The sandplains that cover much of the park support a great variety of plant and animal life. In areas of deep sand, dense thickets of Banksia speciosa (pic 3) thrive, growing to three or four metres tall. On gravel outcrops and in areas where the soil is shallow, another banksia, Banksia pulchella, may be found.
Many species of small native mammals rely on the plant communities of the park for food and shelter. When in flower, the banksias are a source of nectar and insects for the tiny honey-possum and birds (pic 5), while after dark, the quenda, or southern brown bandicoot, forages in the understorey for grubs and worms.j
Animals like the heath monitor I spied would feed on them. I spent ten minutes getting the picture you see here.
The park is named after Le Grand, an officer of the L'Esperance, one of the ships in a French expedition commanded by Admiral D'Entrecasteaux in 1792. Matthew Flinders visited and named Lucky Bay in 1802, when taking shelter from a summer storm. Rossiter Bay was named by John Eyre when his party, suffering from the rigours of crossing the Nullarbor, was relieved to find the ship Mississippi, captained by Rossiter, anchored in the bay in June 1841. Mississippi Hill at Lucky Bay was named after the ship.
Rehabilitation and restoration projects have been undertaken at most of the coastal sites and on numerous old and now disused roads and tracks within Cape Le Grand National Park. When the Department of Environment and Conservation say "Please assist nature by keeping off the rehabilitation areas", there's a reason.....(more in general tips)
The campground at Lucky Bay is known for its tame kangaroos. They allow you very close, although they won't allow you to touch them. Take care on the road!
See the photo story of The Naughty Joey
A bay with a dream beach...
The sealed road from the park entrance ends right above Lucky Bay. The last bit down to the campground is gravel. Leave your car in the campground's parking lot and walk.
In 2006 Lucky Bay was nominated "Australia's Whitest Beach" in a continent-wide competition (article on the website).
The beach is indeed white, rather solid, and it will probably be even more beautiful in seasons when it is not covered by large amounts of rotting seaweed.
Depending on the weather you may get to go past a lot of other islands on the way. En route we did that but, on the return journey the next day it was a shocker.
One of the things they do is feed a pair of sea eagles which gives you a wonderful chance to get a good snap of them (pic 1).
On the island there are three types of honeyeater but the most prolific is certainly the New Holland honeyeater (pic 2).
I also went fishing and got enough sea sweep and leatherjacket (pics 4&5) for a nice feed for myself and the managing staff.
You will probably also see some seals (pic 3) on the way, lazing on the rocks soaking up the sun as they tend to do.
THOUGHTS AT TWIGGY'S COVE (pic 4)
There's something about sitting on an island, all alone; the wind whipping at your hair after it's finished tormenting the water.
The sun breaking up the clouds bringing light to the other islands that surround you in the distance, their brown granite stained with mineral run off and black magma from ancient geological eruptions.
The vegetation clinging desperately to life on the thin soil yet at the same time creating its own.
There's a calming effect of waves splashing ceaselessly on the rock, every time different yet always the same. It's soporific and eventually you enter a trance like state and feel as one with the environment. There's a timelessness here yet the scene is ever eroding though it's not apparent in the time scale of now.
I wondered how long moments and thoughts like these could last......and then I moved on. (pic 3)
THE CASE FOR ZIPPERS
It's a simple thing, sewing on a button. First you take the needle and thread off the card.......of course, for me, that's where the problems started. The black cotton and needle became totally mixed up with the brown, white and grey. Minutes were spent sorting this horrible mess out but eventually I was ready to go.
Well, secondly, you have to thread the cotton through a hole designed for something of microscopic proportions with thread of marine rope size that always has an invisible piece out in front that seeks to divert the following main thread away from the path you wish it to go.
Then again, if you at sometime succeed in finally getting that through the hole, that's when the cotton splits in two and you have to start all over again.
Heaven forbid, with straining eyes and moist tongue flattening the thread you may succeed at last. It's around this time that the thread catches on something else and pulls itself out as you reach for the button.
This is the type of activity that can keep those in nursing homes occupied for hours at a time.
At some stage in the next half hour you'll return to that point again and, button at the ready, begin to actually sew it on.
Naturally enough, at some stage, you'll also manage to get a knot here as well, necessitating in shortening the thread to half its original length and leaving the button barely hanging which will then allow you to stress out for the next few weeks (or possibly months) wondering when the damn thing will fall off again.
Then again, it's a simple thing to sew on another button.
I took an overnight trip to a place called Woody Island. It's the third largest in the numerous islands of the Recherché Archipelago and, although it's National Park, someone has a 6 hectare lease on it and you can stay overnight. Here are some stories from that journey.
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE
To preface this story I should let you know about a man named McKenzie. He's a 93 year old who has writ much of Esperance's history. The company he founded owns the tugs in this busy port and he is the one behind the whole Woody Island thing. He used to run sheep on this and other islands amongst his various projects. He's a bit of a legend around these parts.
Anyhow, it so happens that he used to have a golden labrador. He used to take that dog with him everywhere, especially yachting which is another passion he had.
Twiggy the dog used to enjoy these wonderful times during her adolescence until, one day they got caught in stormy weather out among the islands. McKenzie was busy hanging onto the wheel but noticed that his dog was missing. Somewhat distressed, he tried searching for her but, in the conditions, it was to no avail. She definitely wasn't on board and, with the rough seas, the dog had gone.
After a few days, he gave the dog up for lost until, some many weeks later, there were reports of a dingo on Woody Island.
McKenzie put two and two together and decided to go and have a look. 3 1/2 months had elapsed since the incident but, when he got out there, he found the dog!
Unfortunately, by this time the dog had turned feral and he couldn't catch her. He was disappointed but didn't give in.
He sent a mate out to get her and he kept leaving feed out and eventually trapped her.
They worked out where the dog had gone overboard and measured that it was 3 miles offshore to Woody Island and where she got up was over steep granite; a truly remarkable feat.
She was brought back to the mainland and subsequently spent the next 8 years with McKenzie until she passed away......though she never went on the yacht again!
That night I drove around to Table Island picnic spot. It looks out, not surprisingly, on to Table Island which is a large granite outcrop you can walk to if you don’t mind getting your feet wet.
Then I moved around to Wharton Beach and was entranced for the first time. A truly beautiful beach with pristine white sands, turquoise water, a gentle surf and a prominent granite headland overlooking it all. One of the locals had pointed me in its direction and I had to agree that it’s a special place.
Ever optimistic, I thought I’d try my luck fishing again and worked my way down the steep granite outcrop that forms the headland.
I was the only person there. The offshore wind sat the waves up and the surge washed up the granite. There were islands not far offshore; part of the Recherche Group where I would be staying the next night.
Below me the seal I had been warned about continually surfaced and always checked me out before diving again. It was almost like he was beckoning me in the water to come play with him.
Two huge pacific gulls rested 80 metres away, eyeing my bait off every time I reset my line. It was all so special, one of those memorable times you’ll never forget, and few fish sought to disturb my thoughts.
I lost a lot of gear and gave up, but the last time I pulled my line up there was a worthy leatherjacket on it. Still, I decided it was time to move and went around to the small rocks overlooking the sand and chanced my arm.
For the next hour all I did was reel in fish, all of them undersize but what fun. Innumerable salmon, banded sweep, trevally and another I’ve never seen before, all coming from turquoise water so beautiful you couldn’t take your eyes off it. Wharton Bay, a special place, I’ll never forget that name. The only thing is, it's not actually in the national park, just outside of it.
I cruised over to Cape Le Grand National Park with much expectation. People I had spoken to had raved about the beaches. The sign into nearby Esperance proclaimed them "Australia's Best Beaches".
The first thing that I really noticed though was Frenchman's Cap, a distinct peak you come across before you get near the surf. The cave near the top is so dramatic that people have even been married there. Unfortunately, time didn't allow me to explore the heights.
I had to settle for roadside shots like the bullant on the banksia and the tiny flowers nearby (pic 5).
It was around sunset time but the clouds were too low to colour up so I took a couple of shots and headed towards the ocean.
Inland, the park protects an undulating heath-covered sandplain, interspersed with swamps and freshwater pools. The south-west corner of the park features massive rock outcrops of granite and gneiss that form an impressive chain of peaks including Mt Le Grand (345 m), Frenchman Peak (262 m) and Mississippi Hill (180 m).
The peaks of the park's south-west corner are the result of erosion and movements in the Earth's crust over the past 600 million years. During the Eocene period, some 40 million years ago, sea levels were at least 300 metres above their present level and these peaks would have been largely submerged. The caves and tunnels found in the peaks are thought to have been either formed or enlarged by wave action and underwater currents.
Lucky Bay is where I went to stay the night but, unfortunately, it was packed due to it being Easter weekend. So I returned to Thistle Cove and spent the night there, though you're not supposed to. Since I have a fully self contained vehicle I left no traces.
One of the attractions at Thistle Cove is Whistling Rock though, as with most similar type rocks, it's more a hum than a whistle, but interesting nonetheless.
From certain angles (pic 2) it also looks like a whale doing a "spyhop", a manoeuvre where they stick their head out of the water and look at you.
Next morning I awoke and ventured out, camera in hand, over towards Hellfire Bay but I couldn't go very far as the area was closed off due to a recent bushfire.
Bushfires in Australia have a couple of advantages after their destructive passage. One is that certain types of flora rely on them to germinate; the other is that it makes scenery more accessible until the plants grow again.
The picture showing my motorhome (3) would not have been possible 12 months before it was taken.
The best area to spot emus is not in the park itself but right outside its boundaries in the open pastures of the cattle farms. You'll see large numbers of emus along Le Grand Road and Merivale Road.
Frenchman Peak is the most prominent among the granite hills of Cape Le Grand. The rock on top gives it a distinctive shape which is recognizable over a long distance.