Our last stop, after a week touring the outback, was three nights camped on the beach at Shark Bay - where the red dunes of the desert meet the white sands and sparkling blue waters of the Indian Ocean. We pitched our tent on the edge of the dunes in Denham and headed out along the Peron Peninsula, on day trips to the beaches near the tip of the cape, and Monkey Mia on the gulf.
We saw an echidna scuttling across the road, sea turtles and dolphins cruising past the beach. I pulled on my wetsuit to snorkel over an onshore reef, drifting over coral and angelfish with always an eye on the shore and an ear on the squeals of my children playing on the beach. I was quite glad to be out of the water when a passing spear fisherman leapt out of the shallows in front of us. "The kids won't be going snorkeling in there - a three metre fucking shark just swam right in front of me," he barked. I had not even seen a shadow, and doubt very much it was as big as he claimed. The sensible part of my brain knows that the reef sharks are not interested in a human meal, but the primal part has no desire to be in the water with one.
We joined the hordes on the beach at Monkey Mia for the early morning dolphin feeding. It was not so terribly crowded - perhaps 80 people lined up along the shore - but out own stomachs were growling for breakfast so we headed back to a picnic table and ate paw paw, bananas and grapefruit we had bought from the plantations in Carnarvon, leaving the dolphins to their fish ration for the day. I wandered back down the beach once the feeding session was over and settled down to breastfeed Thea by the waters' edge, whereupon the dolphins magically reappeared and we had them to ourselves for a moment or two before the rangers and tourists descended once again. Grant got to hand-feed a dolphin but none of us noticed - the boys were looking the other way and I think I was busy photographing the pelican waiting for its fish next to me.
No holiday is complete for me until I have dipped my toes in the sea and dived back under the waves. But we have been a little bit spoiled since getting home. The sun has shone and we have been picnicking at the beach. I am quite certain that the water on the south coast is no colder than the subtropics - both require a wetsuit at this time of year. And the very act of stepping barefoot back onto the sand makes me feel I am still on holidays. I just need to dust off my surfboard and get back out there.