Bremer Bay, Wave Rock and Bremer Canyon Killer Whale Tour, WA

Bremer Bay is known for some of the best fishing in south west Australia. It’s a remote and very quiet little place. There’s one shop that acts as post office, general store, bottle shop, petrol station, hardware and everything else. The caravan park is nice, grassy with a tennis court, playground and well kept amenities. The beach is a 1km walk down the road and through some sand dunes. Being 17oC and raining put a dampener on things. We did go swimming in the bay, once, mandatory really. The men nearby trying to fish were a little disgruntled but we didn’t stay long, just long enough for our limbs to go numb.

Leaving  the van in Bremer Bay we headed to Wave Rock for a few days.  About a 4 hour drive inland. Passed through Ravensthorpe with its painted silos.

We worked out how to put our new tent up without too much trouble. The nights were cool and drizzly, about 16oC but the days warmed up and were very pleasant.

Wave Rock is stunning to see, and there are several bush walks around the area. The Noongar Aboriginal people lived in this area before white settlement and we were suprised and saddened that there was very little information on how they lived and the significance of this striking rock formation to them. The local council has received some feedback on that from us.

Hippos Yawn. Home to the beautiful Salmon Gums.

The Humps is about a 10 minute drive from Wave Rock. The rock is like a giant peanut in its shell, or like two camel humps and stands out like the Titanic in a sea of flat fields of freshly harvested wheat. The Noongar Aboriginal people lived in the this area, there are  two walking trails, Gnamma (Noongar for water hole) and Kalari (Noongar for small lizard).

Mulka’s Cave is the highlight at the Humps, it’s one of the most significant Aboriginal rock art sites in Western Australia.

The Rabbit Proof Fence passes nearby.

It seemed a little odd that the tourist information centre at Wave Rock houses the largest collection of lace in the Southern Hemisphere. Yes, that’s right, re-read that bit if you need to because we had to. There is also a Miniature Soldiers Museum.

The Lace Place houses pieces dating back to 1600 s.

The Miniature Soldier Museum  houses over 10,000 miniature soldiers.

On our way back to Bremer Bay we went via the  Tin Horse Highway  near Kulin. Apparently it was started as a community marketing campaign to promote the annual Kulin Bush Races, but the farmers became quite competitive and more and more appeared over time. Below is just a few of them.

Back in Bremer Bay the rain continued so we visited the Wellstead Museum and Gnornbup Wines, both run by the original settlers in the area, the Wellstead family.

Wellstead Museum Cafe and restaurant.

Gnornbup Wines  is the only winery in the Jerramungup Shire set up by the Dept of Agriculture to test climate and soil types. The wines are lovely and very reasonably priced. A lot of the towns and shires around here end in  ‘up’ which in the local Noongar aboriginal language means ‘place of’. Gnornbup means place of the tiger snake and apparently there are plenty around. Jerramungup means place of the tall yate trees, a type of eucalyptus.

Fitzgerald River National Park is one of Australia’s most biodiverse and significant national parks. Due to the rain all roads were closed except to Quaalup Homestead. There’s two ways to get there, one is 4WD only the other is 2WD road,  bitumen and well maintained dirt road, a bit corrigated  but not too bad. We started down the 4WD road which looked quite good but the car was slipping all over the road, doing a U-turn was quite exciting.

Quaalup Homestead   offers a small range of accommodation and day visitors are welcome, a donation tin is nailed to a post. The original homestead is open to look in, there are toilets and a nature trail, but no cafe. It would be a beautiful place to stay during spring for the wildflowers. Built by the Wellstead Family in 1858, it is now in the Fitzgerald River National Park.

The nature trail at Quaalup Homestead. The Quaalup Bell is a small shrub found only in this region.

The next day we went on a  Bremer Bay Killer Whale Experience with Naturaliste Charters. We boarded at the Bremer Bay Boat Harbour at 7.45am, returned 5pm. If you want a truely unique, exciting and informative day out, go with them.

The continental shelf off Bremer Bay is the shortest distance from land anywhere in Australia. Approximately 50km off shore the depth drops suddenly from 80 metres to 1000 meters up to 2000 meters. Along the edge of the continental shelf is a canyon where the depth drops to more than 4,000 metres, and is  known as ‘the hot spot’. Actually there are quite a few canyons on the edge of the continental shelf but this one is unique. The discovery of Bremer Canyon a few years ago stirred international scientific interest. David Riggs, Australian filmmaker and founder of Naturaliste Charters of Bremer Canyon, first became curious about this area over 20 years ago. He discovered why it was so interesting two years ago during the filming of the documentary Search for the Ocean’s Super Predator . Because of the biodiversity of the plankton, the canyon attracts large quantities of Orcas (also known as Killer Whales) from February to April each year, as well as many other marine animals.  Click here for more info and this is another good article  Click here . David was on board our tour.

Why this happens and the migratory routes of Orcas are still not well understood and thus there are marine biologists and researchers on every trip. Tagging of Orcas has been tried but the tags seem to fall off. They tagged the dorsal fin of a baby Orca only to see the mother bite if off. We were give a very informative talk on board by a marine biologist. Several other researchers were there as well as a film crew from the Japanese equivalent to Australian Geographic and about less than 20 tourists.  Between them all there were some crazy big camera lenses, a GoPro on a 6 metre selfie stick used for underwater filming, a drone which was sent up several times, sonar equipment which was dropped over the side to pick up whale noises, not just Orchas. Two guys sat on the top of the roof, with one given the job of climbing to the very top of the pole as look out (possibly David Riggs).

First we saw a pod of about 40 Pilot Whales.

Followed by a pod of about 20 Orchas. Lots of mutton birds and albatross circled the whales for scraps. All the staff and crew were eager to talk about their research and findings of the area and other places.

The crew wear a particular type of polarised sunglasses that make the Orcas easier to spot when they’re  underwater.

We learnt so much about Orcas, it was fantastic. Some fun facts, they pull great whites backward by the tail to drown them; the oldest female leads the hunt; the dorsal fin of an adult male can reach 3 metres high. Here’s a link if you want to know more. Bremer Canyon ORCA project 

Heading west today.

Cheers til next time,  Helen and Tim.