハト1匹も混じってたり色んなとりぴーが飼われていました。  やっぱイルカもかわいいけど、とりぴーも癒されるねぇ。


はまぐりって海に入って、砂に足でぐりぐりって穴を掘って一生懸命見つけるものじゃなかったけ? なのに、ビーチで1っこ落ちているの見つけて、探してみたらいっぱい落ちてたの!!




西オーストラリア最高♡  今日はイルカちゃんの夢をみるぞー。