With an astonishing list of reasons supplied by UNESCO, including evidence of the oldest living creatures on the planet, why wouldn’t you come to WA’s Shark Bay?

The astonishing list of reasons UNESCO provides for including WA’s Shark Bay on its World Heritage List in 1991 isn’t just as long as your arm, it’s longer than the combined length of the arms of a good half-dozen of your friends too. A significant portion of those reasons are related to evidence of the oldest living things on the planet that lie within the super-salinated Hamelin Pools: the stromatolites.

As three-billion-year-old oxygen-excreting examples of primitive life go, the Shark Bay stromatolites are as dull as hyper-salty ditch water; all they do is sit there filtering air. But without them, the theory goes that complex life on Earth wouldn’t have been possible, so we owe them that at least. Although these stroms are actually only a few thousand years old, they’re like living fossils – meaning that the simple organisms that begat them can be traced back 3.5bn years.

The area is also home to the world’s only major populations of Burrowing Bettong, Rufous Hare Wallabies, Banded Hare Wallabies, Western Barred Bandicoots and Shark Bay Mice – which are either vulnerable species or football teams. Around one eighth of the world’s Dugongs are also found here, along with 11 species of endemic birds and eight species of endemic reptiles. So please, for goodness’ sake, watch where you’re walking in those heavy boots.

Where // Hamelin Pool is around 100km from Denham in the south of Shark Bay. (08) 9948 1590, www.sharkbayinterpretivecentre.com.au

Did you know? // UNESCO has four natural criteria for World Heritage Listing (geo/biological processes; natural beauty; vulnerable species; and evidence of major evolutionary stages) and Shark Bay is one of the very few in the world that meets all four.


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