Eco-tourism plan for Dirk Hartog Island
■ Plans to transform Dirk Hartog Island from a hidden gem to an ecotourism hot spot are moving into high gear, with an eco-camp proposed for the historic island.
A master plan for an eco-camp, close to where Dutchman Dirk Hartog became the first known European to set foot on WA’s coast in 1616, has been submitted to the Department of Parks and Wildlife.
The Turtle Bay camp would comprise about 20 big “tents” for shortterm stays.
The eco-camp is independent of a plan for up to 33 self-contained short-stay units on another part of the island, Sunday Island Bay.
The camp and villas are collectively intended to boost Dirk Hartog Island’s appeal as a naturebased tourism destination ahead of next year’s 400th anniversary of Hartog’s landing.
Both plans are driven by the Wardle family, who operate the island’s eco-lodge and camping facilities.
The family once held a pastoral lease over the island and acquired parcels of freehold land via a deal with the WA Government.
The 62,000ha island is a World Heritage site and land uses have been restricted and tourism facilities limited. The only tourist facilities on the northern side of the island near Turtle Bay are camping areas with freestanding timber buildings open to the elements.
The Wardles have environmental approval for the development of the first eight accommodation units, three of which have been sold.
Kieran Wardle, whose grandfather Sir Thomas Wardle secured the pastoral lease in 1968 and who lives part-time on the island and manages the eco-lodge, said that without more facilities on the island it would be impossible to capitalise on the interest sparked by next year’s anniversary.
“There’s just not going to be enough space for the celebrations,” he said.
The celebrations are expected to bring a flood of new visitors. The Government has spent $6 million upgrading Denham.
Years have been spent on a program to restore the habitats of the island, including removing introduced flora and fauna and reintroducing locally extinct wildlife.
Celebrations will include a Dirk Hartog Festival and a trip from Bunbury to Shark Bay by the replica ship Duyfken — not based on Hartog’s vessel but another Dutch ship of the era.