SPIR­ITED AWAY

A short trip from Perth, Rot­tnest Is­land of­fers a cap­sule ver­sion of the charms, and his­tory, of Western Aus­tralia

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - DESTINATIONS - TOM OT­LEY

Empty beaches, unique flora and fauna and sin­gle-track roads from which mo­torised ve­hi­cles are banned are just a few of the at­trac­tions of Rot­tnest Is­land. This lime­stone-based sandy is­land just off the coast of Western Aus­tralia is a mere 15km from Perth, and has an area of only 19sq km. Yet, the is­land at­tracts 750,000 vis­i­tors each year, and even the least ad­ven­tur­ous will find it a pleas­ant day trip. We’d only been there for 30 min­utes when we saw our first bot­tlenose dol­phin, rolling over just be­yond the reef in one of the is­land’s 20 bays. There are also fur seals ga­lore, a nest for the eastern osprey at Salmon Point and, just off­shore, pass­ing hump­back whales fol­lowed by small boats full of sight­seers.

Nev­er­the­less, for a leisure des­ti­na­tion billed as “Western Aus­tralia’s very own is­land par­adise”, the name “Rot­tnest” could be more en­tic­ing. The ti­tle comes from Dutch sea cap­tain Willem de Vlam­ingh, who in 1696 charted the un­in­hab­ited is­land while on a mis­sion for the VOC (Dutch East In­dia Com­pany). De Vlam­ingh mis­took the cat-sized mam­mal pop­u­la­tion – now known as quokkas, the Abo­rig­i­nal name – to be rats, and so termed it “’t Ey­landt ’t Rotten­est” (Rats’ Nest Is­land). To­day these tame, pro­tected mar­su­pi­als are deemed cud­dly, and it seems just about ev­ery vis­i­tor has to get a selfie with one of the 8,000 or so pop­u­la­tion, as a quick search on the in­ter­net or In­sta­gram will con­firm. Luck­ily, there’s much more to do on the is­land than this ac­tiv­ity.

The most pop­u­lar way of vis­it­ing is by the Rot­tnest Ex­press fast ferry, as this cov­ers the 19km from the port of Fre­man­tle in just 25 min­utes. But you could also ar­rive in style by tak­ing a trip out to Rot­tnest by he­li­copter, al­low­ing you an ae­rial tour of Perth first. Viewed from above, the is­land al­most looks por­ous with its large la­goons and low-ly­ing pro­file – the high­est point is only 45 me­tres above sea level, though the sur­round­ing corals of the In­dian Ocean were dan­ger­ous enough to war­rant a light­house.

It’s a leisure des­ti­na­tion billed as ‘Western Aus­tralia’s very own is­land par­adise’

The is­land has a dis­tinc­tive land­scape with large la­goons

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