We watched dugongs frolic from a special catamaran, the Shotover, a 60 foot “nature boat” with no deck cabin so no obstructed views. Mostly solar and wind powered, the Shotover eliminated pollution and noise, two reasons why dugongs cavort so freely around it. Another advantage to this specialty cruise that Ruth & I thoroughly enjoyed was that the Shotover sailed alone in a “Restricted-Access, Dugong Management Zone” that only it could enter once each day. 5-compass!
The Shark Bay Dugongs have only one predator, the tiger shark, in an area containing almost 6,500 square feet of sea grass, 12 species of it. No wonder they act like they’re in dugong heaven. But then there are the unfortunate bottlenose dolphins.
In 1964 a woman named Alice Watts began feeding the local bottlenose dolphins and the practice, the main reason why so many flock to Monkey Mia Resort, continued. Between 7:30 am and 1 pm each day dolphins swam toward shore where literally hundreds of tourists lined the beach to ooh and aah. The Department of Conservation and Land Management carefully monitored these feedings ,and only a small number of visitors were selected to help pass out a little bream or mullet, a carefully controlled 5% of the dolphins’ daily diet.
These are tough mammals. About 1/3 of the calves already had shark bite scars. The feeders when Ruth and I witnessed the dolphin show were mostly excited youngsters standing in line while a naturalist critiqued their every move. She told the kids repeatedly to stand back now and not to touch the dolphins under any circumstances once they circled. I later read a Monkey Mia Reserve brochure and learned that touching makes these dolphins aggressive, and agitated ones can bite. They communicated via echolocation using clicks and whistles. Tail slapping, teeth baring, and loud popping noises were signs of stress. How was an excited child supposed to know the difference between a click and a pop? Feeders were told to leave the water if stress occurs. I also learned that pets were prohibited and didn’t want to know why.
As wary dolphins slowly approached, the atmosphere became even more circus-like, and I was both bored and repulsed. The public address system was so poor that I could hear nothing and so could not even justify staying to learn. I chose to go instead to Monkey Mia’s small marine museum, It didn’t improve on a second viewing. 1-compass.
But we saw a strange beach and some prehistoric living rocks before heading back to Geraldton.
But then there was