Eco-tourism plan for Dirk Har­tog Is­land

Pilbara News - - Pilbara News - Kate Emery

■ 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.

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