Australia is a remarkable place to visit, with some of the most interesting flora and fauna anywhere. From flocks of colorful parrots to troops of kangaroos bouncing around, if you love nature and the out-of-doors, Australia needs to be on your travel bucket-list.
My wife and I were visiting Perth in Western Australia some years ago, a city we really enjoyed. Not far from Perth is the small port of Freemantle where many prisoner ships from England landed centuries ago and disembarked the ancestors of today’s Aussies. From here you can catch a ferry (or if you have more cash, a seaplane) to Rottnest Island, home to the charming Quokka. It makes for a perfect day-trip, but stay longer if you’ve got time. There are a number of quaint accommodations on the island.
Quokkas are not much larger than a house-cat and, like kangaroos, they are marsupials (with pouches for their young). They were once common in Western Australia but the introduction of predators (mainly dogs) devastated them. The original Europeans were also hard on these little guys, which they considered pesky rodents. This misconception goes back to the Dutch who named the place Rottnest (i.e. rat’s nest because they thought quokkas resembled big rats). A favorite pass-time a few centuries back, after drinking large portions of alcohol, was “punting a quokka” — basically treating these cute creatures like a football. Now there are only small colonies of quokkas persisting, the best preserved on isolated Rottnest Island (where an estimated 10,000 survive).
You’ll certain to spot quokkas when you explore Rottnest Island. Some you’ll see at a distance, some peeking from behind a nearby busy, some will cautiously approach you. A close interaction with a quokka is a great and memorable experience!
Besides seeing quokkas, there’s plenty more to do on Rottnest Island, a nature preserve. There are beautiful beaches rich with marine life, and lovely native flora. You get around the island by walking, riding a bike, or taking the bus service (the island is not huge but it’s handy to use the bus service to get around all of it). There are a lot of native Australian plants around the island….a small interesting cemetery, There’s a nice lighthouse worth seeing with great ocean views — as well as distant views of Freemantle.
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