Checking out of the YHA at Margaret River early on a Monday morning, we headed straight for the beach! Nearest to Margaret River is Pervelly, a beach bum surf village (because to call it a town would be grossly over-embellishing it) which was a tranquil bay with waves that were just nice to learn with... I think... I've never surfed, so what would I know? It was great to just take in the view and believe me, it was a very lovely view indeed.
But we had no time to waste, we had a boat to catch. So off we went to Dunsborough, where we arrived at early enough for a leisurely breakfast. It's a nice town with a kind of rich-folk-vacation-cum-retirement-home town to it. For a small town, it wasn't exactly cheap, as I mistakenly expected. Breakfast was lovely nonetheless, if you like a combination of beans and chorizos to start your day with a bang.
Ok, now for the one thing that we had come all the way to see - WHALES. Dunsborough has licensed only one operator for whale-watching tours, which I think is commendable because the Aussies really do respect nature and is fervent about keeping it natural. Hence, the controlled number of excursions will ensure minimal encroachment on wildlife habitat. Very commendable.
All safely on board a 17 metre catamaran, the Cetacean Explorer, we set off into the wide expanse of Geographe Bay and within five minutes of casting off, we are greeted by a pod of dolphins in the midst of hunting breakfast right beneath the boat! There must have easily been about 10 of them, unfazed by our presence and systematically crisscrossing the shallow water to herd smaller schools of fish for their feed. It was a truly amazing sight to see so many of them streaking full-speed right below where we stood. Oh, and here's a tip: wear polarized sunglasses, they will help you see things in things in the water a great deal better, especially on bright days.
After our first marine mammal encounter, it was then time to sight our second mammal - the southern humpback whale. I think these magnificent creatures creatures came to Geographe Bay for a summer holiday (like Germans to Cherating in the month of August) because they were everywhere! A mother with her calf, a "bunch of young boys" doing what boys do best; showing off by frolicking in the water, giving flipper high-fives and doing the backstroke. Unfortunately, the boat's hydrophone was on the blink, else we would definitely have heard some whale song.
After an amazing two hours of encountering two of the largest mammals in the sea on a clear, blue, sunny day (no less!), we were now off to Bunbury, stopping over at Busselton for a look-see. Busselton is home to one of the longest jetties in the world. At 2km in length, that is a very long walk. The length is due to the shallow depth of Geographe Bay and it had to built a long way out back in the day, so that larger boats could disembark cargo and passengers. There is also an underwater observatory at the end of the jetty, which was unfortunately closed for refurbishment at the time.
Bunbury. Another town that I would describe in exactly the same words I did with Dunsborough. But it is a much larger town though and it was here that we found a little time to do some shopping. Oh and of course, I should say that we checked into Ocean Drive Motel to find ourselves in the best room on the property! It had a huge, low window which perfectly framed a view of the sun setting on the horizon of the great Indian Ocean.
Short of anything exciting to do in a small town, we decided on a movie; Social Network. It was a nice little movie to watch but at A$18 per ticket (on a Monday night!! really??!), let's just say you could comfortably watch this on your own tv, in your own living room back in good old KL after a visit to your local "DVD shop". To be fair, the movie is a must-watch, tho I won't give any of the storyline away. It is riveting. and Justin Timberlake is so hate-able.
We woke up to grey and drizzle the next morning. Looks like the sunshine wouldn't hold out another day for us. But that didn't stop us from heading out to the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre. It is another Australian wonder of the idealistic marriage between wildlife tourism and preservation; the dolphins are wild and everything is done to preserve it that way. And I mean not in idle chatter. They actually do make sure that the dolphins are kept wild and do not spoil them by baiting them with free food. They are given little rewards of no more than 300 grams of fish a day per dolphin and never a species that is alien to Koombana Bay, where they live.
The dolphins come and go as they please, so visitors to the centre have to wait for the dolphins to come in. On that grey morning, we were graced by the presence of Levy, a 16-year old (est.) mother. The staff (mostly volunteer, some of them elderly and retired) identify the dolphins from their dorsal fins and it is amazing that they can rattle on about each individual dolphin like they were telling you about a close relative. Lingering on the beach brought a reward - Levy came back again to visit after a while. It was rainy and the water was murky, which isn't the norm in Koombana Bay, so the dolphin was understandably wary of coming too close but she was close enough. But then, how often do you get to come so close to a dolphin in the wild anyway?
And that was all the mammal encounters that we had. It was time to go. But we had one more winery to visit on the way back to Perth; Vineyard 28 (so named after the noisy parrot found mostly in Western Australia), one of the last ones you will come across from the south before you reach Perth. It's a bit of a trek of 2km on dirt road to get to the cellar door but it is a lovely property and you'll be greeted by the handsomest, friendliest brown mutt south of Perth.
By now the drizzle is easing, making the Highway #2 drive at 100/60/90/50/70/80/10 km/h ever more painful. But I was oblivious. It was Sone's turn to drive while I took a nap. And she hated it.