We woke up on our third day at Bunker Bay to sunshine and blue skies again. Gorgeous!
On our way to Caves House for lunch, we took the Eagle Bay Road turnoff and drove by the coast, checking out the gorgeous beaches. We stopped by Gannet Rock and took a couple of pictures then went on to Caves House with a plan to come back later for a swim.
Unfortunate, while the beaches were pretty awesome, Caves House was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve heard a lot about the historic Federation House-style hotel and its beautiful grounds where weddings are held, but the restaurant was located to the side and the indoor dining room looked rather dull and dreary. There was an adjoining casual pub with an outdoor dining area which looked more lively so we went there instead. I had to admit, I was rather disappointed as I had expected a far better dining experience after all I’ve heard about Caves House Hotel. We ordered the share platter and a glass of wine and enjoyed the sunshine but ate and left pretty quickly. It’s a decent place for a quick casual outdoor lunch, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting and I probably won’t come back again, considering what the other wineries and breweries have to offer in the area. I would say, though, that we did have good service and the bar and wait staff were really nice so if I did ever go back, it would be purely on that basis!
The weather was so good, we were tempted to skip our plan to visit Ngilgi Cave and just head straight to the beach. But the cave wasn’t too far from Caves House and I’ve always wanted to visit the caves in the South West so we decided to go ahead and stop by.
We opted for the semi-guided tour which meant a guide would take us down and give a quick spiel about the Ngilgi Cave and its history, but then we’d get to walk around and explore the cave on our own after. According to the guide, Ngilgi Cave was once inhabited by a dark spirit which was eventually chased out by Ngilgi (pronounced Neelgee), the good spirt, which now lives within the cave.
The cave was dark and cool with a certain musky salt-of-the-earth scent. Ngilgi is a karst cave filled with numerous stalactites and beautiful formations. There were only three other boys in our group and they choose to start off at the amphitheatre while we went on down the other way. I was glad because I preferred to explore the cave on our way and admire the formations in silence instead of having a lot of people around, chatting loudly.
We made our way down several winding steps into the depths of the cave and I wondered what it must have been like for the first people who discovered the cave and how they climbed down before there were stairs! It was a pretty easy climb for us and we soon arrived deep in the cave where a guide, Leon, sat waiting for us with a table of crystals and other stalactite formations. We weren’t allowed to touch any of the formations in the cave but we were able to handle the specimens Leon had on his desk. He also told us a few facts about the cave, such as how it takes about two months for rainwater to seep through from the surface into the cave itself.
The only thing I wasn’t so sure about was the bright coloured lights they used to light up some of the stalactites. It felt a little garish and Kool-Aid-coloured!
We finished up in the amphitheatre cavern where we followed a spiralling slope to the end and tested the cave’s famed acoustics. The real highlight, however, was when we lay down on the rubber mat at the end and looked straight up at the hundreds of stalactites hovering above us. It looked exactly as if we were looking down on a forest full of tall pine trees or a forest of sharp spires and it reminded me a little of some of the vast scenes out of The Lord of the Rings.
After we left the cave, it was time to hit the beach!
We headed back to the coast to Castle Rock Beach and and spent some time lying in the sun and swimming in the water.
I’ve been to quite a few beaches around the world and one thing I have to say is Western Australia definitely has some of the best beaches. The white sands are so pure and fine and the water is perfectly crystal clear. The two things I also loved about the beaches along that particular stretch of coastline off the Eagle Bay and Meelup Beach turnoffs are a) the water is so calm and clear, unlike most of the Perth beaches where the waves are huge and you’re always trying not to get knocked down even as you wade in, and b) they’re not rocky beaches so you don’t have to worry about cutting your bare feet on sharp pebbles and rocks as you wade out into the water.
The water is still pretty cold, as cold as the waters up in the Perth beaches, though once you brave the cold and dunk yourself in fully, you start to warm up. The only thing that preyed on my mind as I swam through the clear shallows was, hey, this water is so cold, no wonder there’s been issues with sharks all along the coast, I bet the sharks love these cool currents. Then I started thinking about sharks – not the best thing to be doing while you’re swimming out there alone in the ocean! I tried to shrug it off, though, because I didn’t want to be one of those people scared to put a toe in the water because of all the media coverage and hysteria about sharks in WA lately.
Of course, the very next day, as we drove by for a final farewell look at the coastline, we noticed that the beaches had all been closed off with signs announcing that this was due to a sighting of a three metre shark in the area!