History of Monkey Mia Monkey Mia is a coastal settlement located on the Peron Peninsula, near
Denham , Shark Bay in Western Australia. The name first appeared in 1890, in a letter from a
pearler, who referred to the area as Monkey Mia. However there seems to be some confusion over the exact
origin of this unusual name. Some believe it was named after a schooner, "Monkey", which came to Shark Bay in 1834. Others believe it was named after "monkey", a colloquialism for sheep. There
was a rumour that it was named after a monkey that jumped ship and swam ashore. Some even a suggest it was a
nickname of a local resident. One thing that there is no debate about is the word Mia, which is an Aboriginal
word meaning "shelter" or "resting place".
Dolphins Befriend The FishermenIn the 1960's bottlenose dolphins began making regularly visits to Monkey
Mia, after the local fishermen began throwing fish to them, from their boats. Around the same time, the road
between Geraldton and Carnarvon was sealed, opening up the area and the isolated community of Denham.
Dolphins Become A Tourist AttractionIt wasn't long before word spread of these friendly
dolphins. Soon Monkey Mia became the area's major tourist attraction and one of the few places in the world where
dolphins naturally interact with humans. In the early years, it wasn't unusual (after having travelled 25km on a
unsealed road), to find the beach lined with the tents of international and local marine biologists who had
travelled a long way, to study these fascinating creatures.
For over forty years the ritual of wild dolphins coming into shore to be
hand fed has continued with more than 150,000 tourists visiting annually. The seven or more dolphins (and
their young) that come into Monkey Mia belong to a larger group that live further out in the bay. Today only a
few people are allowed to pat the dolphins each day, as there are fears that certain human bacterias, such as
tinea, can be passed on to these gentle sea creatures.
Bottlenose dolphins are mammals and can be recognised by their grey back and light grey belly. They have a
prominent dorsal fin which has a slight hook. The fin is set midway along the dolphins body and is used to slice
through the water. They have pointed flippers. The head is melon shaped with a short rounded beak. The average
length of a bottlenose dolphin is 3m. They eat a variety of fish, squid and octopuses which they grip with small,
conical teeth. They can dive to depths of more than 600m. In 1999 the classification of the Shark Bay dolphins was
changed and are know referred to as Indian Ocean or Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Interestingly, the largest
member of the dolphin family is the killer whale.