Wadderin Sanctuary is a Nature Conservation Project associated with the town of Narembeen, in the West Australian Wheatbelt. The 427ha sanctuary is fenced to keep out foxes and cats and as a result a suite of native wildlife that once occurred in the region has been re-introduced at the sanctuary.
The only native mammals that remained in the reserve prior to fencing were the Euro, Western Grey Kangaroo and Echidna. In addition to these, the reserve now contains Brushtail Possums, Red-tailed Phascogales, Woylies, Banded Hare-wallabies, Western Brush Wallabies and Quenda.
Narembeen is situated 275kms or an easy 3 hour drive East of Perth , so I decided to make a weekend of it and explore the self guided drive “The Granite Way,” while I was nearby.
After booking in at my accommodation at Narembeen I met with local legend Brendan, who had kindly given up his Friday night to show me around the reserve. We made the short drive out to the sanctuary at dusk. During the drive we saw a couple of Western Grey Kangaroos in the wheat fields, having just moved from the cover of the bush running along the railway line, as the cover of the night approached.
The first stop of the evening was the Banded-wallaby Enclosure. The Banded-hare Wallaby is a small wallaby, once common in the Wheatbelt before being driven to extinction on the Australian mainland by a combination of land clearing and introduced predators. It is now occurs naturally only on a few islands in the Shark Bay Region.
Darkness was falling as we entered the enclosure on foot and walked the perimeter. There didn’t seem to be any sign of the wallabies at first but towards the end of our short walk we saw a Banded-hare Wallaby near a feeder. It was quite shy under the spotlight and made off into the bush, but it was still a thrill to briefly see this animal.
Next we made the short drive into the main enclosure. After the gate was securely locked behind us, our first stop was the tool shed, to pick up feed for the animals and have a quick look around for the resident Stimson’s Python. Before we had even entered the shed, a few Woylies had hopped from the bush onto the road in anticipation of the imminent food.
No python was to be found in the shed but we picked up the feed, and no sooner had we put it on the ground outside the shed than five or six Woylies appeared. As we drove off Brendan assured me there would be greater numbers on our return after the drive.
For the first part of the drive we scattered feed along the track. Woylies were clearly the mammal in the greatest numbers at Wadderin, but when I cast my spotlight into a tree I also picked out two Common Brushtail Possums.
Brendan stopped the car on a granite outcrop, high above the surrounding plains, where we got out of the car. There was a spectacular lightening show in the East of the sky and it was exhilarating to be stood in the darkness in a stiff breeze watching the amazing light show from mother nature flicker across the horizon.
After we had descended from the outcrop and back into woodland Brendan indicated we would be passing a feeder where there would be a high chance of Banded-hare Wallabies, and that indeed was the case. This time my views of the pretty Wallabies were prolonged and it was easy to make out their striped rear, the reason they acquired their common name. What a privilege to see these rare mammals.
The feed, that we had previously scattered on the track on the drive out, had attracted some visitors, with plenty of Woylies on the road and also a rather confiding Southern Brown Bandicoot or Quenda, that allowed close approach.
Once back at the shed the Woylie numbers had indeed increased to around twenty animals, and while the Woylies remained intent on feeding it allowed for a close viewing experience, and a few more photos.
All too soon it was time to leave and head back into town but not before we had examined the base of a tree that had previously hosted nesting Barn Owls, there were all sorts of interesting bones and furballs scattered around the base.
Brendan is clearly passionate about Wadderin which adds to the experience on the night, and he is also a mine of information about the inhabitants and logistics of the sanctuary. I cannot recommend highly enough the experience of wonderful Wadderin Sanctuary.
The following morning I had an excellent coffee at the Narembeen Roadhouse before driving to the start of The Granite Way, West of the town of Bruce Rock.
Roadside vegetation between Bruce Rock and Kwolyin, (the start of the drive trail,) was beautiful in places, with wonderful stands of flowering Acorn Banksia. The Acorn Banksia is a keystone species in the Wheatbelt because at this time of year it is the only source of nectar, and as such it is essential for the survival of the honeyeaters of the region. It is found in association with the Sandplain Woody Pear and it was easy to spot these distinctive plants alongside the Banksias.
There were also sadly a couple of road killed reptiles, with both a Western Bearded Dragon and a beautiful Gwardar, or Western Brown Snake, almost orange in colour with its distinctive black head, dead on the road.
The Granite Way is a 60km drive trail that links up some of the iconic granite outcrops of the Central Wheatbelt. There are shelters, with tables and benches, at places of interest around the trail, a fabulous brand new day use area including toilets at Kokerbin Rock and even a campsite at Kwolyn for those planning to stay overnight.
I started out at Kwolyin (campground,) and drove the short distance North to Kokerbin Rock. This giant granite outcrop, reputed to be the fourth largest monolith in Australia, rises from the surrounding plains in spectacular fashion.
There is plenty of information about the rock at the day use area and a number of walks of varying length and difficulty are possible. I chose to walk the Summit Trail and I wasn’t disappointed with the excellent views from the top of the surrounding countryside.
My next stop was Mount Stirling, another impressive granite outcrop further North along The Granite Way. I once again ascended to the top of the outcrop, and from here it was possible to see Mt Caroline Reserve across the Salt River. The Salt River is an impressive geological feature of the Wheatbelt, visible from passenger jets flying high above.
The catchment area of the river is greater than the landmass of Tasmania, and the area between Mount Stirling and Mt Caroline is known at the Caroline Gap. It is where the Yilgarn River and Lockhart River meet at a topographical pinch point, before heading West to ultimately Perth’s Swan River and the Indian Ocean.
The river as the name suggests is a saline river system comprising a chain of salt lakes. The system has a very low gradient estimated at around 30 centimetres per kilometre.
I had previously visited Mt Caroline Reserve to view the colony of beautiful Black-flanked Rock Wallabies that reside amongst the boulders and cliffs of the reserve, so I made a brief stop at this reserve to reacquaint myself with them.
As I left the reserve Mt Stirling was giving off an orange glow from the late afternoon sun on the opposite side of the Salt River.
I made a short climb up the West side of the rock to watch the sun slide below the horizon, then from here I made my way to Kwolyin Campground and set up camp for the night. I was pleased to find I was the sole occupant that night and promptly turned in for an early night, exhausted after the day clambering over granite!
Sunday morning I woke early and struck camp so that I could make the short drive back to Kokerbin Rock. I made the ascent of the rock in plenty of time to watch the sunrise at 6.18am, it was a wonderful experience perched on top of a giant rock with not another soul around.
I decided to explore around the rock to try and find the Black-flanked Rock Wallabies that inhabit the rock. I didn’t find the colony but sadly I did see a Red Fox. Another mammal I saw during my early morning exploration on Kokerbin was a Euro or Common Wallaroo, it is great to see that these small reserves still hold populations of these large Macropods.
As I returned to the car there were plenty of Twenty-eight Parrots perched at the tops of trees enjoying the first warming rays of the sun on this cool morning.
Back at the car I disturbed a couple of Western Grey Kangaroos that alarmed and bounded off into the bush.
To complete the drive on Sunday morning I drove past Gundaring Rock back to Mount Caroline and had a short walk around the reserve before the drive back to Perth. There was plenty of wildlife around with flocks of raucous Galahs in the trees, Ornate Crevice Dragons scarpering along the granite and the occasional glimpse of a Rock Wallaby.
With the temperatures finally warming I made my way back to Perth, stopping in York for refreshments. I had thoroughly enjoyed my weekend in the Wheatbelt, the locals are friendly, the wildlife plentiful and the vistas superlative. The crowds that now descend on the South West of WA every weekend with associated traffic snarls are a world away from the open spaces and solitude of the Wheatbelt, I can’t wait to get back………… #NatureNeverFailsToImpress!