Travelling memories: Christmas on Rottnest Island

Two years ago, in December 2017, I was travelling on the West Coast of Australia with a few friends of mine. After almost a month on the road, we arrived in Perth for Christmas, that we celebrated the “Aussie way”: at the beach, with a barbecue and a couple of beers. On the 26th of December, we went to Rottnest Island, a little island close to Perth famous mostly for its lovely inhabitants: the cutest animals on Earth, the quokkas. It was an unforgettable visit and two years later here’s my Christmas gift for you: the story of that fantastic day!

📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Rottnest Island.

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When you travel, you always have expectations about the places that you’re visiting. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower; sometimes you’re disappointed, sometimes you’re amazed. Rottnest Island was a place that I really wanted to explore and I was very impatient to discover it; it happens quite often that the highest expectations cause the greatest disillusions, but not that time. The day I spent there was even better than what I had imagined: Rottnest Island is simply extraordinary.

This little island (11km long and 4,5km wide at its widest part) is located less than 20km off the coast of Western Australia. A ferry connects it in less than 30 minutes to Fremantle, the historical district of Perth. There aren’t any motor vehicles on Rottnest Island, and the best and easiest way to visit it is to bring your bike, or to rent one for the day.

Rottnest Island, Perth, boats

The skyline of Perth is clearly visible from Rottnest Island

rottnest-island-cycling

That’s what me and my friends Cannelle and Thibaut did on that 26th of December 2017. We arrived at Rottnest Island relatively early in the morning and rented a bike from one of the many companies based at the little village called The Settlement next to the pier, with the intention of cycling around the entire island (which represents about 22km).

We didn’t really know what the island looked like; the main reason we came was because we wanted to see a quokka. These furry little animals are endemic to the South-West of Western Australia, and their main population is on Rottnest Island. Visiting the island was a bonus… But it turned out to be an extraordinary bonus. As soon as we left the village, on the northern side of the island, we were amazed by how beautiful the coast was: white sand beaches, pristine water… It looked like paradise!

After a few hundred meters, we suddenly saw a little animal by the side of the road watching us approaching: a quokka! He wasn’t shy at all; quokkas don’t have any predators on Rottnest Island and they are used to human presence. After a few seconds, he stopped staring at us and kept searching for food, and it’s only after we stopped next to him (which didn’t seem to bother him at all) that we realised that there was a group of 5 or 6 quokkas on the other side of the road!

rottnest-island-quokka-5

Quokka, Rottnest Island

It’s impossible not to love these animals. They’re just too cute! They are part of the marsupial family (they are cousins of kangaroos), which means that mothers have a pouch where they carry the babies during their first 6 months. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any joey (the name given to the baby in the pouch, also given to kangaroo babies)! Their constantly “smiling” faces make them look like they’re always happy… which I’d like to believe they are: they don’t have to be afraid of predators, and every human seeing them can’t help finding them irresistible! That little group was the first we saw that day, and we stayed next to them for quite a while, watching them eating leaves in the cutest possible way. Some were indifferent to us, but some others approached us, probably looking for food (it must be a bad habit that they took from tourists forgetting that they’re still wild animals who shouldn’t be fed). We were delighted, and this moment will probably remain as one of the best of our Australian adventures… at least it is for me!

Did you know that Rottnest Island takes its name from quokkas? The Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh confused them with giant rats (he mustn’t have looked very carefully!) and named the island “Rotte nest”, which meant “rat nest” in Dutch.

rottnest-island-quokka-hand

It was difficult to leave the fantastic company of these lovely quokkas, but we eventually got back on our bikes, heading to the West End of Rottnest Island. It was supposed to be the most gorgeous part of the island, and it was stunning indeed: once again, the colour of the water down the little cliffs was amazing. We also saw a few other animals: a group of seals sunbathing on a rock a bit further away, and a big black lizard; definitely not as cute as its neighbours with whom he’s sharing the island…

We ate the sandwiches we had brought with us and took the direction of the Wadjemup lighthouse, on top of a hill in the middle of the island. The 360° view from this hill was beautiful.

After leaving the lighthouse, we headed back to the coast, on the southern side of Rottnest Island. I think that these places called “Salmon Bay”, “Little Salmon Bay” or “Porpoise Bay” were my favourite parts of the island; it was exactly as beautiful as what we saw on the North in the morning, but with a big difference: it was completely empty. Apart from a couple of other people on the beach, we had this extraordinary landscape just to ourselves!

Unfortunately, it was already time to head back to the village. We couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to the quokkas one last time! And after bringing back our bikes, we sailed backed to Perth with the ferry, with extraordinary memories of that perfect day.

Quokka, Rottnest Island

Have you ever heard about Rottnest Island? If not, then I’m sure that after reading this you’re probably adding it to your bucket list!

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