Shelley Beach snorkeling
Directions - Located at the northern edge of Cape Naturaliste, from the centre of Dunsborough follow Cape Naturaliste Road all the way north until you reach the turnoff for Bunker Bay Road. Keep driving until you reach the end where you will find a series of car parks. Park on the upper level and find the sandy path leading you past the Cape Naturaliste Walks sign and down towards Shelley Beach.
The Snorkel - With a week down south over the New Year period visiting my parental units in Funbury, I was determined to make the most of my time to check out some snorkelling spots. Summer isn't usually peak time for me to explore the South West but with the increased temperatures comes different opportunities. With a new underwater camera (Olympus TG6) giving me the ability to showcase the snorkeling spots of WA a bit better than my previous GoPro 4, I was looking to explore some new places, along with adding more varied content to the website.
Armed with my copy of CALMs Dive & Snorkel Sites in Western Australia - Third Edition, I had my eye set on three locations to check out over my time down here. The first was a gentle snork at the Yallingup Lagoon with my sister and her family, the second was a more adventurous swim out to Mushroom Rock at Hamelin Bay and the third one being this promising site at Shelley Beach. I chose this spot for my Cape Naturaliste snorkel (there are several in the guide to choose from) as one of my favourite views from the Bunker Bay Loop I completed a few years ago was the view looking down to Shelley Beach. The sheltered bay looked quite inviting and from what I had heard on the seaweed vine, there was some nice snorkeling here when you get the right conditions. With the whole day to get in some activities, I started off the day with a bike ride with Dad around the Funbury coast and foreshore, watched some cricket and then headed off to Margaret River for some lunch and a blast around the Wooditjup MTB Network. Working up a sweat in the 30 degree heat on the really enjoyable green and blue trails was a great way to spend an hour or two before driving to Dunsborough to cap off the day.
Battling the holiday traffic, I arrived at Bunker Bay to find the car park fairly quiet with humans but loaded with flies when I stepped out of the car. This is the downside of visiting such a stunning location in the summer but I would soon be in the water where they couldn't get at me. Walking down the sandy hill towards the beach, there were a couple of groups setup on the sand and I noticed a couple of snorkelers already in the water. Eager to get in and explore, I headed down to the waters edge and put on all my gear before making the plunge into the cool waters. The rough route the guidebook suggests is to head out to the rocky islands you can see from shore and do an anti-clockwise loop around them. Not being one to argue, I started swimming out to the first island but was slightly disappointed to see that visibility was absolutely terrible. I initially thought my mask was fogging up too quickly but looking above the surface proved this wasn't the case unfortunately. I was here and going to make the most of it so kept moving towards the granite. While fish were few and far between early on, I was amazed by the gardens of different seaweeds and plants that provided an amazing array of colour.
One thing that you will notice straight away when entering the water is a continuous clicking sound that I was told is the sound of the mollusc population opening and closing. It's an odd sensation as you meander around and evidence of them can be found up and down the granite rocks as you explore the base of the islands. The area around the islands looked enticing with lots of caverns, ledges and deep spaces but visibility was so poor that I couldn't see very much. Deciding to head away from the islands for now, I started swimming towards the rocky shore underneath the limestone cliffs and thankfully visibility was a little better here. Fish started appearing in my view and although not super keen on having their photo taken, it was at least something. While chasing around a Red Lipped Morwong I spotted something in the sand and it turned out to be another stingray, a common sighting on my three snorkels this summer. It was content with chilling on the sandy floor so I dived down and took a few photos before leaving it in peace. Happy that this wasn't a fruitless snorkel, I continued to swim around and found the shallower areas were much better for visibility. Eventually I found myself on the edge of the granite islands and there were patches where things weren't too bad. While swimming around I noticed a stripy fish with what looked like a pink band across it's head.
Trying to get a closer look as it darted around, I realised it had been in a fight and had a chunk of its head bitten off. It was still moving around normally and at great pace so it seems to have survived being someone's snack. Heading back to shore, I could get pretty close to the edge of the water while still being in a metre or two of water thanks to the decent drop-off once you leave the beach. Not wanting to get out just yet, I headed towards the tip of the rocky headland to see what was there and had a general meander around the shallows. There was plenty of life here with schooling fish and an Estuary Cobbler that at first I thought was dead but turned out to just be lying on a weird angle. With an enjoyable snork under my belt, I hopped out of the water and while I was taking off my flippers a woman came up to me and asked if it was me that was beyond the granite islands. I figured it probably was and she told me I had been pretty close to some dolphins. As we were speaking I spotted a few just beyond the granite island so popped my fins on and went out to see if I could find them. Unfortunately I didn't spot them and with the poor visibility, they would have to be right in front of my face to get a decent photo anyway. I came back in, dried off and went to go fetch my DSLR from the car for the land based shots to complete what was a really enjoyable day of adventuring, capped off with a nice mushroom burger from Burgertron in Dunsborough.