My Wilderness Cruise Experience at Cape Naturaliste
I spot the line of passengers at the Dunsborough Boat Ramp and realise I have found ‘my people’, Cameras, binoculars and sunscreen are our weapons of choice as we board the ‘Exhilarator’ for today’s adventure cruise at sea. Our captain, Peter, sun-bleached hair streaming out from under his Jet Adventures cap, beams as he starts the engines and eases us back off the jetty.
As I peer over the side an eagle ray passes under the boat, off to grab some scraps from the young boys fishing for salmon at the end of the jetty no doubt. I have my mental check list ready; sting rays, fish, seabirds, dolphins, seals, sharks. I can’t wait to see them all on today’s cruise.
Safety demonstration over we purr out to sea, the jet engines surprisingly quiet and the boat sits high and stable over the small swells. A few Pacific gulls bob around waiting for the next school of fish to come through.
Geographe Bay is home to a variety of fish. The pelagics are the surface swimmers such as Australian salmon, yellowtail tuna and mackerel. The demersals are prime eating fish, like the bald-chin grouper, pink snapper and dhufish. They generally swim in the deeper waters further out in the bay. We spot a few tinnies and larger vessels out around us, no doubt there’ll be a few good hauls today.
Birdwatchers get a real treat on a jet adventures wilderness cruise
We pass Gannet Rock on our port side. The diving gannets are social birds, hanging out together in groups of 20 to 50 clustered on this one rock. It’s amazing to watch them dive down and pop up about 100 meters away and sometimes a whole minute later; they seem very penguin like. Speaking of penguins, we are told that some surfers had a visit from Fairy Penguins at a surf break in Margaret River just yesterday. Maybe we will get lucky on today’s cruise, they are quite rare!
As we continue around past the stunning Castle Rock, Pete reminds us to look out for sea eagles and osprey that hunt along these coastlines. They can power dive at speeds of over 75 km per hour to snap fish out of the water. I guess that’s why this next long stretch of heaven is called Eagle Bay.
The aqua water is so clear we can easily see several meters under the boat as we cruise past shallow reefs, sandy bottoms and grassy shallows. This stunning coastline is home to the western rock lobster, abalone and the blue swimmer crab. It must have been like a restaurant to the Aboriginal people who inhabited the area. Pete tells us that there is evidence of Aboriginals once occupying some of the sea caves at Cape Naturaliste, which is where we are heading next.
First though were delayed by a pod of Tursiops truncatus – you guessed it – the common bottlenose dolphin. There are just 6 in the pod today, but these acrobats can travel in schools of hundreds. They race under the boat, popping up at the bow to give us a good look. Such beautiful creatures! Pete says their numbers grow over the summer and it’s not uncommon to see them surfing the swells at Bunker Bay and further around in Yallingup.
Cape Naturaliste and beyond
The light swell has eased off now as we find the protected waters of the Cape. We spot a few hikers on their way to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse being watched by a few kangaroos. As we head toward the Cape, the rocky headland begins to tower over us. We turn into a small bay where we are awed by amazing limestone caves, created by years of wind and sea erosion.
Peter passes around some snacks, and just as I’m scoffing a big mouthful of a divine, locally made chocolate brownie, we come up on a colony of New Zealand Fur Seals.
The New Zealand Fur Seal is the world record holder for diving. They can reach depths of up to 238 meters and dive times of 11 minutes. There are 14 seals here today and a few are young pups. One of the huge males gives us a snort, and swats his flipper at us, as he looks up at us with curiosity.
The boat cruises toward the rocks and we can almost touch the seals as they laze in the sun. I’m seriously considering deleting photos of my families Christmas lunch as my camera storage gets low on space.
This isn’t like being at the zoo, the seals are just, right there!!!
Even though the water is stunning we don’t stop for a swim at this point. Peter explains that great white sharks tend to hunt close to the colony and it would be a brave diver who would get in the water here. White sharks are spotted from time to time, along with tigers, hammerheads, reef sharks and a few of the smaller wobbegongs and shovel-nose varieties. From the safety of the boat, I start imagining how exciting it would be to spot one of these predators, but it’s not to be today.
Coming back again for a Whale watching cruise
The wind has swung around to the South West, making the rest of our cruise like skating on a mirrored pond. I’ll be back in a few months to see the whales that migrate along this coastline between September and December every year. Over 30,000 humpback whales pass through, making Geographe Bay one of the world’s best places to view these gentle giants. Along with the southern right, blue, minke and the pilot whale there’s another side to this tour to see in spring and I can’t wait.
The tour’s only half done and I’ve already ticked most of the boxes on my Wilderness Cruise sightseeing list. I’m hanging out to rush through the canal at Sugarloaf and for a good dip off the boat at Meelup Beach on the way home. I’m having too much fun, come and see for yourself.