Shark Bay World Heritage Area
The Shark Bay World Heritage Area ranks as one of the planet’s most important wilderness regions. It forms the southern gateway to the Gascoyne region and is serviced by the town of Denham. It is home to dolphins, dugongs and a profusion of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna.
The unique natural beauty and ecology of the area were acknowledged when it was awarded World Heritage status in 1991. The features of Shark Bay satisfied all four World Heritage natural criteria; natural beauty, ecological processes, biological diversity and earth’s history.
Its colourful and diverse landscapes are home for a profusion of animals and plants, including some found nowhere else on Earth. Shark Bay’s unique stromatolites, wildlife and plants, exceptional landscapes and ongoing evolutionary processes all contributed to its World Heritage listing.
The land forming Shark Bay is in three prongs with the outer prong at the Western most point of Australia, defined by the spectacular Zuytdorp Cliffs. The coastal experience of the inner peninsular of the Shark Bay World Heritage area is characterized by red sand dunes meeting white sandy beaches stretching into sparkling turquoise water. The bays contain vast sea grass meadows which provide spawning and nurturing habitats for an array of mammal and fish species.
Shark Bay’s sea grass meadows have influenced the physical, chemical, biological and geomorphic evolution of the region’s marine environment. Sediments trapped by sea grasses have formed banks and sills, affecting tidal flow which, combined with the hot dry climate, have created areas of super-concentrated salinity. This has not only led to the emergence of genetically distinct, salt-tolerant animals, but has allowed the proliferation of cyanobacteria and creation of stromatolites – which are in themselves a World Heritage value!
Shark Bay is a refuge for numerous rare and threatened plants and animals. Largely spared the habitat destruction and introduced predators that wreaked havoc on mainland Australia, it is the last stronghold for five critically endangered mammals – four of which occur in the wild nowhere else on earth. These are the Banded Hare-Wallaby, Shark Bay Mouse, Western Barred Bandicoot and the Rufous Hare-Wallaby (Mala).
The Shark Bay World Heritage Area offers a range of attractions and activities to the visitor. It is also home to the world famous Monkey Mia where visitors were first able to interact with wild dolphins.