The Houtman Abrolhos Islands, more commonly referred to as the Abrolhos Islands, and their surrounding coral reef communities form one of Western Australia's unique marine areas.
The Islands lie about 60 kilometres west of Geraldton, on the Western Australian coast, and consist of 122 islands clustered into three main groups: the Wallabi Group, Easter Group and Pelsaert Group, which extend from north to south across 100 kilometres of ocean.
Often described as the Galapagos Islands of the Indian Ocean, there are few places in Australia with more biodiversity. Nature enthusiasts flock to the Abrolhos Islands for the fishing, bird watching, snorkelling and diving opportunities. The Islands are classed as National Park, and have been recognised as an Ocean Hope Spot by ocean conservation organisation Mission Blue.
The Islands have an abundance of activities to suit a variety of interests, including fishing and cray fishing; swimming, snorkelling and diving; bird watching; marine and wildlife spotting, such as sea lions, dolphins, wallabies and lizards; Island exploring; and simply relaxing in the pristine surrounds.
How to explore the Abrolhos Islands
Natural wonders and history await
The Islands are home to an array of unique wildlife, including the cute Tammar Wallaby. Slightly larger than Western Australia's famous Quokka, these marsupials have learned to adapt to their very remote island habitat, and drink seawater where no fresh water is available!
A range of reptiles, including lizards, skinks and dwarf bearded dragons, and large colonies of seabirds exist on many of the Islands. More than 90 species of seabird have been identified, which rely on schools of pelagic baitfish for their food! Smaller seabirds, in turn, provide food for white breasted sea eagles which occur in unusually large numbers throughout the Abrolhos Islands.
Lying in the stream of western Australia's warm, southward-flowing Leeuwin Current, the marine environment surrounding the Abrolhos is a meeting place for tropical and temperate marine life and charming marine mammals like the Australian sea lion, bottlenose dolphins and green turtles. Sea lions, which are now classed as 'vulnerable' in Australia, can be seen playing in the waters or basking on coral beaches in the sun at Peos Island. Although cute, please remember that sea lions are wild animals and should be observed from a safe distance. If you're visiting the Abrolhos Islands between July and October, keep your eyes peeled for migrating humpback whales which inhabit the waters around the islands during these months.
Sampson fish are also common, and some have become so friendly you can feed these huge fish by hand!
The Abrolhos Islands' abundant waters are home to some of the ocean's most prized eating fish, such as baldchin groper, dhufish, snapper, coral trout and the emperor fish. The Islands have a significant Western rock lobster (crayfish) industry, and fishermen will also often catch octopus or pull scallops. If you're going fishing at the Islands, make sure to check fishing regulations and exclusion zones - or join a dedicated fishing tour!
The beautiful but treacherous reef-surrounded atolls have claimed many ships over the centuries, the most notable being the Batavia in 1629 which was wrecked in Morning Reef in the Wallabi group. The Dutch East Indies survivors made it to shore, only to face a mutiny. Avid divers can explore the Batavia shipwreck site, although the dive is weather dependent and for experienced divers only.
You can discover the history of the ill-fated Batavia and see Wiebbe Hayes Fort, the oldest surviving European building in Australia which was built by survivors of the shipwreck and mutiny, on tour with one of the local Abrolhos Islands operators. To complete your Batavia experience, make sure to also visit the Shipwrecks Gallery at the Museum of Geraldton.
Explore the spectacular Abrolhos Islands only on tour, choose an operator below: