And again, the sun sets on Cable Beach

Our guests, Dianne and Bob, left yesterday after spending a fortnight with us. We had a blast – we swam, we beach combed, we tried to catch some fish (unsuccessfully). We did some sight seeing, we went on some tours, we watched the full moon rise (staircase to the moon), and we watched the sun set over the ocean – many times.

And now the time has come for us to be leaving too. We’ve spent today packing up, and tomorrow will begin our journey for home.

We’ve enjoyed so many glorious sun sets on Cable Beach. Here’s a few of my favourites from this trip:

Sunset enjoyed whilst having drinks with Kaye and Brian at Sunset Bar.

And who could forget the sun turning pink as it dropped through the smoke haze.

We played around with some silhouette photography.

Wendy and I

Father and son enjoying the sunset camel train.

We drove down onto the beach taking sunset drinks with us often. A few times we also took a simple dinner down to enjoy as we watched the sun sink over the horizon.

We had a particularly memorable dinner on the beach one Friday night. Our Friday tradition is to have finger food only – no knives or forks allowed. This was something we started years ago so as to get our week-ends off to a good start after the working week. It’s a tradition we enjoyed so much, that even now, four years after retirement, we still try and stick to it. Last Friday night with Dianne and Bob, we took the small gas burner down to the beach along with some chorizo, Halloumi, crackers, and sliced salad ingredients. What a treat to be sitting in our beach chairs on the damp sands of Cable Beach eating our finger food as the sun’s afterglow lit up the darkening sky.

Cooking dinner for Friday night finger food.

Bob and Paul wandered down to the water’s edge, and clearly found something worth pointing out.

Bob and Paul talking ‘man’s talk’.

As the sun darkened further, a flock of seagulls took flight.

Seagulls flying into the sunset

We stayed long after most people had left the beach. With the beach to ourselves it seemed like a good opportunity to have some silly fun in front of the camera, knowing full well our faces wouldn’t show up.

Trying to make a heart.

A great laugh.

We’ve been up here for the better part of three months, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The weather has been perfect with daytime temperatures of 28 – 33 degrees most days, dropping to 13 – 18 degrees overnight – perfect for sleeping. We haven’t had a drop of rain the whole time we’ve been here. The beaches have been delightful, but we found there’s a lot, lot more to Broome than just beaches. What a pleasure it’s been to be here.

And now I just hope some of the sun follows us home.

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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 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.

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”!

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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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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Why Broome

A friend of ours, Wendy, has just left to return to her home in rainy Perth after having spent five delightful days here with us in Broome. My Face Book friends will have been noticing a lot of Face Book posts in which Wendy’s been tagging me. I’m not very technically savvy, nor very technically aware, and I suspect some of my friends in a similar age group to myself are the same. I never knew that when someone tagged you on face book, the post ends up sort of looking like the person tagged contributed in some way to the post. From some of the comments added to Wendy’s posts by some of my own Face Book friends, I’m sure some of you must be thinking I’ve gone well and truly Face Book mad. Stop worrying, I haven’t. The posts have been made by my dear friend Wendy, and, in case you hadn’t realised it – Wendy is completely and utterly, Face Book mad! But I digress, this post is supposed to be about, Why Broome! Why do so many come back here, year, after year, after year, and why we will always try to incorporate Broome into our winters away from Busselton.

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