Start - Salmon Bay, Rottnest Island
Length - 700m (Loop)
Rating - Blue
Terrain - Coral Reef, Underwater Grass
Max Depth - 4m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - No
Date Snorkelled - 12th February 2020
Best Time - Spring to Autumn
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Salmon Bay is located on the south side of Rottnest Island and is accessible by taking the regular bus service and getting off at Stop #7. Alternatively you can ride your bike by taking Parker Point Rd along the southern coast from the main settlement.
The Day - In what is becoming an annual tradition for the birthday of Deputy Assistant Regional Trails Experience Manager Aron (aka 1A1R), a day over at Rottnest Island was booked for the event. This is the third year of such festivities after doing the Wardan Nara Bidi in 2017 and Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point in 2019. With no more walking trails to do on the Wadjemup Bidi and a larger crew than usual, it was decided that a sea bike tour and a snorkel would be the main activities for the day. On what was forecast to be a lovely day of weather with sunny skies and light winds (for Perth), we met up in the morning and caught the ferry over. After a visit to the famous Rottnest Bakery we headed down to Thomson Bay for some beach cricket while we waited for the start time of our first activity.
Activity One - Aquaplay SeaBikes @ Thomson Bay - Straight up, this is not a sponsored post, I was a fully paid up customer and just thought I'd add in a couple of paragraphs to the Salmon Bay experience because we had such a good time and it's a great addition to the island. Aquaplay is a new company that has started offering SeaBike, Pedal Board, SUP and Kids Jet Ski hire from the convenience of Thomson Bay (located right next to the ferry jetty). We decided to go with the SeaBikes as they looked like fun and added on a tour guide because that allows you to go all the way from Thomson Bay to Pinky Beach (if you just hire them then you are limited to Thomson Bay). After a safety briefing and a promise that only Jen would be eaten by a shark, we loaded up and got used to the feel of pedalling a bike on the water. They are surprisingly nimble and with minimal effort you can maintain a decent speed (about 15kmph). With everyone ready we headed away from the beach and followed the shallows near the coast towards Duck Rock, a small island off the north eastern tip. With my GoPro in hand I took many photos and the guide offered to take Jen's camera so he could take photos of all of us enjoying the experience. Getting right up close to the bird life on Duck Rock, it was a cool and unique way to cycle around the island (literally) and much less effort than sitting in a kayak and paddling.
With some larger swell bubbling away past the reef we headed back towards the shallows and navigated our way over to Pinky Beach for a snorkelling stop. On the way we successfully lined up in a row for a group photo because life without a challenge isn't worth living. Reaching Pinky Beach we received many envious looks as we parked up on the sand in our cool rides. Caris didn't bring her snorkelling gear so while we were all in the water having an exploration of the marine life just offshore, she had a go of the Pedal Board that our guide Neville was using. Eventually we all had a go and it was surprisingly easy to use. With a cooling dip in the water over and everyone happy to return we jumped on our bikes and blew that popsicle stand right off. The ride back was really relaxing as you can only go so fast thanks to the single gear although Tom and I did have a bit of a race at one point. Upon arriving at Thomson Bay, Neville took us near the jetty in search of the resident Eagle Rays that call this spot home. We saw the little one in the water and followed it around for a while until it disappeared (that's two rays in a month after our MAAC trip). With our time over we made our way back to the beach, having fun trying to do the Pit Maneuver on each other (the one the police use to turn around cars in high speed chases). Experience over, we all agreed that was great fun and we'd happily come back and do it again. For more information about SeaBiking visit the Aquaplay page or give them a follow on the socials (@waterbikesperth). A big thanks to Neville for taking photos of us all having fun and to Aron for letting me use some of the photos for this post.
Activity Two - Snorkelling at Salmon Bay - With SeaBiking done it was decided to have a short break at the main settlement before heading straight out to Salmon Bay for the main snorkelling for the day. With the winds remaining fairly light it was a good decision so after an ice-cream we made our way to the bus stop and had soon been deposited at the Salmon Bay bus stop. Having visited this spot back in 2017 when we hiked the Wardan Nara Bidi, I knew it was a special place. My podcast partner and head guru of The Long Way's Better suggested this as another great spot for snorkelling so everyone was keen to check it out. Unlike Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point, there is no formal snorkelling trail but I think snorkelling is one of those activities where a trail is sometimes a bit counter-intuitive to follow as most of the time you are chasing fish and don't realise what direction you're headed. While everyone was getting their stuff ready I whipped out my long lens (for the camera) and snapped a few photos of the Greater Crested Turns that were calling the rock located just offshore home. Further out there were some shags on another island but even my 200mm lens had trouble getting those in good detail. I had bought Caris her own snorkel set for the trip so she could join in so we all made our way down to the water and did the cold water dance while we put on flippers and got acclimatised to the conditions.
While the southern/western side of the island is more susceptible to the typical SW winds that batter the island, the water was relatively calm in the shallows protected by the reef. Visibility was ok as we all ventured out into the water and immediately there are little pockets of reef full of seaweed, corals and one of my favourite fish, the Western Buffalo Bream (or Djilba using the Noongar word). These curious and happy looking fish are some of the bigger fish you'll see around Rottnest and love to come say hello before swimming away. Plenty of other species could be seen early on including a Rainbow Wrasse and several other types of Wrasse (I'm not very good with fish names). The reefs around Rottnest are unique in that they are have tropical coral species that are usually found much further north (thanks Leeuwin current). Early on we stuck together as a group with lots of pointing to let each other know of a new kind of fish but eventually we all spread out. I wanted to check out the rocky island that was full of Turns and it was fun approaching the slopes of the island from underwater and then turning my gaze skyward to see the birds cautiously watching me, ready to take flight if needed. They were safe though as I was more interested in the marine life today and the expanse of the reef was really impressive to see. Little Salmon Bay and Parker Point had nice reefs too but this one seemed to extend out for a much longer distance.
Not wanting to get too far away from everyone, I stuck to the area just south of the first island and waited for everyone to join me. The currents were strong during our visit and care had to be taken when near an exposed bit of the reef but it was great fun to ride the current, especially when the Bream were doing the same thing and you could follow them with ease. Everyone was soon together and Aron wanted a group circle selfie from below but I don't think the lens was quite wide enough to get everyone in. We all parted and I stayed with Caris for a little while as I didn't think she would be too keen on the further out sections of reef (she loves sharks but doesn't like the idea of being chomped by one). We continued to spot different types of fish and eventually we were separated again. The current took me further out towards the second island and I discovered some really cool sections with deeper channels. Not wanting to go too far away from the others (diver safety is crucial), I only spent a little while here but wish I had more time to venture out further. Everyone was slowly making their way in so I decided it was best to join them. Exploring the area around the Turn Island again, this was one of the more pleasant snorkels I've had in a while. The water from far from crowded (anyone who's visited Omeo on the weekend knows what crowded is), visibility was good and there were plenty of fish hanging about. Add in the whole squad being there and it was great fun.
I could see the girls had exited the water and so I went to find Aron and Tom, who weren't quite ready to leave the water either. We stayed in for a little longer before calling it quits. My hope was that I'd see something really cool that I hadn't before like an octopus or another ray but it wasn't to be. The best I got was a piece of driftwood in the sand as I made my way back to the very warm waters close to shore. Drying off we discovered that is was close to 3pm and everyone was wondering where the day had gone. I guess the old adage of time flying when you're snorkelling with friends is true. I whipped out the camera again as the sun was shining much brighter than before and I tried to capture the idyllic nature of Salmon Bay on a perfect summers day. Jen got out her fancy glass lens ball thingo and played around with that with Aron amusingly getting in the way because that's always funny. With enough time to catch the bus back to the settlement and enjoy a very late lunch/early dinner, we packed up our gear and enjoyed the scenic bus ride. Making our way to the Rottnest Hotel, we changed into less wet clothing and enjoyed a lovely afternoon meal and drinks. All agreeing that a longer multi-day stay would be on the cards for next year, we headed off to board the ferry home. On the way we saw a bubba Quokka in the pouch of mum and it made for a very cute shot (you have to include a Quokka in every Rottnest post by law). What a perfect day full of fun, friends and fish.
Final Thoughts - Rottnest gets a bad reputation by some as it is deemed too expensive and the tired comparison that a holiday to Bali is usually brought up.
Yes, it costs money to catch the ferry over but food prices are on par with most Perth restaurants and the quality of the beaches, dive spots, coastline and activities is fantastic. It's an amazing outdoor playground right on our doorstep that has a lot to offer.
I love that it feels like a completely different place that is conducive to fun and enjoyment. The only traffic you'll get is the occasional bus or work ute and getting around by bike is the most common form of transport (something that should be more commonplace in Perth).
Salmon Bay as a snorkelling destination is just another excellent string in what is an impressive bow of locations around the island. I like the seemingly unending nature of the reef and the excellent amount of fish that call the reef home.
The SeaBikes were a cool experience and something different if you want a water based activity that isn't snorkelling or kayaking.
Another lovely birthday event with Aron and I look forward to another one next year.
Get out there and experience it!
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