Lake Thetis Walk Trail
Nambung National Park
Directions - Lake Thetis can be found by taking Hansen Bay Rd (gravel track) off Cervantes Rd before you reach the main settlement. Once you have finished the walk keep driving along Hansen Bay Rd and check out the Hansen Bay Lookout.
The Hike - Summer is usually the off-season for my hiking adventures for a variety of reasons but every now and then I find myself with an opportunity to visit somewhere new or I come across a place I didn't think would have a trail. With a birthday celebration weekend for 1A1R (aka Life of Py Deputy Assistant Trail Director, Aron) planned up in Cervantes, another opportunity presented itself to take in a lovely walk, even if it wasn't on the cards. Testing out the new Life of Py chariot (a blue X-Trail named Newt Scamander and yes I name my cars), we drove up on the Friday afternoon with plans to visit Jurien Bay the next day, snorkel and then relax in the afternoon before heading out to the Pinnacles for some astrophotography that night. The best laid plans though. Jurien Bay was amazing when we got there so we had high hopes of it staying that way but half an hour after arriving the wind changed direction and the seas became choppier than a Teppanyaki chef at dinner time. We still had fun watching Sruthy jump off the jetty and be coached by some locals on how to do various jumps and flips off the platoon floating offshore before deciding that snorkelling wasn't going to happen and returning back to Cervantes.
On our way back into town we decided to turn off the main road and onto the heavily corrugated track that leads to Hansen Bay Lookout and Lake Thetis. Hansen Bay Lookout provided a different perspective of the town but the wind meant it would only be a quick look for us before moving on to Lake Thetis. The car park and boardwalk for Lake Thetis was redone in 2008 and provides a nice way to see the lake and the biologically/geologically interesting stromatolites without disturbing the fragile environment. An information board highlighting a loop trail peaked my interest but was happy to go along with what everyone else was doing given we had been in the sun for most of the day and some (me) were looking forward to rest time before our astrophotography trip later that night. The main boardwalk leads you down to the edge of the lake through grassy fields known as the algal mat and eventually to one of the highlights of the walk, the stromatolites. These micro bacterial "living rocks" are a unique formation found up and down the Western Australian coast, more famously at Lake Clifton near Mandurah and Hamelin Pool near Shark Bay. Observing the signs we admired them from a distance and read all of the information boards about their formation, the saltiness of the lake and the life that thrives in this isolated ecosystem.
Related to some of the first ever living organisms, these stromatolites have been studied extensively by scientists to get a better understanding of what life was like billions of years ago. Without the information boards you could be forgiven in thinking what all the fuss is about but learning about new things is fun so it was definitely a great experience being out there staring at them in wonder. The group decided that continuing on the loop walk was the way to go so I gladly agreed and we set off into the grassy and flat landscape. Being a summers mid afternoon the conditions were a bit bright for photographing but that didn't detract from the beauty of the landscape. There is something about the limitless feel to the horizon here, made even more apparent by the featureless grassy plains and flatness of the arid lands. The occasional roar of a passing car on Indian Ocean Drive reminded you that you were still close to civilisation and as we exited the boardwalk section and onto the hard sandy track I caught a glimpse of a wildflower that I wasn't expecting. More life appeared just after we rounded a small raised hill that serves as a lookout over the lake when someone spotted a green praying mantis in the middle of the path. It modelled perfectly for us as an array of phones and cameras came out trying to get that non-blurry snapshot for memories sake.
We were now facing back towards the west and that meant the howling winds were right in our face when we weren't being sheltered by the occasional bit of windswept bush. Much like the lake system of Rottnest Island, the winds were blowing salty foam towards the lakeside grasses and occasionally a bit further as we discovered when one of us would randomly be sprayed with the suds-like substance. The effect was quite cool with a tundra like appearance of snow covered grasses being slightly possible if you ignored the warm air and swathes of green grass elsewhere. Seeking shelter from the winds and the foam we moved on to one of the only patches of trees on the whole loop. Having something else to photograph was a relief and after a detour to a viewing area we discovered the flowering eucalypts were home to a large number of bees, ants and even a colourful butterfly (have only ever seen monarchs on my hikes). In the shade we admired the bees having a grand old time collecting nectar from the summer flowers and watching the almost fluorescent purple ants jockeying for position. Some final sweeping views of the lake set against wide blue skies was the perfect way to finish as we piled back into Newt and set off for the accommodation.