Close your eyes and imagine one of the most pristine environments you may ever come across … an archipelago with crystal blue azure waters, an abundance of sea life, and the world’s most important sea bird breeding colony. This is just a taste of what you will experience on the Abrolhos Islands, a collection of 122 coral cays in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Geraldton in Western Australia.
In 1619, Frederik de Houtman and his crew on the United Dutch East India Company vessel happened upon this collection of interesting coral islands and charted them with a warning in modern-day Portuguese, “Abro olhos” which translates to ‘open eyes’.
Today, the Houtman Abrolhos Islands are still a place to keep your eyes open, because the landscape is stunning from above and below.
At just 60kms off the coast, you can experience the Abrolhos Islands in a number of ways. Heading north from Perth, there are a range of scenic flight operators based in Geraldton, Geraldton Air Charter and Shine Aviation with a range of flight tours, and land based activities such as guided nature walks, bird watching, wallaby spotting and snorkelling. Just short of two hours north of Geraldton in Kalbarri look out for Kalbarri Scenic Flights delivering a tour that includes the Abrolhos Islands.
If you have more time, consider the boat charter options which range from three to five days with accommodation onboard allowing you to further immerse yourself in the unique beauty of the islands. There is no commercial accommodation on the islands.
Eco Abrolhos, Apache Charters, Abrolhos Adventures, Pelican Charters, Seaestar Fishing Charters each offer a range of tours. Activities include fishing, guided snorkelling, and diving tours through protected coral lagoons, and some give you the opportunity to view the sea life through a purpose-built glass bottom boat.
The ocean off Geraldton can whip up a decent swell, but once you arrive in the protected lagoons of the coral atolls, everything changes. The waters become calm and luminous with all shades of blue and green – there is life everywhere. The Islands and their surrounding reef communities are a meeting place for tropical and temperate sea life, due to the warm, southern-flowing Leeuwin current, forming one of the State’s unique marine areas. It’s so unique in its biodiversity that it is often referred to as Australia’s own Galápagos Islands.
The Australian sea lion is a relatively rare, curious inhabitant of the islands. They frequently swim and play with snorkelers and divers. There are so many up close and personal encounters with wildlife, including the chance to handfeed a giant cod that is landlocked in a lake on a small island.
It’s not just about the water; the islands are among Australia’s most important sites for breeding seabirds such as noddies, shearwaters and terns with a mind-boggling two million birds from 35 species breeding at any one time on the islands. In addition, there are over 140 species of native flora on the islands and all are classified as protected.
It’s not surprising that the Houtman Abrolhos Islands have recently become Western Australia’s newest National Park.
You don’t have to be a nature or wildlife enthusiast to enjoy this touch of paradise in Western Australia. Take yourself on an island adventure in this amazing part of the world, and treat yourself to Australia’s best kept secret!