Rottnest Island, Western AustraliaSaturday, 8 December 2018
After the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Dirk Hartog and Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago my fourth and final Western Australia island visit was Rottnest. This is all for a forthcoming book from the National Library of Australia to be titled Australia’s Islands.
▲Rottnest was dubbed Rat’s Nest by the early Dutch explorer who mistook the island’s signature marsupials, the delightful little quokkas, for rodents of an unusual size. Today quokkas, which seem to be very happy posing for selfies, are one of the island’s major attractions. Another is bicycles, the island has a huge fleet of very well kept bicycles for rent and since there are virtually no motorized vehicles on the island (just the odd bus and service vehicle) pedaling around is perfect.
▲ Just park your bike properly and don’t let the quokkas sneak into island shops and cafes.
◄ Quokkas aren’t the only wildlife, you can see a variety of birdlife including these impressive osprey ‘stacks’ as their nest are called, perched on handy outcrops by the coast.
▲ Just back from West End, appropriately at the western end of the island, there’s a wonderful pod (or a herd, harem or rookery) of New Zealand fur seals at Cathedral Rocks. They’re simply lolling around, floating on their backs, flippers up in the air, occasionally sort of washing up on to the top of the reef, clearly thoroughly enjoying doing nothing much at all
▲ I was a little cautious about visiting Rottnest, I’d been there before (although many years ago) and the island has a reputation of being a too easy escape from Perth (the WA capital) and Fremantle (the port for Perth). In fact I had a wonderful few days, there are lots of good roads to pedal along, plenty of places for a coffee a cold beer or a good meal and far too many beaches for any island this size – 19 square km, about 11km from one end to the other. That’s the beach at Parakeet Bay.
◄ Rottnest is absurdly easy to get to, ferries shuttle across from Fremantle in 25 minutes and there are more services from Perth itself and from North Perth.
▲ The island has a couple of impressive old lighthouses. There are daily tours of Wadjemup lighthouse, more or less in the middle of the island.
The island’s little museum is a reminder, however, that it’s not all light and brightness on Rottnest, for years the island was used as a prison for WA Aboriginals and many of them who died from maltreatment or simply disease and neglect were buried here in unmarked graves. The museum emphasizes that it’s an ongoing problem for the state, Western Australia still has a totally disproportionate number of Aboriginal prisoners incarcerated.
▲ Then there was a reminder that Australia has other big problems that it refuses to face. The ‘live sheep trade,’ shipping sheep to the Middle East so they can be slaughtered in approved Islamic fashion, continues despite the shocking death rate on the transport ships. New Zealand has confronted this problem and banned the trade. It’s perfectly possible to kill the unfortunate sheep in a manner that keeps Muslims happy and ship the meat frozen. Unfortunately Australia has politicians – like the utterly reprehensible Barnaby Joyce – who like torturing sheep. As I docked in Fremantle after my Rottnest visit the Al Shuwaikh, an Arab world death ship, was moored quayside. Click here if you want to know more about this ongoing horror story.