Rottnest Island, more than 10,000 Quokkas

THERE’S no denying the ‘quokka-selfie’ has taken the world by storm. Social media updates by the likes of tennis ace Roger Federer, Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) and Desperate Housewife Teri Hatcher posing with Rottnest Island’s most adored marsupial have reached audiences in the hundreds of thousands. And is there any wonder why? Those critters are just so cute!

From a tourism perspective, quokkas have cemented a visit to Rottnest Island as a must for domestic and international tourists heading to Perth. Last summer record numbers of visitors took the 30-minute ferry from Fremantle to Rotto, fuelled in part by new services from SeaLink that have seen ticket prices slashed by up to one-third.

No doubt, the lure of posing with just one of the colony of 10,000 short-tailed wallabies also played a part. Rottnest Island Authority’s Conservation Office Cassyanna Gray explained to travelBulletin the best time to view quokkas was in the evening, when the nocturnal mammal is most active. Though some have adapted their behaviour and are often sighted around the settlement area, drawn out by the lure of treats from tourists — a habit that is strongly discouraged.

But quokkas aren’t the only wildlife encounter for visitors.

Gray said the destination’s multitude of salt lakes are home to nearly a dozen native species of reptiles, three species of amphibian, hundreds of breeds of bush and shore (migratory) bird species. ‘Twitchers’ can spot red capped robins, rainbow bee-eaters and western whistlers, while wildlife spotters might come across bobtail lizards, as well as moaning and motorbike frogs. At night, there’s a chance you’ll even hear the white-striped freetail bat — the island’s only other mammal whose call is audible to the human ear.

Beyond the land, Rotto has an abundance of marine life. “Snorkelling is popular for tourists and locals alike, with 400 fish species and 20 coral species to be found in the reserve surrounding the island. There’s also a colony of New Zealand fur seals on the western side and Australian seal lions on an islet just off the main island,” Gray said.

In the deeper waters, there also opportunities for people to see migrating humpback whales during the season as well.

A number of companies provide whale watching cruises, tours around the island for snorkelling and adventure tours to view the fur seals.