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Rottnest Island

Meet the Quokkas

Christine Knight from Adventure, Baby! takes a trip to Rottnest Island to visit the happiest animal on earth!

Located off the coast of Western Australia, just 18km west of Fremantle, lies the small summer holiday destination of Rottnest Island known for its white sandy beaches and pristine bays. But what draws visitors to the island is the abundant wildlife, in particular the Quokkas.

The Origin of the Quokka

Rottnest Island originally got its name from William de Vlamingh in 1696, who called the island 'Rotte nest' (meaning 'rats nest') after mistaking the abundance of Quokkas he saw for rats.

Often called the “happiest animal on Earth”, the Quokkas name came from the Aboriginal people living in the Augusta and King George Sound areas in the south-west of Western Australia.

Generally a nocturnal animal, they can be seen during the day hoping to steal food from tourists or resting in the shade under bushes. The quokka is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as kangaroos and wallabies), the quokka is herbivorous, eating many types of vegetation, including grasses and leaves. Rottnest Island is one of only a few places where you will find quokkas in the wild, as the marsupial only lives in the south-west of Western Australia. Around 8000–12,000 Quokkas live freely on Rottnest Island, with a smaller population on Bald Island near Albany. Quokkas have survived on these islands because of the lack of predators - Rottnest and Bald islands are free of foxes and cats.

The Quokka is classed as a vulnerable species due to its decline in population due to predators, logging and agricultural development, which has significantly reduced its habitat.

While Quokkas are incredibly cute, it's important to remember that all plants and animals on Rottnest Island are protected by law. Rottnest Island is an A-Class Reserve and the touching or feeding of Quokkas is punishable with a fine. It’s very important not to feed human food or water to Quokkas as this can make them dehydrated and malnourished.

The Rottnest Island Quokkas are very curious little creatures and have no fear of humans. You will find them approach you to get a closer look, and you may even find them start to forage in your bag for food. Keep any bags zipped up tight and any food sealed.


Getting around Rottnest Island

The Island Explorer Service bus, which runs every 30 minutes makes continuous circuits of the entire island for just $50 for a family of two adults and one child. Tickets can be booked online, or at the Visitor Centre or main bus stop vending machines. If you're staying on the island, you can make use of the free Accommodation Shuttle Bus that runs between the main accommodation areas on the island.

If you have your own bike, you can bring it on the ferry across to Rottnest. If you need to hire one, you can do so from either of the ferry services before boarding or from Rottnest Island Pedal & Flipper.

The main settlement is very accessible, and you can easily walk to a few of the beach areas from there.

Where to stay

There are lots of accommodation choices should you wish to stay longer than a day trip. Accommodation books out fast so plan your trip early if you wish to stay on the island.

Getting there

Catching the ferry is the easiest way to get to Rottnest Island. The ferries book up fast in popular seasons so be sure to book well in advance.

Christine Knight writes about navigating the world and parenthood on her site, Adventure, Baby!. You can find her sampling gelato and cake around the world with her preschooler, or building sandcastles at the beach in her home town of Sydney.

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