Rottnest Island's famous Quokkas
by Sandip Hor
Seafaring along the western coastline of Australia in 1696, Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh stopped on an island, not far from the mainland.
While there he was greeted by an abundance of little animals that appeared to him like "a kind of rat as big as a common cat". He named the island 'Rotte Nest' meaning 'rat's nest'. Over time the formal name of the island became 'Rottnest' and lives today as one of the most visited destinations in Western Australia. The animals Vlamingh saw are called Quokkas. They look like little wallabies and are still found plentifully on the island, their profuse presence is an obvious attraction to all visitors.
Reachable by a short ferry ride from Fremantle which is the port suburb of Perth, Rottnest Island is a place where Perth residents and visitors rush to spend the day soaking up in the sunshine and nature experiences with 12000 plus quokkas who are deemed to be the happiest animal on earth.
There is something for everyone to do.
The island boasts many sandy beaches, so some obviously spend time playing with sun, sea and sand. The adventure lovers get into underwater activities to enjoy the underwater scenery. The island offers some of the world’s best swimming spots, snorkel trails, diving hubs and surf breaks. It’s said there are over 135 species of tropical fish and 25 varieties of coral making heading below the surface an unforgettable experience. Also, there are sites of shipwrecks, so many go down to explore maritime leftovers.
After the European settlement around the mid-19th century, it became a penal establishment for Aboriginal people and remained so until 1904.Then it continued its journey as a forced labour camp for prisoners until 1931. Around 4,000 Aboriginal men and boys from all over the former colony, and after the Federation, the State of Western Australia were incarcerated on the island, many of them were said to be transported in chains for thousands of miles. General public access to the island during the prison era was restricted.
During the period, Aboriginal prisoners were forced to construct a large number of buildings and other structures including The Quod – the prison, the museum, churches, lighthouses and other heritage listed infrastructure. Historically minded love to discover this piece of the past by visiting the Wadjemup Museum and some of the old buildings. Some love to dig into the island’s military history. They visit the Oliver Hill and Bickley Battery, Signal Ridge and Kingstown Barracks to get an understanding of Australia’s military system during the WWII period. Rottnest Island Voluntary guides offer free tours for visitors to provide a deeper insight into the island’s history, natural features and wildlife highlights.
The best way to tour the island is on a bike or a Segway, but there are also bus tours to circumnavigate the island only 11km long and 4.5km at the widest point.
The island is also a great place to relax, enjoy the best of the natural scenery and cherish good food and wine as the sanctuary also boasts some trendy cafes, restaurants and bars. There are accommodation outlets available on the island as well for those keen for a longer stay than a day trip from Perth.
Perth City Stay – Conveniently located in the heart of the city, Pan Pacific Hotel (www.panpacific.com) offers top order rooms, facilities, dining options and customer service.
Rottnest Island Ferry –Sealink Rottnest Island www.sealinkrottnest.com.au
Rottnest Bus Tour – Rottnest Express www.rottnestexpress.com.au
More Info – www.westernaustralia.com
ABOVE LEFT: island lighthouse CENTRE: Historic site RIGHT: Time for lunch
BELOW: Two stunning photos of the wild coastline