The Snubfin Dolphin

A  relatively new dolphin species, the Snubfin dolphin, wasn’t discovered in Australia until 2005. Most live in the Northern Australian waters, with only a few sightings of the species extending up as far as Papua New Guinea. No global population is known, however, the population is estimated to be extremely low, and is likely to be diminishing. Roebuck Bay, off the coast of Broome is a noted hot spot for the species with a population of less than 200.

Personal research indicates if care isn’t taken, the species may be gone in the blink of an eye with virtually only one generation having had the joy of knowingly witnessing this unique species of mammal.

Resembling the South East Asian Irrawaddy Dolphin, their blunt, rounded heads present a totally different looking marine mammal than the bottle nosed dolphin we’re familiar with in Australia. The neck is a distinct, functional feature that allows the animal to turn it’s head without turning it’s body.

A rounded head, and movable neck.

They feed on fish, squid and crustaceans, and use a unique technique known as ‘spitting’ to catch fish. They will spit a metre or so in front of their prey, causing them to panic and change direction – often reversing direction straight back into the dolphins mouth.

We recently went out on an eco/dolphin tour with Cameron and his crew from Broome Whale Watching. The main purpose of the tour was to learn about, and see the unique Snubfin dolphin.

The species are found in groups averaging around five, but sometimes up to 15. As we headed out into Roebuck Bay in search of our main subject, Cameron’s commentary of Roebuck Bay gave us a good insight into the unique environment the Snubfin lives in. We came across a few other marine creatures, including a giant Mantaray, before a family group of nine Snubfins was spotted. This group was engrossed in having some ‘fun family time’, so we were able to drift in close to watch them at play.

When Snubfins socialise they form tight groups, and roll around interacting intensely with each other. They even blow ‘raspberries’ – true!!! At these times they seem oblivious to anything other than each other, making them particularly vulnerable to vessel strikes. The intensity of their play, shallow waters, and the high speed of boats means that the dolphins are unlikely to react in time to get out of the way of boats. In addition, the overlap between the dolphins foraging area and recreational fishing zones increases the risk of injury to these unique marine mammals.  In a recent study 63% bore the scars from vessel strikes, fishing nets, or fishing lines. The group we stopped and watched from a safe and respectful distance clearly showed some of the scars.

Scars of interaction with man clearly evident.

When playing they interact with each other very closely making them difficult to photograph with our little camera. That new camera  is rapidly changing status from being a ‘want’ to becoming a ‘need’, and will be with us very soon I should think.

Every so often the group would all dive together, seemingly giving us a united wave goodbye with their tails. It wouldn’t take long for them to surface again though, and Cameron would manoeuvre his boat around and drift in close allowing us to watch them a little longer.

A synchronised tail wave as they dive below.

Currently under Australian legislation, the Australian Snubfin Dolphin is simply listed along with other whales and dolphins. Reviewing and uplisting the current conservation status of the Snubfin to ‘threatened’ is imperative if we’re to avoid a repeat of reaching the recent extinction of the Yangtze river dolphin.

Thankfully we have tour operators like Cameron and his crew from Broome Whale and Dolphin Watching Tours who care about these creatures and the environment they live in. Their livelihood depends on it.  I personally would love to see a slight increase in tour operators, and commercial fishing charters, and a significant decrease in individual motor boat and jet skis operators. Some people would disagree, believing the charter boat operators to be unscrupulous. Possibly some can be, but their livelihood depends on the environment and it’s creatures remaining healthy.  My gut feeling is there are enough Australian operators with an eye on conservation and the sustainability of eco tourism to keep the unscrupulous operators in line.

If the tour operators can stimulate their client’s interest, they increase the chances of the masses aiding any future conservation efforts. My interest was certainly stimulated. They’re amazing creatures, unlike any other dolphin I’ve seen before.  I hope my great-grandchildren also get to see them.

A morning out on the turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay, watching Snubfin Dolphins at play – what a pleasure.

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Beachcombing

There’s always something different to see when walking on the beach. Here’s some of the things we’ve seen whilst walking on Cable Beach:

Starfish stranded as the tide recedes.

Sea snake waiting for the tide to rise and take him back to sea.

Artistic crabs digging out balls of sand as they make their crab holes.

Forest patterns made in the sand by the receding tide.

Then there’s rocks to walk around:

Rocks and rock pools exposed at low tide.

With the sun setting over the horizon.

There’s planes:

Plane coming into land on air strip just beyond the dunes.

And boats:

Boats.

And birds:

Birds in the waves.

Taking flight.

And birds flying over boats:

Bird flying in front of one of the small luxury cruise ships.

And then there’s the things we haven’t managed to photograph. Birds circling as they look for fish and then, wings tucked in to create a streamlined body as they dive, whoosh!  into the water trying to catch their lunch. Sometimes they’re successful, most often they’re not. There’s whales, now off Broome’s coast line. We’ve spotted a few breaching and blowing reasonably close to shore.

There’s always something different to see, but unfortunately our current camera isn’t up to the job of capturing some of the images. A new camera is on our list. Paul does a reasonable job with our little Lumix, but when he gets the new camera with the bigger zoom, and all the other whiz bang things it has, I’m sure his photographs are going to be awesome. He has his eye on a Lumix DMC-FZ300, but it’s currently still in research mode – any advice will be greatly appreciated either for, or against. Please feel free to leave your comments below…….

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You can have house guests in a caravan

Our second lot of guests, Di and Bob, arrived earlier this week. In case you’re wondering how one can have house guests in a caravan it’s easy. Just bring a tent and a couple of air mattresses. We hadn’t thought of it before, but having brought the tent with us for the Gibb River, we put the invite out there, and had two lots of takers.

Flying up to Broome, with a tent for accommodation and sharing our site, car etc makes for an affordable winter escape for our guests. And we all get to spend some quality holiday friendship time together – how good is that.  I think the tent may become a permanent fixture in our caravan boot.

Di and Bob’s arrival corresponded beautifully with Broome’s famous ‘staircase to the Moon’. During the winter months as the full moon rises over Roebuck Bay at low tide, the reflections on the ripples in the damp mudflats creates a stunning staircase effect. It usually happens for three nights over the full moon period.

We took drinks and chairs down to Town Beach and settled down to watch the moon rise on the first night. The second night saw us at the Mangrove Hotel for a few drinks and some dinner, and to again watch the moon rise. Both showed off the staircase beautifully, but each with a totally different atmosphere.

Sipping cocktails at the Mangrove whilst waiting for the moon to rise.

Staircase to the moon.

Town Beach has night markets on Staircase nights, so there’s a market place, mardi gras type atmosphere. At the Mangrove, we sipped cocktails while waiting for the moon to rise – a far more sophisticated experience. The the lights dim heralding the start of the moon’s ascent over the damp, glistening mud flats. A didgeridoo playing accompanies the whole experience creating a haunting, almost spiritual experience. Both very different nights – both memorable in their own way.

We’ve spent a bit of time at the beaches, either walking and beach combing, fishing, or just sitting watching the waves, with a bit of a dip to cool off. The ‘glow in the dark’ skin colour they both arrived with is gradually fading. Di, with the help of carefully applied sun screen is now a creamy light brown. Bob’s sun screen application looks to have been a bit hit and miss, and he’s looking a bit more pie-bald in colour – a nice mix of creamy tan ,with some not so lovely beetroot red patches….. whoops! A bit of unwelcome sun burn, and sadly, still no fish!!

The skin colour shows up the newcomer.

Planned for next week we have a couple of days at the races. Tuesday is ladies day – so we’ll put on our glad rags and head down to the race track for that one. Then next Saturday is the Broome Cup, a huge event in Broome, so the glad rags will be out again for that one. Hope we have more luck at the races than we’ve had with the fishing rods.

Looking at the weather forecast is a daily occurrence. The rain continues to fall in Perth, while the sun continues to shine in Broome. A frequent comment whilst sitting under the beach umbrella looking out at the turquoise waters of Cable Beach continues to be, “What a pleasure”!

Housework on the road

So, you’re a bit over housework. You’re considering exchanging your brick abode for a transportable home on wheels to get away from the repetitive grind. Think again! I’m about to burst your bubble….

A big house usually means lots of storage, so clutter can be hidden. In a caravan there isn’t a lot of storage, so the only possible way to keep on top of your clutter, is not to have any. For Paul and I, no matter how much we try to minimise our belongings, we still manage to accumulate ‘too much stuff’. The only way to be able to accommodate any new purchases is to either get rid of something, or re-organise. Re-organising is a common occurrence.

We came away with our short stemmed crystal wine glasses plus a set of water glasses. Recently found some stemless wine glasses that seem ideal as all rounder glass for caravanning, so we’ve purchased a set. This means we now have three sets of glasses on board until we get home and offload some. Two cupboards needed to be tidied and re-arranged to fit in the additional four glasses.

Caravanning means being parked often in sandy or dusty environments. One room, with roof vents, and lots of windows, most often all open, means dust finds it’s way in. Additionally, don’t forget, part of the reason you’ll be doing your road trips is to get out and enjoy what nature has on offer. More time spent enjoying nature’s bounty inevitably means you’re going to end up bringing home just a little bit more than photos. It may be sand on your feet from the beach, or it may be mud on your boots from the forest walk – whatever it is, some of it will find it’s way indoors. In a big house these little bits are hardly noticed. In the smaller confines of a caravan, without almost daily cleaning the sand and dust can become overwhelming if not kept on top of.

Your car and caravan isn’t going to have the protection of four walls and a roof to protect it from the elements. What nature drops on your rig is going to stay on your rig unless you remove it, and do what you can to stop it building up.

Some things are a constant, wherever you live. Laundry – in a caravan you’ll most likely have a small washing machine, and you won’t have an abundance of clothes with you.

Most caravans don’t have dishwasher. Without a dishwasher, and with a smaller kitchen dishes will need to be kept on top of.

In a house you most likely get away with a few daily chores, and a good weekly clean. In a caravan, you’ll most likely need to clean properly at least every other day. It won’t take you as long as a weekly clean in a house, but added up over the week you’re probably going to be spending almost an equal amount of time cleaning. No, you’re not going to escape the constant grind of cleaning, neither inside, or outside of your rig.

Here’s how we keep on top of things:

Paul will usually start his day with the ‘walk of shame’, as it’s termed in the caravan world – the emptying of the loo. We’re usually within the vicinity of some sort of proper loo at some point most days, so this job isn’t as bad as it otherwise could be. If you’ll excuse the literal expressions – the emptying of our loo is a bit of a pissy job, but it’s not a crappy job!

Laundry – we don’t have the luxury of a built in washing machine. Ours is a portable 3kg automatic Sphere which travels in our ute and is then set up under our awning. We manage to fill it with a load almost daily, sometimes even twice a day. We have our own little portable clothes line which we anchor into the ground at the rear of our van. We usually start our day by getting a small load of washing going prior to breakfast.

Our caravan interior is white powder coated aluminium. Spray window cleaner keeps it smear proof and clean. After the breakfast dishes are done, I grab a cleaning cloth and use the window cleaner to give the benches, mirrors, hand basin, and shower a bit of a clean, and attend to any marks on the walls at the same time. It all only takes a few minutes. Then a quick sweep of the floor, and a hands and knees job with a damp cloth to remove any remaining bits of dust, dirt or sand keeps on top of that.

By the time the bed’s made, the dishes are done and the caravan has had it’s daily once over, the washings ready to be hung out, then we’re done. We both share these daily tasks (except for the loo, emptying – I take care of most of the food preparation, so I figure I’m taking care of what goes into the loo, – it only seems fair than Paul should take care of it after that stage).

The outside needs to be kept on top of too, and the inside often needs a bit of deeper cleaning. So, two or three times within a four month trip, Paul will give the exterior of the car and van a good clean, sometimes even applying a coat of polish, and I’ll give the leather seating inside a good clean, and deep clean inside all the cupboards.

Polishing the car.

Telescopic ladder used for accessing the roof for cleaning.

We’re currently parked under a tree which is sometimes inhabited by bats over night. Occasionally we’ll wake to a sea mist, not often, but it creates a problem when it happens. The mist accumulates in the overhead tree foliage and drops like raindrops onto the van, bringing with it orange dust laced with dried bat droppings. Left on, the orange dust will grind into the fibreglass, and the bat droppings will eat away at the coating. So, washing it off becomes a necessity if the van is to remain looking good. A coat of polish now and again makes future occurrences easier to deal with.

It’s all just had a good clean. Neither of us are fanatical about keeping it good, but we do manage to keep on top of it. It’s not uncommon for fellow travellers to comment on our van’s finish, and they find it hard to believe it’s been on the road for almost ten years now. Yes – there’s still housework and cleaning to be done even in a caravan there’s no escape unless you’re fortunate enough to be able to afford a daily cleaner. Is it worth it though? We don’t get away from the housework, but we do get away from the winter weather, we do get out and explore, we do meet new people. To us, it’s a dream life,  so is it worth it – you betcha it is.

Newly cleaned, and polished – note portable clothes line to the rear.

Lord McAlpine’s Broome

Lord Robert Alistair McAlpine, Baron McAlpine of West Green
– 14/05/1942 – 17/01/2014
British businessman, politician, author, and advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – and thankfully, the developer behind Broome, as we know it today.

Bust of the Lord graces Cable Beach’s foreshore.

Lord Alistair McAlpine first came to Australia around 1960. He was responsible for developing many of Perth’s office blocks, and for building Perth’s first 5 star hotel, The Parmellia. Although a developer, Broome was not on his radar at that time.

Broome, once a thriving pearling town, had been decimated by world war 2, and virtually lay in ruins – not as a result of the conflict, but from being abandoned (more about Broome’s earlier history later). The ravages of weather, white ants, and time had taken it’s toll on old China Town and Broome.

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The world of blogging

Recently I published a blog post titled, Words. It was the type of post I’m a little nervous about posting as it involves opinions, and I fear being labelled opinionated. However, as the post was about labelling people, or passing judgement, I posted it despite my reservations.  There were a couple of comments from a fellow blogger added to that blog that brought to mind the value of blogging.  Amanda stated that fellow bloggers tend to be supportive rather than judgemental. As Amanda rightly pointed out, the comments added to a blog post by fellow bloggers usually lack the sometimes less savoury tone that can follow thought provoking posts on Facebook.

Amanda’s comments caused me to realise how important blogging has become to me, and the reasons why. ‘The value of blogging’. Here’s what it means to me:

Firstly, it’s a big technological learning curve, and one I’ve barely started to conquer. But I’m working on it. I’m starting to learn to wrap words around pictures, but I haven’t perfected it yet. During this post I’m attempting to link previous blog posts. I won’t know if I’ve succeeded until I’ve hit publish. I’m also trying to get added comments following on from my post. Most of the blogs I follow use this format, and it works well. I’m still working on that one.

After I joined the world of blogging I started following a number of other blogs. It’s opening up my mind to whole world of different topics. My interests  are expanding, and I feel like I’m learning more than I’ve ever learnt before in my entire life.  Insprational travel stories (and a wealth of other topics) from leggypeggy.com
Some amazing photos, and photography tips from Susan Portnoy at theinsatiabletraveller.com                                                                      Thought provoking quotes from quiverquotes.com                                       And I just love forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com , in which Amanda writes about all manner of things – Scandinavia, proverbs, recipes, crafts…. There’s so much to learn from so many people.

I look forward to receiving emails alerting me to one of their new blog posts. Often after I’ve read what they’ve written questions come to mind. A recent post was on Cinque Terre in Italy. I had no idea where that was, so I looked it up,  and now I know – another little bit of knowledge accumulated.  Or sometimes a photo of a dish someone has enjoyed in a restaurant will get my taste buds tingling and have me searching the net for a recipe so as I can have a go at cooking it myself.

Originally my blog was just about letting my close friends and family know where we were, and what we were doing. I never had any intentions of expanding beyond that. However, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and when people I’ve never met started to get value out of some of my posts, expanding my topics seemed logical. And so my blog has evolved from just being about our Australian road trip, to being about absolutely anything that stimulates my desire to write. It’s recommended that blogs predominantly stick to the one theme, but I tend to be a bit eclectic, so my blogs a bit eclectic too.

I love it when something stimulates my interest enough to write about it. Take for example my post on Bower birds last year, https://lifeofrileyow.com/2016/09/14/the-spotted-bower-bird/

The lilac crest displayed on a male Spotted Bowerbird.

or my more recent post in Broome Tides, https://lifeofrileyow.com/2017/07/20/broome-tides-explained/

The tourists have arrived, and so has high tide.

I knew very little about both, but my interest had been tweaked enough that I wanted to do a blog post on each of those topics. I needed to know more though, so I spend several hours both researching, and observing. In the case of Broome tides I spend several weeks observing the ebb and flo of the tides before I could begin to write about them. Now I have a good basic knowledge.

There are times when I’ve realised I haven written anything for a while. With the realisation that I haven’t written anything comes the realisation that it’s because I’m not doing anything. That then prompts me to get motivated and do something, or to go somewhere. I’ve always loved learning, loved reading, loved writing, loved cooking, and loved my garden. There’s so much to do, so much to learn, so many things to write about. Somehow blogging keeps me motivated, keeps me stimulated, keeps me moving, keeps me learning…

So for anyone considering starting a blog, I’d thoroughly recommend it. For me it’s taken my life to a whole new level I’m sure it will be for you too.

Sea Fog at mid-day

What an unusual phenomenon greeted us at the beach today. Firstly at 8am when we went for our morning beach walk, and then again at mid-day.

I was disappointed when I hadn’t taken my camera in the morning. There had been several people out walking, but we could only see around 30 metres in front of us. It was weird to see people suddenly appearing out of the dense, thick, pea soup fog. The ocean looked eerie – the type of ocean you see in movies into which ghost ships, or Spanish Galleons suddenly materialise, seemingly out of nowhere.
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