Rats Nest Island?
Just about everyone who visits the Perth area takes a trip over to Rottnest Island. Some stay there in the various types of accommodation on offer. Others go for a quick day trip. We were the latter category as we took a fast ferry from Fremantle to the island that was first documented and named by the Dutch sailor and explorer Willem de Vlamingh.
The Dutch were the first Europeans to document the Swan River and surrounding coast as far back as the 1690s. Including Rottnest Island. Willem de Vlamingh called the island ‘t Eylandt ‘t Rottenest – meaning Rats’ Nest Island – after the quokka population he saw there. He clearly mistook them for being some kind of giant rat. And to this day the quokka is the main reason most people go to the island.
It’s easy to see how the first Europeans to see the quokka mistook them for large rats. Like many other animals unique to Australia these are certainly different if not plain odd.
From 1838 to 1931, Rottnest Island was used as a prison camp for over 3,600 Aboriginal people, keeping them separate from other prisoners housed at Fremantle prison. Today it is a holiday haven and tourist trap. The island has a permanent population of around 300 people but attracts around 780,000 visitors each year.
The island lies some 18km (11 miles) off the coast of Fremantle and there are plenty of boats ferrying visitors throughout the day. There are also hundreds of privately owned boats that make the journey and weigh anchor in the many beautiful bays around the island. It is clearly a popular destination.
It’s not all about the Quokka…
There are regular bus services covering all corners of the island, but many visitors prefer to hire (or use their own) bicycles. We hired bikes and headed off to one of the many great little bays for a spot of snorkelling.
The port area is the only place you could call “built up”. There are several shops, cafes and bars where people spend time waiting for their return ferry or keeping an eye on their own craft in the bay. When we were there it was packed with yachts and plenty of small motor boats.
These little marsupials are like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo. Which makes them even more odd than the kangaroo itself. They only live in south western Australia, mainly on two islands (the other being Bald Island near Albany) and in a few forest locations between Albany and Perth.
At first while we were cycling we only spotted a few. However, by the time we were waiting for our return ferry they were coming out all over the place. Take it from me: You are definitely guaranteed to see them if you visit Rottnest Island.
If like us, you visit Rottnest Island for the day, I can safely say that you will be thinking: ‘This is definitely a place I want to return to and spend a few nights on the island.’