Monday, December 10, 2012

Recherche Archipelago & Cape Le Grand

A bit of history:  Dutch explorers were the first to sail the waters around Esperance in 1627, but no Europeans actually made landfall until French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux did in 1792.  He sailed two ships with him:  the Esperance and the Recherche.  As you can guess, the Esperance lent its name to the town, and the Recherche lent its name to the archipelago just offshore.

The Recherche Archipelago is comprised of over 100 islands and another 1,000+ “obstacles” – which we were told basically means rocks jutting out of the water which are too small to be classified as islands but could still fuck up your boat.  We hopped on board a wildlife cruise to explore the archipelago on our first day in Esperance.

The captain brought our big catamaran up close to some of these obstacles to see fur seals and sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks:

We also saw a plethora of birds, including Cape Barren Geese and sea eagles.  Our tour guide put on a great show when she lured a sea eagle over to us with a fish:

Later on, we docked at the only island accessible by humans, Woody Island:

And we had some time to explore the beaches and trails on our own before returning to the mainland.

Our outdoor adventures continued the next day with a trip to Cape Le Grand National Park.  Cape Le Grand was named after one of the men aboard the Esperance who spotted a place to lay their anchors during a storm.  We started off by checking maps and warnings:

Five-sixths of that sign is high fire danger or worse.  We are indeed in outback Australia.  After we got our bearings worked out, we decided our first feat of the day would be to climb to the top of Frenchman Peak.

It was a difficult climb to the top, but the views were stunning!

We didn’t realize just how steep it was until we were going down… very carefully and very slowly.  To demonstrate, here is a picture taken with the camera parallel to the ground:

After that, we approached Lucky Bay, proclaimed as Australia’s whitest sand beach (though always duking it with beaches in New South Wales and Queensland).  The sand was so white that the camera had a hard time capturing it:

Lucky Bay is famous as it is featured in many Tourism Australia advertisements.  Here, kangaroos roam along the beach and it makes the perfect scene for a TV commercial promoting Australia.  I was pleased to know that it wasn’t staged for TV – there were kangaroos on the beach when we arrived!

There was also a ton of dried up seaweed at one end of the beach, but I’ll write that off to seasonality.  Despite the frigid temperatures, I had to take a dip in the crystal clear waters.

Cape Le Grand also had a several kilometer long coastal trail of which we did a small portion.  We bumped into a few friends along the way…

Time to head back to town?  I think so.

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