Having an opportunity to visit somewhere you’ve never heard of, is exciting in itself, but when the place in question, is described as a chain of atolls with white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, of course makes this makes it even more exciting. The place a question is The Abrolhos Islands which lay 60km off the coast of Western Australia.
We had been invited by Geraldton Air Charter to experience a day trip on the islands. Even better our friends Sandy and Jim offered to look after Bella and Maya, so Marco and I could enjoy one day in paradise, kid free. It was like Christmas came early.
The Abrolhos Islands are made up of 122 islands clustered into three main groups we would be visiting one of the islands in the Walibi group. The marine environment surrounding the islands is a meeting place for tropical and temperate sea-life, with large breeding colonies of seabirds that depend on the large schools of fish.
The morning of our flight we arrived at the small airport of Geraldton air charter, we realised we couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day; clear blue sky’s, and most importantly no wind. Of course the main focus of trip was actually the flight, as we were going to be viewing the islands from above, as well as seeing some of the historical sites which made the islands famous.
Before departing our pilot provided a detailed briefing including the fascinating history of the Batavia ship wreck. The Batavia was one of the Dutch East India Company’s vessels, the Batavia hit Morning Reef, near Beacon Island in the Wallabi Group, in 1629 and a fascinating and gruesome mutiny unfolded. Some of the wreck and and a fort built by some of the survivors can still be seen from the air and we would be flying over them.
I’m not a nervous flyer, however I did have butterfly’s before take off, more than anything it was the size of the plane and it’s simplicity that unnerved me. I was surprised and amused by the take off it was so quick and smooth, not what I expected at all. Within a few minutes we we flying over the city of Geraldton and then over the water tracking to the atolls.
There was something strangely hypnotic looking down at the ocean below. I was desperate to see some marine life, and with every breaking white wave, I almost expected to see the fin of a dolphin, whale or even shark. During the months of June to October it is completely plausible to see hump back whales who migrate to these water.
We were about 40 minutes in the air before getting our first glimpse of the Abrolhos islands, from above they were picture perfect tropical atolls, that you mostly imagine seeing in the Maldives it was unbelievable to me that we were so close to Australia.
Our pilot was very knowledgable and explained prior to doing a fly over the historical points what to look out for, of course the Abrolhos islands are most well known because of the dangerous reefs which surround them and caused the famous Batavia ship wreck.
A desert Island – East Wallabi
We landed on the remote East Wallabi in true desert island style, on to a short red dirt runway, after a very smooth landing, in no time we we headed to east of the island to our deserted beach and lunch stop.
There are no trees on the island, only small low lying shrub bushes that only emphasised the remoteness and harsh conditions the island faced. From the runway it was 10 minute walk to beach, as we headed up a small incline and the beach revealed itself, it was stunning.
I couldn’t believe that places like this still existed and hadn’t been spoilt by hoards of tourists and rampant development. In part we have the Australian government to thank for this, as they have made the Abrolhos islands a class A national park with full protection and restrictions on fishing operations that use the islands.
As we slowly wandered down to the beach soaking up the stunning location, I thought to myself how privileged we were to be experiencing a place, so unspoilt and not ruined by development and over tourism.
I began thinking about Bella and Maya and how during their lifetime places like this are diminishing at a rapid rate and unless our generation makes a real effort to curb development and improve sustainability to protect our natural environments, places like this will be spoilt forever.
Once set up at the shelter on the beach, we enjoyed a morning tea, cake and fruit, and then had a little wander around the headland to see if we could see any of the tiny wallabies that surprsingly lived on the island.
After only a few minutes or searching we found a couple, they were unusually small and hiding under the shrubs trying to catch some shade from the harsh sun.
It was fascinating to hear, these particular wallabies, had amazing ability to drink sea water and filter the salt from their bodies when they couldn’t find enough fresh water on the island. Wow! Natures amazing ability to adapt to any environment.
Marco and I couldn’t wait to get in the water, it was so inviting turquoise and crystal clear. However we both got a shock diving in, the temperature of the water was two to three degrees colder than we expected. Our pilot told us it was good to swim anti clockwise around the reef.
The corals were out of this world, glowing purple and deep blue’s, almost like led lights. We kept swimming hard to keep warm, whilst spotting a huge array of marine life before we knew it we had completed a lap of the reef and were back at the shore, then sat on the white sand beach soaking up the suns rays to get warm.
After the cold swim, we were starving and ready too tuck into the rolls and sandwiches arranged for lunch, we were also keen to see what our pilots had caught whilst spear fishing. They came back with a great catch, a few fish and a spectacular cray fish which was fascinating to see up close, Marco even got a chance to hold one, but then proceeded to drop it in the sand as he thought it was trying to bite him!
The Pink Lake
After a quick lunch we packed up and headed back to plane, for our flight home, which I personally was even more excited about as my nerves and apprehension of flying had passed. Also our pilot had informed us that we would be flying over the famous Port Gregory pink lake on our way back to Geraldton.
The pink lake from above was so much more beautiful than I expected, we had such a fantastic clear day, plus the lake was particular pink at this time of year, which made the lake look like a Rothko painting.
From above the colours and lines were so defined and vibrant, it was stunning and again an amazing example of natures ability to create the most beautiful landscapes. The reason the lake has its distinctive colour is because of green alga Dunaliella salina, and a high concentration of brine prawn in the water.
As we were driving home back to Sandy and Jim’s house, Marco and I were excitedly talking and saying what any amazing day it had been, and we done so much and been privileged to see so many amazing sights. Although we love our girls dearly, time away from them is good for everyone. Marco and I realised we really must make the effort to this sort of thing more often.