12 June 2011

Cape Naturaliste - Walking to a View

Cape Naturaliste is at the northernmost tip of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge, on a rugged promontory at the western edge of Goegraphe Bay. The nearest town to Cape Naturaliste is Dunsborough, 13km away and beyond that, is Busselton.

Cape Naturaliste is also the site of a lighthouse, a 20m high cylindrical tower built of limestone, the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. Its surrounding environment is host to a diverse range of flora and fauna.

As October is within the whale annual southern migration to the Southern Ocean, we opted to take the Whale Lookout track to the whale watching platform. It is the shortest option and the most popular, for obvious reason, about 2km from the lighthouse car park. It is well worth the walk, for the trail provides panoramic coastal views and an opportunity to spot birds living in the area.

Cape Naturaliste is one of the few places on the west coast of WA, where you can see whales from the shore. Would recommend however, that you bring along binoculars or cameras with good zoom lens for a close up view of these hugh majestic creatures. In between spotting the whales, there are the seals at nearby rock outcrops to keep you entertained.

A video clip of the ocean view from the whale watching platform.

The annual migration begins when whales leave the chilly Antarctic waters to mate and breed in the warmer waters off the West Australian coast. The whales passes by Geographe Bay and head directly to the warmer waters up north, where the pregnant females who mated last year have their calves. Calves are born closer to the equator where the ocean waters are warmer, for the new born calves have only a thin layer of blubber and would suffer in the colder waters of the Antarctic.

From September to December, Geographe Bay becomes a "nursery" for the mother whales and their young ones. They stop in at the bay to feed and strengthen themselves before continuing into the Southern Ocean. You will find the Blue, Humpback and Southern Right whales come close to the shore off Cape Naturaliste, sometime in waters only 10 metres deep. The bay is one of the few places in the world where you get to see the Humpback and Southern Right whales interacting. All three whale species are endangered species.

The Humback are famous for their "whale song" while the Blue whales are the world largest animal. Blue whales are normally only seen in Antarctica, but have been increasingly sighted in Geographe Bay over the last few years.

Delicate wildflowers are at their best between September and November, and the walk to the whale watching platform did provide the opportunity to see a number of the local wild flowers and a few of the native birds in the region.

The walk itself was easy, as it is mostly flat with the last 200m or so, sloping down to the lookout.

Found a web-site listing some of the Wildflowers of Western Australia, with names and flowering time.

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