Western Australia’s South West region is one of the country’s most beautiful destinations. It’s not only home of the renown wine-region of Margaret River, it also counts numerous natural wonders within the confines of Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park and the Ngari Capes Marine Park. The latter has only been established in 2012, and this relatively new addition to WA’s protected marine environments harbours many intertidal and subtidal reef habitats with an array of marine plants and animals. In winter this region is the scene of the annual migration of Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), while Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) are regular visitors in November. Although our visit didn’t coincide with this spectacle, we had a thrilling encounter with another giant of Ngari: the Smooth stingray (Dasyatis brevicaudata)- the biggest ray on earth!
Nestled along a rugged coastline shaped by big swells and strong winds, Hamelin Bay is a quiet and protected pocket out of which timber from the nearby Karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) forests was exported to India, England and South Africa in the 19th century. The logging days and the jetty are long gone; nowadays tourists enjoy the calm blue waters for a swim and some good salmon fishing. When fishermen in the 1950’s cleaned their catch and discarded the guts in the water, stingrays started coming in close to shore to scrounge for a meal. This behavior has continued with some rays almost beaching themselves when they detect movements in the water with their ampullae, the electrical sensors located around their mouth. And this is why they seek you out when wading through the shoreline – can you imagine the excitement when one of those gentle giants swims over your feet?