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Old 07-03-2016, 20:24   #1
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W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

We are now close to completing our westward cruise of the Australian south coast, and planning for our sail up the west coast.
Whereas there is plenty of information available in some areas, there are two spots about which I'm having a hard time finding cruiser reports, probably because this is off the beaten track. If you have any knowledge or information about these, please feel free to share !

Hamelin Pool stromatolites : I have found where they are located, but does anyone know if it is decently feasible to visit them by yacht ? I found a single recognized anchorage in their vicinity, no mention of anyone sailing into the pool, etc. I suppose there's a reason : perhaps it's just too far away, or too difficult or shallow, or maybe not allowed ? Alternatively, does anyone know of an easy way to get there by land ? What would be a good base to leave the boat in and go visit ?

Ningaloo Reef whale sharks : There are quite a few anchorages along the Ningaloo Reef area, which looks great in its own right. But we will be there during the prime whale shark season, so we are wondering is it feasible at all to see them from our yacht, or is there no other way than to go via a commercial tour operator ? Does anyone have indications of good locations to try and spot them ? Are there that many that we can expect one to pass by our boat at some point ? Or do we not stand a chance without the help of a spotter plane ?

Thanks for any help, advice or directions anyone might provide.
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Old 07-03-2016, 23:22   #2
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

I sailed to Denham and Carnarvon a few times, but never went into Hamelin Pool.
The 2nd edition of the Fremantle Cruising guide (the one I have) does not show an anchorage there.

Nearly 30 years ago I sailed around Faure Island in that bay in my 18 ft cat, launched from Monkey Mia. I doubt if one can launch boats from there at the moment. Hmmm, there were a lot of shallow areas, full of seaweed. In many places I had to lift the daggerboards. I recall also some strong tidal currents. At times that was quite scary, particularly when the wind dropped, didn't have an engine, that was a 10 hr trip.

When you go passed Denham, call the sea rescue, or rather ACRM there on VHF. They have up to date information, there are good friends of mine.
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Old 08-03-2016, 01:12   #3
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

I spent some time at the southern end of Hamelin Pool many years ago and remember the stromy things. My other recollection was that one floated high in the water because it was extremely salty due to high evaporation over a very large shallow area.


The anchorages up along the Ningaloo Reef are all inside the reef which is generally close to the coastline and there is a lot of corral infested shallow water there. You might be able to dingy outside the reef and find a whale shark but I'd be inclined to use the tours, the operators probably know where they are most likely to be and it would be a lot safer.


You need to be careful up there as the tour operators take a very proprietorial attitude and a friend of mine ended up in court and paid hefty fines for running aground.


Under the flora and fauna act in WA you can be prosecuted for "taking" not just native animals but their skeletons, and sperm and the definition of "taking" start off with "to disturb or molest" He ran aground then dragged anchor and a piece of dead coral was caught in his anchor chain. Four counts of "taking fauna without a licence" resulted.
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Old 08-03-2016, 03:24   #4
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

Belle-Isle, It is possible to sail down into Hamlin Bay if you want to check out the Stomatolites. I have.

The channels down the eastern side of Faure are difficult to eyeball at times with the dark weed on the banks , not showing up as that different from the dark water in the deep channels.

The southern end of these channels tend to broaden and shallow.

I'm not sure whether the posts shown on the chart still exist. These nav aids may date from when the wool ships called at Gladstone, or service boats supplied the old telegraph station.

I certainly don't remember them, but then again I sail a shallow draft multi and don't have much need for them.

The water is generally pretty clear in settled weather.

You must check out the Conservation charts for the area as some sections are closed to navigation during the Dugong breading season. Fines can be severe.

The whale shark circus is just a total crap shoot. The commercial tours expensive, the weather is generally windy, their generally well offshore and the chances of actually seeing one up close and personal aren't necessarily good. You may be lucky though. Many have.

Interacting with a whale shark without a permit might get you in-strife.
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Old 08-03-2016, 14:31   #5
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

I suggest you get in touch with Ross at Kimberley Coast Cruising Yacht Club.
Ross <ross@kccyc.org.au>. Also look at their web site for other contacts.
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Old 08-03-2016, 14:41   #6
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Talking Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

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Originally Posted by scaredycat View Post
I suggest you get in touch with Ross at Kimberley Coast Cruising Yacht Club.
Ross <ross@kccyc.org.au>. Also look at their web site for other contacts.

scaredycat i suggest you check an atlas. Sharkbay and Ningaloo are not in the Kimberley.
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Old 08-03-2016, 17:02   #7
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

Hamelin Pool
Hamelin Pool is probably not accessible for two reasons:
a) shallow
b) it is a protected area - boating and swimming are not allowed within 300m of the shore.
There is a caravan park there, so if you hire a car you can stay there overnight. There is a small hire car company in Denham (08) 9948 3032, and the bigger companies have depots in Carnarvon.

Whale Sharks
I don't know what your chances are of seeing a whale shark. If you do see one, be sure to follow the strict rules on keeping clear. The tourist trips are mainly out of Exmouth and Coral Bay. there are many anchorages along the coast between these two places. Your 2nd edition of the WA Cruising Guide is very out of date. You can get a copy of the 4th edition (publ Dec 14) form the Chart and Map Shop (Collie St) if you are in Fremantle, or online from Boat Books Australia.

I have taken over as editor for the next edition of the guide, so if you or anyone else out there has evidenced-based information on the above two topics, or indeed anything else new about WA anchorages, please contact me via this site or through Fremantle Sailing Club. I'm not posting email addresses because I don't know how secure this forum is.
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Old 08-03-2016, 20:21   #8
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

OK, I'll bite. What are Hamelin Pool stromatolites?
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Old 08-03-2016, 20:38   #9
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

Stromatolites are 3.5 million year old fossils, quite extraordinary. They are bit like bland coral at the surf line, but also very different. The Hamelin Pool stromatolites were discovered in 1954 by Dr Phil Playford. Phil is still around and very active I believe, or at least he was a year or so ago when I saw him at the WA maritime museum.
If you cruise this coast there is every chance you will discover something new and special, just like Phil did (he was surveying the area at the time as it was unmapped). The difference is, Phil recognised them for what they were, whereas most of us would have just passed them by.
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Old 09-03-2016, 15:54   #10
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

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Originally Posted by Kim Klaka View Post
Hamelin Pool
Hamelin Pool is probably not accessible for two reasons:
a) shallow
b) it is a protected area - boating and swimming are not allowed within 300m of the shore.

I have taken over as editor for the next edition of the guide, so if you or anyone else out there has evidenced-based information on the above two topics, or indeed anything else new about WA anchorages, please contact me via this site or through Fremantle Sailing Club. I'm not posting email addresses because I don't know how secure this forum is.
Kim Klaka


Ha , thats funny.

Hamlin bay is almost 30 miles long, with good depths to within 3/4 of a mile from the southern shore. For anyone that knows shark bay this is pretty standard fare inside the prongs.

Are you sure the real reason for your comments is because these no GPS way points to follow for folk like yourself.

Interesting to hear you are taking on responsibility for for the Fremantle cruising guide.
I'm hoping you recognise the responsibility associated with making life easy for the less adventurous and opening the Kimberly to the masses.

As you are probably well aware yachty rubbish disposal leaves a lot to be desired.As one of the few who devotes time most years collecting Kimberly rubbish from beaches I have seen the impact of your cruising guide first hand.

I am hopeful you will devote more than a cursory passage to discouraging the practice of smashing bottles and jars on the stowed anchor before dropping it over the side in the vain hope it won't wash ashore during the next wet season storms. Or the mistaken belief cans with a hole punched in them will do the same.
And NO Alfoil doesn't all disappear when one chucks it in the fire after a potato bake ashore, even if you cover it with sand.

Lastly one hopes that you understand some of the more sensitive areas require all the help and protection they can get, Including them in your book with little forethought only hastens their degradation, please show some responsibility, it has sadly been lacking in your earlier efforts..
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Old 09-03-2016, 16:28   #11
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks &amp; Hamelin Pool stromatolites

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Originally Posted by Kim Klaka View Post
Stromatolites are 3.5 million year old fossils, quite extraordinary. They are bit like bland coral at the surf line, but also very different. The Hamelin Pool stromatolites were discovered in 1954 by Dr Phil Playford. Phil is still around and very active I believe, or at least he was a year or so ago when I saw him at the WA maritime museum.
If you cruise this coast there is every chance you will discover something new and special, just like Phil did (he was surveying the area at the time as it was unmapped). The difference is, Phil recognised them for what they were, whereas most of us would have just passed them by.
Closer to 3.5 billion years old. One of, if not the, oldest still living life forms on the planet. I should note that's the blue-green algae that creates them. The structures themselves are around 6000 years old or so.

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Old 14-03-2016, 02:04   #12
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

whoops! yes, that should be 3.5 billion years old. Typo, sorry.
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Old 12-04-2016, 16:19   #13
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

Hi and thanks to all who provided answers and insight, and sorry for taking a lot of time to respond.

From all of your experiences, I gather that there is really no easy answer to both my interrogations.

Seeing the stromatolites may indeed require to go by car, because it does look like Hamelin Pool is a reserve and approaching the stromatolites from the water seems forbidden whatever the means. I do absolutely understand the need for conservation and I'm actually glad these organisms have been preserved for all to see today and tomorrow. It is a pity, though, when a coastal wonder in a protected place is forbidden from access, whatever the difficulty in navigating into the pool (we have a shallow draft boat). I believe it would have made better sense to protect 99% of the place and allow access to a tiny area for yachties. Sigh... Instead of this we will have to see if we do want to hire a car or not. And if we do we will have to drive 200km return and that generates a lot of CO2. So, protect the environment somewhere and destroy it elsewhere...

Aa for whale sharks, I also evidently recognise the need to avoid molesting them as well as protecting the coral but I am quite alarmed by the attitude of charter operators as described by some of you. We hope we won't get into any trouble when we get up there (we are peesently in Fremantle). People in Australia have been wonderful to us all the way around the bottom but that may change once we reach the tropics... and we might try to avoid Coral Bay if that's how things go. Anyway, one of our problems is that I haven't been able to find any information on the regulations about interacting with whale sharks (duration, distance, etc.) If anyone knows more about this, that would be great.

Oh, and one more thing, about those crushed aluminium cans. I strongly doubt that this is the result of long-distance cruisers who are generally very respectful of the sea as it is their home. Such pollution is the case in places rarely visited like the south coast as well, just like it is the case when one goes hiking ashore. Unfortunately I'm afraid this seems very Australian as we have witnessed far more of it since we have been here than elsewhere (i.e. New Zealand for instance). My guess is that such rubbish is the result of local people (such as recreational boaters in their tinny) more than from visitors from far-away. Surely it would be great if there were an Australia-wide campaign at some point to increase the awareness and education about how to handle rubbish in the wild. But don't blame the cruising guide, which has a lot in it to encourage clean cruising, for something which is more of a social phenomenon.


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Old 12-04-2016, 16:29   #14
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

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Originally Posted by belle-isle View Post
...Anyway, one of our problems is that I haven't been able to find any information on the regulations about interacting with whale sharks (duration, distance, etc.) If anyone knows more about this, that would be great. ...
https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/managemen...owall=&start=2

Only one boat (finders-keepers) allowed within 250m of a whale shark. I suspect this would be something the commercial operators care about, if you find a shark and are in the zone they cannot be there and must go off and find another.
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Old 12-04-2016, 17:32   #15
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Re: W Australia advice on Ningaloo whale sharks & Hamelin Pool stromatolites

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Originally Posted by belle-isle View Post
....
Seeing the stromatolites may indeed require to go by car, because it does look like Hamelin Pool is a reserve and approaching the stromatolites from the water seems forbidden whatever the means. I do absolutely understand the need for conservation and I'm actually glad these organisms have been preserved for all to see today and tomorrow. It is a pity, though, when a coastal wonder in a protected place is forbidden from access, whatever the difficulty in navigating into the pool (we have a shallow draft boat).
....
Surely it would be great if there were an Australia-wide campaign at some point to increase the awareness and education about how to handle rubbish in the wild. But don't blame the cruising guide, which has a lot in it to encourage clean cruising, for something which is more of a social phenomenon.

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A new guide on sailing shallow draft boats in Shark bay has just been published, which you might find helpful, see Hinchy Publications
I do not know of anyone who has used it, but a friend of mine is up there at the moment testing it out.
Re education and awareness campaigns on coastal rubbish, there are quite a few organisations doing this. There is the Clean Up Australia campaign started up by a yachtsman, which collects over 16,000 tonnes of rubbish every year (that's a lot of rubbish!). At the other end of the scale, our own Cruising Section of Fremantle Sailing Club recently did its annual beach cleanup day and collected over 200kg of rubbish from a local beach in just one hour. Every little helps.
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