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Bremer Bay – Orca’s & Unexpected Charm.

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Proving the old saying that ‘radio advertising works’, we both drove to work on consecutive days and heard the news that Orca tours were being conducted at Bremer Bay ……..Bremer where ??

A quick phone call and a google search tells us that its going to be a 6 plus hour road trip to the south of Western Australia to a place situated between Albany and Esperance. There’s a special date for one of us and mixed with Valentine’s day I made a decision to book tickets and a cabin for Saturday night in the bay.

Early Saturday dawns, we need to be on the Road by about 7am. Taking Google maps advice for the best route, we head south toward Albany before turning left and heading to our destination. (Later we realise that there was a better route.)

We have decided that driving down on the Saturday, having a quick look around and a good nights sleep will be the best option followed by the Orca Tour with Naturaliste Charters on Sunday Morning and the drive back to Perth straight after.

Arriving in Bremer Bay we see a small community on the increase. There are signs of business and infrastructure being created all around the bush clad town site. There are petrol stations, cafe’s, restaurants a substantial supermarket and two very well maintained caravan parks.

We have opted for the Bremer Bay Beaches Resort and Tourist Park for our accommodation. A well maintained and equipped place with basic but roomy cabins, a pool and very clean and spacious ablutions.

(click on the images for better viewing)

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Thinking we could get a quick look of the whole Bremer Bay area in a few hours of afternoon before tea ….  how wrong we were. There are so many beaches, side roads, lookout points and photo opportunities that we couldn’t get to visit the whole peninsula. The beaches at the estuary and lookout near the wind turbine make for great shooting in all light and times of day. A photographers delight !!!

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The estuary recently re opened flow into the ocean after huge summer rain. The water was waist deep and crystal clear, making for wading, swimming, kayaking and fishing with clear vision of what your playing in.

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There is easy access onto the waters edge near the estuary and it’s hard packed white sand which a normal 2 wheel drive car can easily cope with.

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The wildlife was plentiful and friendly. A Lizard was sunning itself on the rocks and birdlife was everywhere and of all kinds for the twitchers among us.

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Just out from the estuary mouth the depth of water was consistently and relatively shallow and clear for some way. Fishing and snorkeling looked inviting until you got out a bit further and the deep water and rocks showed the power of the sea. Word from locals was that Whales are visible here literally a matter of metres away in season, around September where they come to rest and feed on their way south.

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For dinner that night we look around and opt for the Old Telegraph Station. A 120 year old building faithfully kept in original condition and now selling simple but tasty food at very reasonable non-Perth prices. The South African owners are typically hospitable and friendly adding to the charm of experience.

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Next morning, we realise the choice of accommodation was very close to the staging of our boat trip out to Bremer Canyon. We leave our very neat and tidy Caravan park and arrive at the bay within minutes. The rest of the adventurers follow us and not long before the catamaran is alongside the jetty and we are given our safety briefing, told to dispose of bananas and take our sea sick pills ……. more about that soon !!

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The trip out is about 90 minutes and land is a distant vision …. we are heading out to open sea and an underwater canyon of 1200 metres deep which is a feeding ground for just about every sea creature available and hence the food chain keeps increasing until the big boys of the ocean arrive, the Orca’s. We are lucky to have on board, marine specialists, doctor’s of the ocean and experienced crew who know their stuff and can point out things which we have no idea are about to pop up in front of us.

If your a land lover ……. think twice about this trip. We experienced good conditions, but not mill pond stuff. We would have had up to 2 / 3 meter rolling swells. When you are travelling at speed, not so bad, but sitting around waiting for Orca action resulted in a little bit of ‘lunch losing’ at times for some. Don’t be a hero and take some sea sick pills prior to heading out and a can of ginger beer in your bag isn’t a silly idea.

Once out at the canyon it’s not long before we start getting sightings and some of the juvenile males and mothers with calves come in for a closer look.

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There is a variety of potential sights out here from majestic sea birds, sharks, whales and Orca’s. The Killer whales are what we are here for and everything else is a bonus. Today we are getting a few sightings and some are even coming alongside and underneath the boat. Tail flaps and blows today and there was one individual jumping right out of the water the day before. This is one of those rare almost once in a lifetime experiences that leaves you excited and awestruck.

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I have brought my two Pentax DSLR’s today with a wide angle 17-50 Sigma on one and the 50-135 Pentax on the other. I turn off the in-body shake reduction as I could be panning for sea birds and opt for ‘shutter priority’. This is a departure from my usual aperture priority shooting at weddings. Lucky that the Pentax DSLR’s can shoot up to 1/8000th sec.  In bright sunlight here on the open sea, i’ll possibly need it. Boat movement is a big factor here and you need to keep your shutter speeds high for sharp results. Having a wide variety of focal lengths was a good choice. If the Orca’s are shy on the day, you’ll need good long zoom length but as they come up to the boat, your suddenly reaching for a ‘wide’. The above shot was almost too close as the individual came right alongside. (I did keep a kit lens 55-300 in my bag in case, but didn’t need it.)

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It’s been a long day, the run home is pretty smooth now, running with the waves and we stop off at the local sea lion colony close to home. A small family are sunning themselves on the rocks. The boat is ‘deftly’ bought close to the  edge of the small island on the rolling surf. It’s a picturesque sight and a nice touch before turning around and heading for Terra Firma.

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A stunning day, which produced a good range of experiences. The trip isn’t cheap at $350 per person, but what you are doing, as well as a rare 8 hour adventure viewing wildlife, is supporting the scientific research by the marine biologists on board. There is complimentary lunch, snacks, tea and coffee on board and a friendly and experienced crew which left you feeling that things were always in control.

The scene as we walked away from the jetty shows the kind of beauty you are dealing with.

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 Time to head back to Perth, another quick drive through Bremer Bay, fueling up the car and some snacks before the long drive home. This time we take a quicker route, despite a little poor navigating by me …. (note to self: expand the google maps when you are looking at major turns on the way to your destination !!!)

We drove through Broome Hill, Katanning, Wagin, Narrogin and Brookton before making it home surprisingly at about 9:30pm. No speeding, as i’m far too afraid of the suicidal Kangaroo’s, but the road through that way is superb, a lot more scenic and through some great little towns which make for easy comfort and food stops.

Time for some reflection on the way home. Long drives are part of life in Western Australia and a good comfortable steed is necessary. We will be returning to Bremer Bay, it’s too beautiful not too. The camping grounds are excellent, the cafe’s are good and we only got to see about 20% of the whole area. Next time, we will take our time and look around a lot more. Photographers, fisherman, snorkeling, scuba, book readers, cafe hounds ….. there’s a lot here for those willing to go a little out of the way.