Directions - Located on the north side of Rottnest Island, The Basin is a short 10 minute walk from the Thomson Bay Settlement. Head north from the main strip and follow the signs all the way to The Basin. There is plenty of space in the shade to leave your gear while you enjoy a leisurely snorkel.
The Snorkel - With a full day on Rottnest Island as part of the Festival of Py celebrations (my birthday), The Basin would represent the second part of the day after we had good fun exploring Henrietta Rocks, plus chilling out on the beach for some much needed relaxation time. After catching the bus back to the main settlement for a spot of lunch, we had just enough time for another snorkel before Tomas, Mel and Miles had to leave to catch their ferry.
The Basin was the destination as being on the north side of the island usually means that it is somewhat protected from the afternoon south westerlies that are better known as the Freo Doctor. The ten minute walk takes you through some of the accommodation on the island, past the footy oval and on the doorstep of the new eco village that has been built between The Basin and Pinky's. Offering glamping style accommodation, it's in a pretty good location and even has a swimming pool for when swimming at the beach doesn't have the right conditions. I don't mind a bit of a modern update to Rottnest with some more accommodation as trying to secure a booking anywhere is almost impossible these days but care has to be taken not to overdevelop the island. Arriving at The Basin, there was a bit of a crowd here but being peak holiday season, it actually wasn't too bad. I did find my first Red-lipped Morwong of the day, a common sight on most reefs around the Perth area, along with a King George Whiting lurking on top of the white sands.
We found an empty picnic table under a gazebo and everyone set about getting their gear together for a swim or snorkel. Having snorkeled here previously on one of Aron's birthday trips, I knew it was a nice protected bay with limestone channels, ledges and structures to explore. With Henrietta Rocks providing a decent collection of fish species, I was hoping for a bit more here. The beach and entry point to the water is easy with a ledge providing a place to sit as you put on fins and clean out your mask. The shallow start carries on as I headed to the right and explored the channels carved into the limestone where the fish like to hide among the reef and seaweed. Immediately I found some of my favourite fish, the Western Buffalo Bream, mainly because they are fairly curious and look like they're smiling at you. A couple of Bluebarred Parrotfish made themselves known and obliged for a photo, along with a Western King Wrasse.
I was the only one that was keen for a longer snorkel out of our group and that was fine with me as there were enough people out here to serve as diving buddies. Heading across the sandy stretch between the inner reef and some of the structures as you head into deeper water, I was on the lookout for something special. Almost immediately I saw out of the corner of my eye a Striped Stingaree darting between sections of the reef and made a beeline to get a photo of it. I got one half decent shot before it reached the safety of the shadows under the reef and I was a happy boi. Continuing to explore the deeper parts, I dove down and looked at the base of the limestone blocks as that's typically where the fish like to hide. My wish was to finally see a Port Jackson Shark but I wasn't lucky enough today. The deeper parts of the reef as you head out to sea contain some of the better opportunities to dive down and find more life but being a little out of practice, I could only stay down for half a minute or so before having to ascend back to the surface.
Along with not getting myself a dive belt and having to constantly battle to stay on the bottom, getting steady shots of the fish hiding away under ledges proved fruitless. I battled on, happy to experience it first hand and eventually found a decent spot where there were many Bullseyes and Wrasses gathered around, most likely hiding from all the strange humans in the water. I made my way back to the shallower parts of the reef that border the left hand side of The Basin as you look at it from shore. Out of the water, I shared my finds with the others before saying goodbye to Tomas, Mel and Miles as they walked back to catch the ferry. While I was in the water, the girls had sussed out the food situation here and one perfect addition to Rottnest over the past few years has been the season food trucks. It makes sense given the visitor numbers aren't high all year round and doesn't require building more infrastructure, so I was happy to indulge in a cheeky ice-cream as I dried off and watched a Quokka slowly descend a set of stairs. Birthday visit over, we made our way back to the main settlement and eventually caught the ferry back home with some great memories.