‘Shark! Everyone out of the water!!’ he yelled, and I involuntarily jumped back from the guardrail high above Eagle Bluff, my movement triggered by that most primeval of Australian fears: Shark Attack!!
The amphitheatre of crumbling white rock plunging down into the green shallows of the bay below from the tourist brochure HAD to be trick photography, I’d thought upon seeing a photo of Eagle Bluff in Shark Bay. The sea around Denham, closest town 20km up the road from the bluff, was blue. And the distant dunes and cliffs were red!
But the view from the boardwalk was exactly like the pictures – except for the shark, cruising lazily across the glinting green waters of the gigantic lagoon below the bluff. The young man hadn’t been joking about that – but the chances of losing a limb to THIS shark were negligible. The boardwalk upon which we stood was WAAAAAY too far above sea level for anything but a non-existent wingless shark to negotiate.
The young traveller who’d sounded the alarm was grinning like an idiot at the consternation he’d created. At least I wasn’t the only one torn between two bluffs, looking like a fool.
Although I’m not so much of a fool as to take the snorkelling tour into those shark-infested waters …
It doesn’t require a great leap of imagination to figure out why the Shark Bay World Heritage area is known as Shark Bay!
Although the heritage listed graffiti carved on a rock that announced the 1858 arrival of Captain Henry M Denham, namesake for Shark Bay’s largest town, is no longer above Eagle Bluff. Threatened by erosion, it’s part of Pioneer Park in the Denham township.
The view goes further than the shallow green waters below the bluff. Past the line where the green gives way to the darker blue and deeper ocean, birds nest on the offshore Eagle Islands, once mined for guano. Also visible on a clear day are the mountains of salt awaiting export from Useless Loop, its name derived from Havre Inutile (Useless Harbour), the original name bestowed by French explorer de Freycinet.
Beyond Useless Loop, it’d be a lie to say I could see Steep Point – westernmost edge of mainland Australia – through the heat and salt haze. But it’s out there somewhere! And this is as close as I got – this time, anyway!
From the boardwalk running the length of Eagle Bluff, sea creatures like dugongs, rays, turtles and sharks are clearly visible in the waters far below, should they deign to appear. And appear they all did on two separate visits – although we actually spent more time observing the deeply fascinating human behaviours of visitors to this startlingly scenic spot.
Perhaps keeping up with social media IS more important than taking in the astonishing coastal panorama and nearly endless parade of wildlife swimming below. But if that’s the case, why bother coming?
And I didn’t think my Australian accent was so incomprehensible that ‘dugong’ could be mistaken for ‘shark’! But somewhere back in England, a young tourist is probably right now showing off his ‘shark’ photos, his audience none the wiser about the true identity of the dugong shaped blob in the water …
We’ll never understand why we were the only ones to take the rough, but clearly marked track from the car park to a vantage point with magnificent views up and down the coastline. Or why reading interpretive signs has become a lost art. And is getting a photo really worth stepping off the boardwalk onto the eroded and crumbling cliff edge, risking a plunge to the green, shark-laden depths below?
I see a stint as the tour guide from hell in my future … and although the Shark Attack Alert bluff at Eagle Bluff threw me for a (Useless) Loop, that won’t stop me from paying it forward next time I’m in Denham!!
Want more information?
- Shark Bay Attractions
- Shark Bay World Heritage Area
- Denham, Western Australia
- Useless Loop
- Steep Point (Mainland Australia’s westernmost point)