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Thread: Merswimming potential around Wadjemup (aka Rottnest Island) Western Australia.

  1. #1
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Kwilena's Avatar
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    Perth, Western Australia.
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    Merswimming potential around Wadjemup (aka Rottnest Island) Western Australia.

    Firstly I would like to acknowledge that the traditional custodians of Wadjemup are the Whadjuk Nyoongar and give my respect to their elders, past, present and those who will emerge in the future. I recognise that wadjela of the past treated Nyoongar and other indigenous people in a shameful way on this island and that some of them are still buried there, far from their boodjar. Nyorn, nyorn, nyorn. I am sorry.

    Wadjemup or if you want the wadjela's name for it, Rottnest Island, is an island off Perth, Western Australia. It sports many beachy bays, clear water, rock pools and reefs with coral, friendly marsupials called quokkas (search for the hashtag #quokkaselfie to see what I mean) and a wonderful abundance of both marine and terrestrial wildlife.

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    Wadjemup - home of the Quokka Selfie.

    Due to the Leeuwin Current carrying warm waters and larvae of tropical species down from the North, there are many coral, fish and other organisms found in the area that are usually not found so far south in the temperate zone.

    It is a popular swimming, fishing and holiday destination with both locals and those from further away. This article aims to have an initial look at the potential sites for merswimming around Wadjemup, and might be updated now and then. It is accurate as of April 2019, but things may change, so best always to check the island’s website and here’s a - handy link to google maps too

    It’s recently been announced that there will be substantial upgrades to the facilities on the island, it remains to be seen whether this will affect access in a positive fashion.

    Risks in swimming around Wadjemup – well this is Australia. Apart from perfectly reasonable risks like drowning you might be bitten by a blue-ringed octopus, stung by various coelenterates or echinoderms or spined by a toxic fish, tasted by a shark or speared by a stingray. Land based perils include contracting salmonella from the quokkas (don’t touch them, don’t feed them) or from a dugite bite. However, you are far more likely to be run over in traffic and you still go out there when you’re not even surrounded by beauty in your rush hour commute, now, don’t you? This place is so beautiful it is worth greater risks than are actually present.

    Just be sensible. Don’t try to swim beyond your ability, don’t swim alone, and be aware of changing weather conditions and what the ocean is doing. Drinkable water is not available outside the Settlement, so bring your own. And use sunscreen, we’re a bit low on the ozone layer down here.

    Right, now, onto the fun stuff.

    Swimming around Wadjemup must be done with a care to the direction the wind is blowing from. The best swimming for merfolk purposes will be in clear water, with a good depth, easy entry and hopefully interesting things to look at.

    The natural tendency of the wind in the South West of Western Australia is to blow from the West and South West. In the hotter months there’ll be a tendency to an Easterly land breeze in the morning, and a West to South West sea breeze in the afternoon. But anomalous conditions can arise any time of year, so ask the locals when you’re there, and check out the and

    When the wind is blowing from the West/Sou’West check out the North East areas. Thomson Bay is the most accessible of the island’s bays, and if you want an appreciative audience it’s where the Settlement is and people who aren’t straying far from the shops and where the ferries come in.

    It’s fairly shallow to begin with approaching from the beach, but there is deeper water with seagrass meadows, and also jetties. Watch out for fisherfolk and boats if you venture near the jetties though! We saw a small stingray there in our last visit so keep your eyes open. While this is right next to the Settlement, it is a large bay – about 2km with plenty of space on either side of the jetties where the ferries come in. I’ve swum in the section North of the ferry jetty and it’s okay, the section to the South generally isn’t as utilised though.

    There are toilets at the Visitor’s Centre as well as water. It’s a short walk to the food, general store and the hotel too.

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    Looking South from the Ferry Jetty. There's a lot more of Thomson Bay! Have a google for some photos of the area.

    If you walk or cycle along the coast or cut across the island heading vaguely North past the Bathurst Lighthouse (the shorter one on the end, not big Wadjemup Lighthouse in the middle) you’ll come across Pinky Beach. About a kilometre and a half, maybe?

    This looks like it will also be quite sheltered during West/Sou’Westerlies and does look interesting for our sort of swimming, and snorkelling too, although I have not yet swum there – it’s one I intend to try soon though.

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    Pinky Beach, taken from the base of the Bathurst Lighthouse.

    Continuing past Pinky Beach you’ll reach The Basin, just over 2k from the Settlement. This is a very well known swim spot and can get very crowded with families with very small children due to its sheltered cove. It has toilets and water available. Best with higher tides so you can get over the rocks to the deeper section. Very, very popular with visitors. Worth a visit before the day trippers arrive or might be worth a look during off peak – in the right conditions of course. It has some great rocks for posing on for photos – and this is true of most Wadjemup beaches, they’re great for rocks or white sand and shell.

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    Kwilena enjoying the Basin.

    The only way to get around Wadjemup is by foot, bus or bike. I don’t think the hireable Segway would be suitable for transporting mergear. No private vehicles are permitted on the island. The Basin, Thomson’s Bay and Pinky Beach are all doable in a day trip, and luckily they’re the ones that will be most sheltered in the afternoon.

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    Think about how you’re going to transport your tail, especially if it’s heavy. Our upright stepping trikes were pretty good to strap our flukes to, but you might want to hire a cargo trailer on the island if you have a conventional bike.

    Geordie Bay might be worth a dip – it is mainly seagrass, which has its own charms. It also has a very nice café and toilets nearby though, and there is accommodation right there as well. If you're intending an off peak visit check to see whether the cafe is open though. In past times it's had a tendency to shut down over winter. There is a free shuttle bus from the Settlement to Geordie Bay and vice versa. It’s not a huge bus, but it’s not a long ride, either. I’ve not had a close look at the jetty there but it may be suitable for a water entry.

    Boats are moored there year round, so take care when watercraft are moving about if there’s no exclusion zone.

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    Geordie Bay

    If it’s a strong southerly try Little Parakeet Bay or Little Armstrong Bay which you might like to cycle to or catch the bus.

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    Little Parakeet Bay

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    Little Armstrong Bay
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    Not the clearest of days during our short visit to Little Armstrong - Nyola looking good on a windy Autumn day - on a still Summer day though it will be magic!

    I highly recommend an early arrival or an overnight stay so you have a chance to get out early to Parker Point, before the West/Sou’Wester by bike or bus – it has restrooms available nearby and has a mixture of clear water, seagrass and interesting coastal morphology. The bus stop is called Parker Point, but it’s really on the cusp of Porpoise Bay and Parker Point. There’s a steep staircase descending from the bus stop to the beach. There's a 2km snorkel trail here with 12 underwater plaques to read, marked with buoys, which is definitely on my bucket list!

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    Parker Point photo.

    Little Salmon Bay, if the wind is favourable (you’ll want an Easterly or no wind) will be a highlight of a mer-excursion – it has the beautiful pink coral, fish and rock ledges to peer under. In our short trip there (wind being unfavourable and time short) saw a good amount of buffalo bream and other fish too, as well as the pink coral. Edit: There is apparently a marked snorkel trail here too but we were only there briefly.

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    Little Salmon Bay merfolk photos.

    Bear in mind that these photos were taken on an autumn day with the wind rising, so the water as depicted will be much clearer during those hot summer days with the Easterly blowing – and even on our trip it was worth a look – looking under rock shelves for large fish – angelfish, buffalo bream and Western blue devils and finding the pocillopora coral.

    Little Salmon Bay, Salmon Bay, and Parker Point are all celebrated as having the most diverse range of corals, fish and other marine organisms so if it’s variety you want, head there.

    Little Salmon Bay leads into the larger Salmon Bay, which while we did not explore it this trip looks like it has potential and will be good for a longer swim.

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    Salmon Bay

    Handy hints:

    Wadjemup busdrivers are used to people’s surfboards, flippers and boogie boards, none of them gave our monofins and tails a second glance. The hop-on hop-off all day bus trip around the island is $20 AUD at the moment and can be quite handy.

    If you want to stay on the island during peak season book well ahead – by months if you can manage it. Only the Caroline Thomson cabins are available for December at time of writing this in April, and were filling up.

    A bike will dramatically increase your mobility on the island. Electric bikes are available to hire, also consider if a bike with a cargo trailer would be helpful if you have a lot of tails. Various other equipment can be considered – see their website:
    This company also has an an arrangement where you can cycle as far as you like, but then leave your bike at a bus stop and ride home on the bus. Sounds like just the thing after a bike ride, and then a swim and then feeling too fragged to pedal back!

    It’s remarkable how peaceful it is on the island both before and after the day trippers arrive in the morning and leave in the evening, even during peak times! With 3 ferry services delivering people multiple times a day people pour onto the island, then there’s the grand exodus in the late afternoon.

    Quokkas are more active after the day trippers have gone home but you will always find some near the Settlement and at the Cafe at Geordie Bay.

    If you do intend a day trip, check the weather and the wind, and arrive on the first ferry you can manage. Be aware of exactly where you want to go and don’t delay getting to the bus or grabbing your bike (which you can bring with you for a fee) and getting straight to where you want to go. Most new arrivals to the island will dither around a bit and then find that they’re on a very crowded bus or beach. Plan ahead, consult the bus timetables if you need to.

    There are lockers for hire at the Visitor’s Centre.

    If you don’t want to queue for a restroom after your ferry crossing at the Visitor’s Centre walk up and find a much more roomy and available toilet block opposite the Museum. If you pass the Salt Store on your left, keep going up the hill they’ll be on your left.

    Eat ginger – crystalised or powder in tea is a bit more palatable to me 1/2 an hour before your sea trip to assist with avoiding seasickness if you’re prone to it.

    You will always be able to find somewhere to swim, always ask the locals, the bus drivers, the volunteer guides are a good bet and are easily identifiable in their cheerful yellow.

    A bus trip out to Cape Vlamingh – or West End is rewarding for the view but the ocean there is not accesible. Please don’t climb down the cliff to get closer to the New Zealand Fur Seals.

    There’s free wifi around the Settlement area. It doesn’t have much of a range.

    Also high tide = more water to swim in.

    How to get there? If you don’t have a boat or a kind friend with one heading West you’ll be thinking to yourself, which ferry? If you’re coming from the Northern suburbs you may find Rottnest Fast Ferries at Hillarys Marina the most convenient. They’re friendly and efficient and we use them quite often – they’ve been very helpful.

    The new kid on the block, which we’ve used quite a bit lately for work is Sealink on the Quokka 1. They’ve been very good too, friendly, helpful. If you’re transporting a great deal of gear enquire as to one of their cargo crates, they’ll transport the whole kit to your luggage point, and then transport it all back to the boat when you leave. If you’re in a group the $50 cost is worth the convenience.

    Unfortunately I can’t recommend Rottnest Express, we have had bad experiences with their luggage handling and customer services and they’re not up to scratch with the other two.

    Anything else, let me know and I’ll do my best to find out! Happy swimming!
    This is only a guide, and circumstances and things may change without notice. You must use common sense and seek advice from island staff on the day. Your safety is your own responsibility.

    I will probably add more links - some 360 degree ones of Parker Point, but for now, I'm gonna post this article.
    Last edited by Kwilena; 04-14-2019 at 08:23 PM. Reason: Some captioning and more about Parker Point. Also noting that the Geordie Bay cafe may be closed off peak.
    Well, I'm feeling pretty swish!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod Trade Winds's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
    Is that first rainbow tail from Suntail? Been eyeing that one.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Kwilena's Avatar
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    The one at the Basin? Yes it's the Hawaiian Rainbow from Suntails with The2tails monofin.
    Well, I'm feeling pretty swish!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Kwilena's Avatar
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    Add Kwilena on Google+ has some more photos of it if you like.
    Well, I'm feeling pretty swish!

  5. #5
    Senior Member Undisclosed Pod Trade Winds's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kwilena View Post has some more photos of it if you like.
    Thanks! It looks A LOT better in the water than I expected it would

  6. #6
    Senior Member Pod of Oceania Kwilena's Avatar
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    I like big scales and I cannot lie! :-)
    Well, I'm feeling pretty swish!


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