Shark Bay, Western Australia

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Shark Bay is a World Heritage Site in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia. It is an area centred approximately on 25°30'S 113°30'ECoordinates: 25°30'S 113°30'E, 800 kilometres north of Perth, on the westernmost point of Australia. An expedition led by Dirk Hartog happened upon the area in 1616, becoming the second group of Europeans known to have visited Australia. Shark Bay was named by William Dampier, on 7 August 1699.

Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay, Western Australia

At the most westerly point of the Australian continent, Shark Bay, with its islands and the land surrounding it, has three exceptional natural features : its vast sea-grass beds, which are the largest (4,800 km²) and richest in the world; its dugong ('sea cow') population; and its stromatolites (colonies of algae which form hard, dome-shaped deposits and are among the oldest forms of life on earth). Shark Bay is also home to five species of endangered mammals.

Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay, Western Australia

On the Indian Ocean coast at the most westerly point of Australia, Shark Bay's waters, islands and peninsulas covering a large area of some 2.2 million hectares (of which about 70% are marine waters) have a number of exceptional natural features, including one of the largest and most diverse seagrass beds in the world.

Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay, Western Australia

However it is for its stromatolites (colonies of microbial mats that form hard, dome-shaped deposits which are said to be the oldest life forms on earth), that the property is most renowned. The property is also famous for its rich marine life including a large population of dugongs, and provides a refuge for a number of other globally threatened species.

Shark Bay, Western Australia
Shark Bay, Western Australia

The bay itself covers an area of 10,000 km², with an average depth of 10 metres. It is divided by shallow banks and has many peninsulas and islands. The coastline is over 1,500 km long. There are about 300 km of limestone cliffs overlooking the bay. One spectacular segment of cliffs is known as the Zuytdorp Cliffs. The bay is located in the transition zone between three major climatic regions and between two major botanical provinces.

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