Little Salmon Bay
Start - Little Salmon Bay
Length - 700m (Loop)
Rating - Blue
Terrain - Coral Reef, Underwater Grass
Max Depth - 5m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes, Follow the Buoys
Date Snorkelled - 12th February 2019
Best Time - Spring to Autumn
Directions - Little Salmon Bay is found on the south side of Rottnest Island on the Parker Point Loop road. Getting out there can be done by bike (head south from the main settlement and follow the signs past the airport) or if you are taking the Island Explorer Bus then get off at Stop #6, which is right in front of the beach.
The Snorkel - Summer in Perth usually means a break from the hiking adventures as the weather warms up, the UV skyrockets and the flies gather in huge numbers (usually around your face). Getting your outdoors fix usually means swapping the hiking boots for snorkel fins and heading to your local beach. With that in mind the perfect summer destination in Perth is located 20km offshore and is home to some of the best snorkelling spots in the metro area. Rottnest Island is popular for a reason and with great midweek ferry deals it's a fun escape for those who loves the outdoors with plenty of cycling, hiking, snorkelling and kayaking options.
Having completed all the hiking trails on the excellent Wadjemup Bidi I had been meaning to take in the snorkelling trails on my next visit to Rottnest. In what is becoming an annual event, the birthday celebrations for Aron (aka 1A1R) were to be a trip somewhere and he settled on a day at Rottnest Island for 2019. With no one else keen to take a Tuesday off work and join it was just Aron, Jen and I venturing over on the early ferry for a day of activities. I had suggested we check out some snorkelling spots in the morning before the wind picked up (and so I could have more content for the website), so after a morning coffee at the bakery we set off on our bikes. Some of us chose to take the more scenic option of walking in parts (especially the hills) but soon had finished the 5km cycle to the Parker Point/Little Salmon Bay region of Rottnest. Having visited Little Salmon Bay on a previous trip to walk the Wardan Nara Bidi, I was looking forward to finally checking it out from an underwater perspective. Luckily there were only a few people at Little Salmon Bay when we parked up our bikes and with beautiful sunny weather in abundance we set about getting out gear out. One funny scene that was happening down in the water was a young girl doing her best Instagram influencer poses while he friend took pictures from different angles. Young people these days...
Given we were far from young and not Instagram influencers we clumsily put on our snorkelling gear and acclimatised to the cool waters. The first part of the trail follows the limestone reef that hugs the cliffs and in the shallows here we immediately spotted plenty of fish including the most common of the bigger fish, the Western Buffalo Bream. I always enjoy seeing the bream as they look so happy and are usually pretty curious about what you're doing. Moving at a pretty slow pace, checking out the various nooks and channels of the reef, it became a little crowded at times because Jen had forgotten her contacts/glasses so was trying to keep close to either Aron or myself due to her blindness. This didn't cause too many issues but made for some awkward manoeuvring and we eventually came across the first "marker" on the trail, a plaque on the sea floor with a buoy floating above it. These plaques are notorious for being unreadable most of the time thanks to grime build-up and this one was no exception. Given I was here to see the coral and fishes I wasn't too fussed so continued on to the deeper parts where the reef gained a lot more colour. Purple coral could be found in abundance and was looking glorious in the sunlight streaming through the water. With some larger coral arrangements providing shelter for more fish and a lot more space for us to dive down, this was the really fun part of the snorkel. Another buoy can be found near here but given it was unreadable I took a couple of photos and moved on. By this stage Jen and Aron were far off on another part of the reef so being a good diving buddy I joined them.
While there is an official trail marked with the buoys and plaques, I never quite stick to them when on a snorkel trail. I like the concept but given there is no need to stick to a defined route and plenty to explore in every direction I was happy just to swim wherever it looked interesting while still going in a general direction. Heading west along the reef and towards the sea grasses revealed different kinds of coral and plenty of new fish. It really is luck of the draw sometimes as to what pops out from the coral but I was happy with what I saw and photographed. In the collection was a Green Moon Wrasse, Scalyfin, Stripeys, Western King Wrasse (both male and female), Western Buffalo Bream and lots of very small fish I don't know the name of. Thanks to Bonny from Wild Western Australia for this guide to the various fish found in the waters surrounding Rottnest, it's a big help to those of us that are terrible with names. With Jen and Aron already out of the water I finished up by swimming towards the northern cliffs and hugging those until I reached the beach again. By this time the place was crowded as the first few buses had dropped the day visitors off from the main settlement. We loaded up on our bikes again and began the short ride to the second snorkel trail of the day at Parker Point.
Final Thoughts - With so much great snorkelling to experience around Rottnest, this is a nice way to introduce the novice snorkeller to the reefs given the sheltered lagoon and shallow waters.
The colours on this side of the island are much more vibrant with a more tropical feel to the reef than places like Little Armstrong Bay or The Basin. Given I was only shooting on an old GoPro (and Aron on a basic Fuji underwater camera, thanks Aron), the pictures really don't show how pretty it is in real life.
Little Salmon Bay is popular for a reason but if you want to avoid the crowds in Summer then head down before the buses arrive (much easier if you are staying on the island) or visit in the late afternoon when the ferries start to cart people back to the mainland.
You can't beat turquoise water, pristine reefs, a variety of fish and great visibility on a summers day. This was a morning well spent and I'd happily come here on every Rottnest visit.
Get out there and experience it!
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