Francois Peron National Park - Bottle Bay

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Saturday 20th May, 2006
Bottle Bay, Francois Peron National Park

What a great day it was today. It was capped off by a balmy evening watching the sun set spectacularly across the bay. We are more or less the only people camped on a pristine beach and bay where we have snorkelled with tropical fish and rays, seen tiger sharks cruising only metres off shore with manta rays basking majestically in the deeper waters. Dare I say the old camera has had its biggest work out to date with 130 pics snapped.

The trip into Francois Peron starts only 8 km or so from town with the turn off on the Monkey Mia Road. It’s 6 km to the National Park Visitor info and interpretive centre where vehicles proceeding the 38 km into Cape Peron are advised to lower their tyre pressure and engage four-wheel drive. I was a bit dubious about the advise but lowered by 6 psi ands engaged the hubs which is what I would do anyway once hitting dirt. Well, was I in for a surprise!

The sandy track winds it’s way through low shrubs and saltbush type flora. It is corrugated and often deep red sand. Several large claypans are potholed and runnelled and would be a nightmare in the wet. On coming of the second and largest pan, the track deteriorates into deep sand and it was all I could do to keep momentum up for several km until I could find a place solid enough to stop and let more air out of the tyres. Things got a bit easier with the tyres all at 25 psi but it was still tough going into the Bottle Bay camping area. Here I had to use low range just to get in. The campsites here were all vacant ands we took the first one we found which was overlooking the beach (they all overlook the beach mind you). Because it was not yet 11.30 a.m., we sighted and unhitched the trailer and then headed back out and the final 5 km to Cape Peron.

The cape is amazing with deep red sand dubes tumbling down to meet the pristine white beaches and the ocean. Thousands of sea birds, cormorants, terns, gulls and others roost on the shore. Amazing scenery. We walked along the beach towards Skip Jack Point before climbing the dunes and heading back to the main parking area. Nearby skipjack provides a high vantage point above the water. From the cliffs we saw a large manta cruising effortlessly through the waters less than 100 metres off shore. Only 10 metres out, a large tiger shark prowled malevolently along the beach. A huge osprey startled me as it glided past only metres above our heads, the rushing of the wind under it’s wings being the only sound it mad in passing. We spent the best part of an hour just sitting and watching all the going ons below us.

On return to our Bottle Bay campsite, we set up camp and as it was quite warm, I donned the snorkel and fins and went exploring the bay. The water drops off into about three metres only several metres from the shore. There were heaps of fish and also a lot of tropicals as well. There were soft and hard corals and plenty of cheeky parrot fish to give you a hard time with their bucktooth grin. I was reluctant to get out after 30 minutes or so but Amanda had prepared lunch and as it was smoked salmon and goodies on biscuits, It couldn’t be missed.

After lunch we took a stroll along the two kilometers of beach to the south point of the bay. It was a beautiful warm sunny afternoon and we were quite hot by the time we reached the point so opted for a quick dip. Rays of all sizes surrounded us almost immediately, albeit swimming indignantly away from us but an experience never the less. Just wish I’d had my mask and snorkel with me.

On arrival back at camp, we both went snorkelling off nearby rocks so I could show Amanda the variety of tropical fish on offer. Although reluctant due to the size of our toothy friend we saw off Skipjack, we had a good swim never the less. A group of three arrived at the beach for a swim and set about doing some fishing. All poms and all in need of some fishing advice after hooking a parrotfish or three. We rescued the elderly woman who’d been left wilting in the hot sun after only being in country for a week and had a good chat in the shade under our awning while we re-hydrated her.

We spent the evening basking in the glory of the sunset. It’s a beautiful warn evening with no moon and therefore heaps of stars. We’ve decided to stay another night here.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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