If you’re looking for some great swim-through action, wrecks and vibrant fish life, this Indian Ocean location — “Rotto,” as our Aussie mates affectionately call it — outside Perth is where to go.
Aboriginal Australians first named the island “Wadjemup,” meaning “land across the water,” but a Dutch explorer later gave the island the current, rather unkind moniker, which indeed translates into “rat’s nest.”
Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California has huge kelp beds, rocky topography and similar temperatures and marine life. Catalina Scuba Luv knows the waters; www.scubaluv.biz.
All dive sites are part of the Rottnest Island Marine Reserve, but one site, Crystal Palace, is a glittering gem with its cool waters studded with orange and rust-brown sponges among the thicket of kelp beds. There are too many caves to count that are worth exploring amid a white sandy plain where stingrays of all sizes and varieties alternately lounge and hunt. Little yellow-and-white western footballer sweeps dart around in groups, and schools of small common bullseyes are everywhere. At nearby Wallis Island, there are even more swim-throughs, and you’re likely to find huge schools of silver drummers or buffalo breams swimming circles around you, forming a band so thick and hypnotic you can’t help but pause and marvel at the phenomenon. Look closely on the rocks for nudibranchs and under them for crawfish.
Elsewhere, there are about a dozen historic wrecks to explore, and nondiving partners can enjoy snorkeling at most sites. — Gil Griffin
Need to Know
Getting There Ferry services operate from Perth (Hillary’s Boat Harbour and Barrack Street Jetty), Fremantle (Victoria Quay) and North Fremantle (Rous Head). One-way trips range from 25 to 90 minutes. Rottnest Fast Ferries, Rottnest Express and Oceanic Cruises all offer services and/or topside packages. Log onto rottnestisland.com for more information.
When to Go With seasons reversed in the southern hemisphere, peak visiting months are December through March, with the off-season from May through August. However, with school holidays throughout the year, it’s advisable to make bookings well in advance.
Dive Season Water temps are in the mid- to upper-60s during the summer months of December through March with visibility around 50 feet.
Operators Rottnest Island Dive & Snorkel (www.rottnestdiving.com.au)
Stay Hotel Rottnest has been recently renovated with rooms from $190 (www.hotelrottnest.com.au). Rottnest Lodge offers a Fun and Sun Getaway Package that includes a standard double room, two adult return ferry tickets and continental breakfast for $180 for the first night and $140 each additional night (www.rottnestlodge.com.au). Visit www,rottnestisland.com for self-catering options.