These stories were written by students from the University of Notre Dame’s travel writing course. Part of a broader journalism degree, the course was designed with input from the West Australian’s travel editor, Stephen Scourfield, who generously gave his time to listen to students’ story ideas and provide feedback on their pitches.
The images were also taken by the students who were taught photography by the West’s photojournalist Mogens Johansen. The skills and experience revealed in these pages are an indication of the breadth and complexity of tasks journalism students are exposed to – they learn an astonishing range of skills such as taking a good image, shooting and editing video, producing audio for radio and podcasts and learning to write across a range of styles including hard news, social media, broadcast and feature writing.
While these are travel stories, the philosophy of journalism is still at their heart and it drives the practical elements of the students’ education. Journalism students must strive to put the public interest and truth above their own self-interest or assumptions. The practical tools of objectivity they learn help them understand the power and potential of the role of journalists, who serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. Journalism can offer a voice to the voiceless.
A question often asked in these times is; are there sufficient jobs for these aspiring journalists? In short, yes, there are careers awaiting graduates with the skills to synthesise complex information and make it accessible to a broad audience across multiple platforms. In a changing employment environment, this suite of skills stand out as being future-proofed and in growing demand across the economy while, more importantly, having the ability to help strengthen and safeguard our democracy. We hope you enjoy these stories.
Exclusive company on the seas
Crewing a superyacht is a memorable experience, says SHAUN THOMPSON
Each year, more than 300 superyachts, ranging from 60m to 160m in length are staffed by thousands of crew as they cross the Atlantic Ocean, referred to in the trade as “the pond”.
And each season, an enthusiastic and willing-to-do-anything-for-a-job yacht crew pace the docks in the marinas of the Mediterranean on the off-chance of being offered work on these floating luxury hotels that typically depart the Caribbean or Florida, eastbound to the Mediterranean, usually between April and May.
It’s not easy to get a job on these luxury boats. The age-old saying, “you need the experience to get a job, but you need a job to gain experience” is in full swing here. If crew are lucky enough to get through some of the most arduous recruitment processes of any occupation, they will be responsible for the world’s elite and every luxury they demand.
There is a cost: isolation from the real world often affects the crew’s mental health and work-life balance doesn’t exist. Crew are on call 24/7 but when they have the chance to party they adopt a work hard/play harder attitude. And the parties are legendary, they take place in the most exotic locations, without a budget, and with a sky-is-the-limit attitude.
We’re talking celebrity appearances, black gold caviar from a glacial mountain stream, or summer truffle from the base of a volcano. It’s penthouses, heli-Uber (yes!), VIP access into clubs, wheelbarrows that cart rosé to you on a beach in the south of France. What could go wrong? Ha. Well! That’s a whole different story.
To give you some idea of what it is like to be a crew member on board one of these yachts here are some statistics. An 80m superyacht will typically run with 15 crew. Salaries begin at about $3000 per month for a “green” deckhand-stewardess role (in reality, that is as low as $10 an hour for an ordinary 10-hour day, 30 days a month); while the captain may earn in excess of $20,000 a month plus bonuses.
A standard contract includes two chefs who live and work full-time on board. One of the chefs is dedicated to cooking three meals a day for the crew. Laundry for the crew is also taken care of and there is a dedicated gym for crew and at least one return flight home per year. Working hours vary — 10-hour days are common, and anything over will not accrue time off — there is no union for this agreement. Rotation is a new standard in the industry, with a 3:1, 4:2, or 5:1 month swing (month, not week).
Crew members are encouraged to upskill and take courses such as cocktail making, sommelier training, accounting, skipper’s ticket, divemaster training, jetski instructor courses and the list goes on. The vast majority of the crew are from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and the US. Typically, recruitment companies post available positions online. Once employed, the crew are under contract to the vessel’s chosen management company.
I get hold of a few ex-colleagues and ask them if they would answer a few questions. They are both more than happy to chat but remind me of the non-disclosure agreements they are bound by. For this reason, the interviewees’ surnames have not been given.
Joining me from Palma de Mallorca in Spain, is Jamie, an ex-colleague and a good friend who holds the position of second officer aboard a 92m chartered motor yacht.
Jamie says it has been a busy season in the Northern Hemisphere. “We are booked out,” he says. Not bad at €700,000 ($1.01 million) a week. “So far, all we know is that we have back-to-back charters between Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece — the normal, the milk run.”
I ask him about the past two months and what the crew have been up to while based in Palma.
“Oh mate, it has been a blast! It is a short flight anywhere in Europe, we have missed it,” he says.
“I have been up twice to see the family in the UK. The crew caught the end of the ski season, so we have been taking long weekends in Austria, France, and some even went up to Scandinavia — generally we pick a place each weekend and just go for it.”
It is common for the crew to spend their time off together. Jamie says the crew had made a concerted effort to sample every tapas and vino bar in Palma and used the small gap between seasons for crew training and boat maintenance.
‘‘It has been almost too good, and crew morale is high. The boat is set up, and the crew are in a good place mentally, ready for a successful season, we’re just wondering what’s going to go wrong,” Jamie says tongue-in-cheek as he “touches wood” and takes a sip of his beer.
In Monaco is Emily, a 31-year-old chief stewardess from Augusta. Em is currently working full-time on an 85m dual charter/private vessel, on a four months on, two months off rotation.
‘‘We have had no crew rotation on board for five months, it was a logistical nightmare with COVID restrictions, and then a war broke out,” she says.
“The crew’s rotation is four months on two months off so everyone mentally is done, three(ish) months to go.”
Via Zoom, Em’s head falls into her hands over her keyboard.
“We arrived in Monaco last week from Miami (a 15-day passage), and the crew have just had three days off to catch a break. We reeled in plenty of mahi-mahi off the back deck on the trip across, and the weather was kind, so that was awesome. The chef was making fresh sashimi every day for snacks.”
Emily and I discussed the crew’s plans for rotation, and she explained how the crew negotiated the extended terms with the captain and management company.
The crew agreed to work a double season for twice the time off — paid, of course, with all flights included, which will come into effect when the (next) season is finished. For Emily, the break cannot come soon enough. Yacht crew may not touch land for months at a time. The crew work, eat and live together, and almost always (except for the captain, chief engineer, and chief officer) share a cabin with at least one other. In the crew cabins or below deck, portholes the size of serving plates let just enough light in; cabin mates do not get to choose one another either. To top it off, during charter especially, the boat is frequently without an internet connection for days. Better hope there are no special occasions at home.
Emily tells me about the Caribbean season and a typical day.
“The season was hectic,” she says. “Managing six of the girls has its moments, I must say. We worked at least 16-hour days, seven-day weeks, four months straight and only had a few days off since Christmas. And now, it is all about to begin again.”
I ask her about some of the clients.
“The majority were Americans made up of families, business trips and friends on holidays,” she says. “We also had clients from Russia, Middle Eastern countries and New Zealand. The boss and his family know quite a few celebrities; amongst them we had George Clooney on for dinner, and Adam Sandler came on for a party. He was actually funny in real life, we didn’t expect that!’‘
Emily laughs as she recalled a Happy Gilmore golf impersonation on the back deck from a custom-built driving range with floating golf balls. Deckhands collect the balls by jetski.
“Actually, yeah, he was cool,” Emily reminisces. “There was a disco on board that night. It got loose; some of the crew got to have a groove,” she adds before fading into radio silence, listening to boat chat and a request from the captain.
‘’I have got to run! Duty calls — 14 days’ worth of food for 33 people is about to arrive for the ‘boss trip’ starting tomorrow.”
Watery wonder of Waychinicup
CONRAD FORREST explores the hidden beauty of one of WA’s most untouched national parks
Located at the most southerly tip of the State, Waychinicup National Park is brimming with crystalline waterways and eclectic wildlife. It has a distinct character that makes it a perfect destination for rest and relaxation.
About a 40-minute drive east of Albany, Waychinicup sits on the coast of the Southern Ocean. The name first appeared on maps in 1877 and is derived from the Noongar word, “waitch” (meaning “emu”), and “up” (meaning “place of”). The national park boasts glorious landscapes and an abundance of nature, which begets an array of potential activities for visitors. And with a camp site carefully weaved into the bush by the mouth of the Waychinicup River, this overlooked destination provides a comfortable and incredibly cheap stay.
THE WAY TO WAYCHINICUP
I travelled to Waychinicup from Perth in December last year, my first time doing so. About a six-hour drive, my travel companions and I decided to stop over for the night in Katanning to break up the journey. But a large part of the magic of Waychinicup was, surprisingly, the journey there. Regardless of season, the Great Southern region has a unique and undeniable charm to it that penetrates car windows and brick walls. My companions and I could not resist the urge to stop by several sprawling fields and stopover in several country towns. Everywhere you look, the Great Southern region has something to offer. I would recommend breaking up your journey as much as possible and really taking in as much of the natural environment as you can.
STOPPING OVER IN KATANNING
With a population of about 4000, Katanning is the most ethnically diverse regional centre in WA and is the perfect town for a stopover whether for just a few hours or a whole night. We spent the night at the Premier Mill Hotel in Katanning, a recently developed hotel with an adjoining restaurant and bar. This acted as a kind of pre-holiday holiday. Rural towns are often overlooked as travel destinations, but if you’re looking for a break from the bustle of urban life, places like Katanning are a perfect escape.
ARRIVING AT WAYCHINICUP
The corrugations of the long, winding dirt road to the camp site are a misleading aspect to one’s arrival; although the road may be tough, the stay is anything but. The dirt road gives way to dense, green bush, and in a clearing right by an inlet, lies the camp site.
“Some people stay here for weeks and weeks,” Waychinicup camp site manager Greg Smith said. “Something about the place — people just don’t want to leave.”
From the camp site, you can hear the crash of waves against the rocky river mouth, the wind blowing through the treetops, an ambience of unmatched tranquillity.
Waychinicup has so many elements that make it unique, from the lizards that roam the camp site, to the inlet, where the crystal-clear water holds corals and a spectrum of colourful fish. There is so much to see and do.
Waterways: The Waychinicup River runs right by the camp site, and it is a splendid swimming spot. Pools of warm freshwater and waterfalls cascade over big rocks. The river meets the ocean at the Waychinicup Inlet, where the water becomes clear and blue and holds an abundance of fish and coral.
Sunsets: Because Waychinicup is south-westerly facing, the view of the sunsets from the inlet are something special. The two rocky hills that sit opposite one another at the mouth of the inlet give way to gorgeous, tonal evening skies.
Wildlife: Waychinicup is brimming with native flora and fauna. Some of its inhabitants include large but docile goannas, adorable little quendas, possums and other marsupials, birds of all varieties, and an abundance of insects, fish and water-dwelling crustaceans. In addition to this, the national park is home to a large array of wildflowers that bloom during spring and saturate the area with beautiful, lively colours.
History: Another element to Waychinicup is its rich history. In addition to its Indigenous history, the area has a very interesting colonial history. The Waychinicup River inlet is home to one of WA’s oldest recorded non-Indigenous artefacts called the Sealers’ Oven. A man-made structure of mud and stone, it sits on a riverbank by the inlet and is believed to be a bread oven built by sealers around 1800, which predates the European colonisation of WA by more than 20 years. The inlet was also once called home by World War II soldier Frank Cooper lived in a hut overlooking the inlet for 50 years.
From swimming to kayaking to hiking, Waychinicup offers many different activities. There is an abundance of hiking trails with beautiful views and historical sights to explore. The rocks by the inlet are the perfect spot to lay down a towel and spend hours reading a good book. Or, if the weather permits, a swim in a pool along the river or in the salty inlet is a great way to wake up or cool down. And if you’re unsure, camp site manager Greg has many recommendations for activities — his knowledge of the area is great.
Dementia need not be a barrier to travel
More could be done to cater for individual needs, experts say. ELOISE BUDIMLICH reports
There’s a stigma that exists about travelling with dementia but that shouldn’t stop anyone from experiencing the joy of travel.
“Sally, can we really do this trip?”
“Yes, we absolutely can, Mum. It’s going to be great.”
Perth resident Sally Lewin lived with her family in New Zealand when she was a teenager. Last year, she decided to take her mother back to Christchurch, New Zealand, for a month-long adventure.
“Mum has dementia, but we both wanted to go back to New Zealand, and I am so happy we did,” she said.
“We lived in New Zealand as a family for years and have so many memories and friends there.”
Access to travel for people with dementia is an overlooked area in tourism in WA.
In 2021, there were 44,300 people with dementia living in the State and this number is projected to be 56,886 by 2028.
Alzheimer’s WA senior consultant of dementia enabling environments Ash Osborne says the tourism industry must focus on inclusion for all people in travel services and that includes travellers with dementia.
“We are moving towards understanding that dementia is a disability, and we must focus on enabling people, and this also means enabling travel,” she said.
Ms Osborne explained dementia was an individual experience and varied from person to person.
“The question is whether travel is appropriate for the person, and it often is, especially for people in the earlier stages of dementia,” Ms Osborne said.
This is because dementia is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms caused by disorders affecting the brain.
“Dementia is a very individual experience. People with dementia have unique levels of ability and many people with dementia can absolutely travel, and should,” Ms Osborne said.
Alongside this, Ms Osborne said people with dementia may also have other factors that affected what kind of travel would suit them.
“Everyone has different levels of mobility as they age, sometimes a daytrip is the right choice,” she said.
Under Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, travelling is a human right.
Alzheimer’s WA senior consultant of communities of practice Challis Wilson says the assumption that people with dementia cannot travel is just one aspect of the stigma that surrounds dementia.
“Often we see people with dementia feeling judged; there is a stigma around the word dementia,” Ms Wilson said.
In WA, there is no specific service that caters to travelling with dementia.
Ms Wilson says there is a general assumption that everyone with dementia who wants to travel has a carer who will travel with them, but that is often not the case.
“Many people with earlier stages of dementia do not have carers; it’s expensive and sometimes not necessary,” she said.
Ms Lewin said going to a place that she and her mum knew well was helpful in their travels.
“We went to a place we knew; we knew the language and the culture, and I knew Christchurch well,” she said.
“I feel so thrilled that I took her. It was a very meaningful time.”
At their “home base” — apartment-style accommodation in Christchurch — Ms Lewin set up a memory plate (above) for her mum.
“Mum loves nature and loves to collect things and the memory plate allowed her to connect things to the places we had been. We found things from nature and kept them on the memory plate. Then when we came ‘home’, we laughed and smiled our way through those memories,” she said.
Ms Lewin said the whole experience of the trip, from planning to going, was a major source of excitement for her and her mum.
“For Mum, there was this great sense of achievement. It was like a ‘we did it’ moment. I saw a real lift in her,” she said.
Finding joy in travel, like Ms Lewin and her mum did, is something Ms Wilson is passionate about.
“It’s really important for there to be happiness and joyful activity in travel,” she said.
While Ms Lewin created a dementia-friendly environment for her mum, it is often not possible for people with dementia to travel with family, friends or a carer.
Alzheimer’s WA’s Ms Osborne explained this is usually because of financial situations.
Below are some tips for travelling with a carer and for travelling alone made in collaboration with Ms Osborne and Ms Wilson and Alzheimer’s WA resources.
Top tips: a trip with a carer
1. Plan ahead
Ms Osborne and Ms Wilson say planning out the trip is the best way to ensure success. This is an individual process as all people with dementia have different abilities, interests and routines.
2. Travel to known destinations
If there is a place known to the person with dementia, this can be a very positive experience as the familiarity and nostalgia add to the experience.
3. Find joyful activities
Planning any holiday usually involves some fun. Include experiences that bring the person with dementia joy and that bring the carer, friend or family joy. Ms Wilson described the work of Thomas Kitwood, a pioneer in the field of dementia care, and how a person-centred care approach is one that includes joyful activity.
4. Allow for rest time
It is important not to over-schedule, allow for plenty of rest. Whether it be evenings in watching a movie or laid-back mornings with a cup of tea and sunshine, make sure there is time to relax. “It is also important for the carer, or family and friends, to have some time to relax. Travelling together is a team thing,” Ms Wilson said.
5. Be mindful of needs
“When travelling with a person with dementia, it may be necessary to put a few things into place to make sure the needs of the person are met,” Ms Osborne explained.
Ms Osborne said it was important to be mindful of having an overly risk-orientated mindset.
“Sometimes in our very well-placed actions to keep people safe and protect them, we can take away people’s independence and choice, and that doesn’t feel good for anyone, including someone with dementia,” Ms Osborne said.
That is why Ms Osborne said it was important to balance a person with dementia’s independence with some decisions about safety and security.
Travelling alone with dementia
Ms Osborne says people with dementia who are independent may travel alone.
“People need to travel for all sorts of reasons; they might need to see family and for whatever reason they will travel alone,” she said.
Ms Osborne said it was important to plan a solo trip well and the Alzheimer’s Association, based in Chicago, had a great set of specific planning tips for people with dementia travelling alone on its website.
“Travel is something to be enjoyed and done by anybody who would like to. It’s just a human right.”
Alzheimer’s WA support services
Alzheimer’s WA has a range of support services available to people with dementia and their friends and family.
Carer support groups
Adjusting to change program
Contact Alzheimer’s WA
Phone: 1300 66 77 88
Travelling with Dementia Alone
Paragliding the coast of Albany: have an aerial adventure without leaving WA
Looking for something fun and adventurous that you won’t have to get on a plane for? JAMIE WARNOCK has a suggestion for you
What prompted me to jump off a 70m-high cliff overlooking the Southern Ocean, you might ask. That’s certainly something I was asking myself as I drifted closer and closer to one of Albany’s colossal wind turbines. First, it helped that I had a parachute on, and second, that I was strapped to a knowledgeable paragliding instructor with more than 30 years of experience. I had also been informed by one of my thrill-seeking, degenerate friends that the views from the air were incredible. But as we neared the turbine, I started to question my life choices, and tried to come to terms with my immediate fate of being sliced up finer than an onion in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen. My fears melted away as my instructor whipped the glider around to land very gently along a section of the Bibbulmun Track.
My instructor Jiri Hlavaty started the WA paragliding academy in Perth back in 1988, which continues to be the only paragliding school in WA. He began teaching people to paraglide for free to share his passion. “The main reason we’re teaching is to share something which we know is so unreal,” he said. Nowadays, Mr Hlavaty operates tandem flights and paragliding courses along the coastline between Denmark and Albany with his wife and co-owner Sylvie. He says Albany is the “mecca” for coastal flying because it has the largest and most varied sites in the whole State.
Mr Hlavaty and I had been soaring around the cliffs of Torndirrup National Park for about 45 minutes. Every once in a while, we’d exchange a smug grin and a wave with passing students of Jiri’s in their brightly coloured gliders. I was strapped to him like some gigantic baby might be strapped on to their parents’ chest, and oddly enough I was so comfortable I felt like I was seated in a flying recliner. Far below our feet, set after set of icy, blue waves smashed into giant walls of rock in a never-ending battle. Serenaded by the sounds of wind and sea, we floated up and down the cliffs and picked up a fan base of curious tourists and hikers below on the Bibbulmun.
Mr Hlavaty explained that we were being kept aloft by breeze from the ocean. As wind hit the cliffs, it was moving upwards and giving us lift, allowing us to cruise along the coast and “ridge soar” as paragliders called it.
The glider that we used worked in a similar way to the wing of a plane, built with an aerofoil design at the leading edge to generate lift. Paragliders pack a reserve parachute into their harness to be thrown out in an accident or emergency. And while paragliding is statistically much safer than driving a car, it does still come with risk and it’s important to learn in a safe way under authorised supervision. Paragliding is also very dependent on weather conditions, so allow some extra time in your adventure in case your bookings are postponed.
Mechanical engineer Nadim Takhari, 25, has travelled the world and sought out some of the greatest adrenaline-filled experiences it has to offer. He has done everything from hang-gliding over Rio de Janeiro to skydiving in Argentina and even paragliding in Turkey. A long-haired, lively guy from Perth, Nadim’s eyes lit up even more at the mention of paragliding in Albany.
“COVID hit, and I still wanted to get that experience, so I looked around and Albany was the only place that offered paragliding,” Nadim said. “We did it, and it was one of the most surreal things, one of the most gorgeous places.”
“The comfort of it is another factor, you’re not in a tight harness, your ears aren’t popped out. If you want to do something adventurous, something out of your comfort zone, but still feel in a safe position, paragliding is perfect.”
Be warned though, some that have passed through Jiri and Sylvie’s paragliding academy have completely uprooted their lives to travel and pursue paragliding full-time. Mr Hlavaty says paragliding becomes such a major part of your happiness, it can completely change the way you think about your free time.
Dane Dan delivers the laughs
A Danish man finds home away from home within Perth's comedy community, writes MEG ANDERSON
Daniel Neilsen from Copenhagen looks out over the crowd that has gathered in front of the small pub stage.
The lights shine brightly in his eyes and his heart pounds loudly in his chest.
Perhaps his stories wouldn’t be funny, perhaps nobody would laugh, perhaps he should have stuck with traffic controlling, perhaps he should have gone home when he had the chance.
Oh well, he figures, if nothing else it’ll make for another funny story. He steps forward into the light and takes hold of the microphone, “How ya goin’ you beautiful devils …”.
Daniel is not the only backpacker to get stuck in Australia as a result of COVID, but he may be the only one who was able to take such a difficult situation and turn it into a new career and a story worth laughing about.
Dan landed in Australia on the October 10, 2019, with nothing but a backpack and a big smile. He bought a van, named it Bruise, and set off on his first Australian adventure.
By February, COVID had begun to close in around his plans and he found himself with limited options and a sick van, so he headed inland to secure himself a job as a traffic controller in the Kalgoorlie mines.
Holding up a stop sign in 40C heat, dressed head to toe in high-vis and accompanied by some of Australia’s roughest and toughest, Dan discovered one life-saving coping mechanism: comedy.
“I felt like an absolute alien!” He says in his soft Danish accent. “Everyone was just so different, nobody smiled, my donga neighbour was selling meth!
“I mean there were some good eggs in between, but man, they were so different. And I found myself clinging to comedy, just trying to understand these interesting people around me, trying to impersonate these characters as I stood in the middle of the road trying not to get hit by road trains.”
Dan worked 10-hour days and six-day weeks for five months. By the end of it, he had a working van, an overflowing collection of ridiculous stories and character impersonations, and a new burning passion for stand-up comedy.
“I’ve always loved comedy, always tried to see the funny side in everything, but had never thought of doing stand-up comedy before coming to Australia.”
By the time Dan returned to Perth the global COVID situation had worsened and his chances of getting home were looking unlikely.
He hadn’t planned to be in Australia for more than a year and he missed his home and his loud and lovely family. But as an advocate of a “glass half full” attitude, he decided not to worry and signed up for the stand-up comedy open mic night at the Federal Hotel in Fremantle.
“It was so invigorating,” he smiles as he remembers. “I’ve never felt anything like it before.
“So, I started rocking up to more gigs, meeting new people, and quickly became obsessed!”
It wasn’t long before Dan was completely immersed in Perth’s comedy community. He was working as a bar tender at The Comedy Lounge and performing every chance he got.
Comedy Lounge venue manager Sarah Taylor describes Dan as “like a son to her”.
“I met Dan when he first started dabbling in the comedy scene,” she explains over the phone as she drives to work. “We hired him as a bartender, and he’d pop out on stage while he was working to practice his material and build up his confidence. Some nights he bombed and some nights he was amazing!”
Her smile comes through in the tone of her voice.
“He’s one of the most positive people I know. He missed his mum, he missed his family, but he was so positive. Whatever it was, he just dealt with it.
“He’s just a really happy-go-lucky kind of guy, and that’s why I see him doing well wherever he goes.”
Dan has been in Australia for nearly three years now. He’s performed all over Perth including Fringe Festival two years in a row.
“If I was told before leaving home that I’d get stuck in Australia and wouldn’t be able to see my family for nearly three years, I wouldn’t have left. But I chose to travel to one of the most isolated countries in the world just months before we were hit by a global pandemic.
“And while the world started closing down around me, opportunities just kept opening up in front of me. I asked for adventure and I asked to get to know myself better, and that’s exactly what I got.”
Dan is currently touring Australia with mentor and best mate Joe White, renowned Perth comedian.
They plan to finish in Brisbane in June where Dan will get on a plane and head home to his family in Copenhagen for the first time since October 2019.
But don’t worry, that won’t be the last we see of him, Dan plans to return to Australia in the not too distant future with his very own show.
So, in the midst of sad stories that have accumulated across the world over the past few years, let this story bring a smile to your face: Daniel Nielsen, the funny guy from Copenhagen, Perth’s very own silver lining of COVID.
Ever heard of bouldering? It’s a style of rock climbing that doesn’t require all the usual gear because it takes place much closer to the ground. Perth has an abundance of gritty granite outcrops that are ideal for bouldering and they’re only a stone’s throw from the heart of the CBD, but hardly anyone knows about them.
BRENNAN HIBBERD provides a tour of the best Perth Hills bouldering sites.
Helena Valley (dreaded boulders)
Nestled between the Helena River and the Zig Zag Scenic Drive is a variety of boulders with challenging climbs for the experienced, and humble climbs for those just discovering their climbing addiction. The area, known as the “dreaded boulders” consists of low bushland with little shade due to the scarcity of larger trees. The bouldering sites can be accessed via foot tracks leading from Helena Valley Road to the boulders. The paths are complemented by stunning views and colourful shrubbery even during the dry seasons. The dreaded boulders have eight individual bouldering sites within Helena Valley that consist of more than 50 routes recognised by the local climbing community. One of these sites is “Area 1”, a collection of boulders sprinkled across the western face of a large ridge. Area 1 has a fantastic variety of climbs, ranging from intermediate to expert. Take a brief stroll to the south-west and you’ll find “Area 2”, another ridge dappled with stone perfect for climbing. “Breadloaf boulder” is a large stone standing tall in solitude just west of Area 2. The appropriately named boulder is reminiscent of a freshly baked loaf of bread, however more suitable for climbing.
Kalamunda National Park
Less than 5km from the dreaded boulders are eight sites in Kalamunda National Park. These bouldering sites can be accessed from Schipp Road, just a short hike from the parking area. From the carpark you can see the first bouldering site which could worry beginners and excite more experienced climbers. In full view of the carpark Schipp Tower looks over, inviting keen climbers to put their skills to the test. The area is full of large eucalypts that provide some much-needed shade and attract birds. It’s common to catch a glimpse of a curious kookaburra or a flock of black-cockatoos. Following the winding path up the hill you will reach another great location on the left known as “overlook”. Overlook is packed with climbing puzzles, presenting 10 recognised routes for beginners and experts alike. Close by is a perfect place for an afternoon lunch after some challenging ascents. It’s a large area of smooth rocks nestled high on the hill, providing a panoramic view of the valley paired with the distant sounds of singing birds and cicadas. Kalamunda National Park has many more bouldering locations and harbours 145 individual climbing routes, including some climbs to test even the elite.
Fern Gully (Fern Gully Road)
Fern Gully bouldering site is a wide-open area with some stunning climbing locations. Found just off the end of Fern Road in Kalamunda, this site has multiple climbing locations that can be taken on by any eager climber. From the lower lying smooth climbs of “Noah’s Ark”, to the towering boulders with challenging overhangs of “Fossil Farm”. Some of the wider boulders at fossil farm allow for horizontal traverses to keep things fresh. North of Noah’s Ark is the “Landing Pit”, this section is home to some large boulders nestled in the trees requiring some difficult moves and persistence. There’s another site nearby that can be difficult to find, a beautifully coloured face of dark stone complemented by honey-hued streaks of run-off. Local climbers have fittingly named this elusive location the “Hidden Rock”. Can you find it?
Nyaania Creek reserve
If you enjoy stunning sunset views while climbing don’t look past the locations Nyaania Creek Reserve has to offer. Here you can find a variety of climbing spots spread across the reserve with an unbeatable view of the sun setting behind the city more than 20km away. Found at the end of Glen Road in Darlington, you can park and walk just up the hill along a path of red dirt to the first site “Nest”. Named after its resemblance to a colossal nest of dragon eggs, this section has climbs of lower heights good for beginners or intermediate climbers. The names of the other sites in the area are influenced by the legend of the dragon’s nest, with nearby sites named “Egg 1 & 2, Tail, Wing, Head and Heart”. The site names provide an enticing narrative and overarching theme of the location, opening a window into the local climbers’ imagination and creativity. These collective sites are home to breathtaking views and climbing routes that range in height and technical difficulty.
The Greenmount boulders are found south-east of Mountain Quarry on the outskirts of Darlington, a five-minute drive from the Nyaania Creek boulders. While Mountain Quarry is commonly used for traditional climbing, scattered throughout the nearby bushland you can find some fantastic rock formations for bouldering. If you keep your eyes peeled you may find chalk on the ground or trees, left by climbers to guide you in the right direction. In the area you will find a few defined sections, “Quarry Top, East, and West”. For short and technical routes, head to “Quarry Top” where you’ll find vertical walls of granite with some smoother rock faces for a decent challenge. Both sites “East” and “West” provide lofty, rounded boulders rather than sheer walls of rock. Within “East” you’ll find “triplets”; three large boulders huddled together with some routes 5m high. The surrounding foliage is diverse and vibrant displaying a melody of colours during the autumn months. The pairing of challenging climbing routes and picturesque surroundings shows why Greenmount boulders is a site you won’t want to miss.
ELLIE WALTZ shares five familiar places in the South West that are steeped in important stories of creation or stepping stones to learn, connect with and respect Aboriginal lore and heritage on this land
As you spend time between the capes of mosaic sunburnt granite, crystal limestone cliffs and caves of the far South West coastline you can keep in mind a part of the world’s oldest living culture — that of the Wadandi people. Wadandi people are known as the saltwater people of the South West, guided by the six seasons they have looked after their country for 50,000 years.
Wadandi boodjar (country) runs from Goomburrup (Bunbury) to Taalinup (Augusta) and inland to Nannup, bounded by Pilbuman and Kaniyang boodjar.
“When on Wadandi Country we ask that you respect the area and walk softly and take time to listen to the Country as she talks of the seasons. We respect the presence of the ancestors whose spirits reside on Country and walk their feet on the land, their heart spirit flows through all creation. We all come together for Country.”
- National Trust WA
Wooditchup (Margaret River)
Named after Wooditch the magic man, Wooditchup is the living heart of the region and is the only river on Wadandi land not created by the Wagyl (the rainbow snake of Noongar dreaming).
The story of Wooditchup Bilya (the creator’s river) is told by Wooditch’s grandsons, Wadandi custodians Wayne and Iszaac Webb. This story tells a tale of connection among everything on country. The river was created from a spring near Canebrake Pool and flows through the Whicher Range until it meets the Indian Ocean. The river is lined with paperbark trees, peppermint trees and snake reeds which are used for hunting, making spears, marron traps, huts and cooking. There are many caves along the river that are sacred to Wadandi People and are considered as pathways to the Dreaming.
Seasonal Tip: You can see the river change its banks and connect with the ocean around the seasons of Makuru and Djilba (June-September).
Meelup “Place of the Moon”
The breathtaking crystal blue waters and red ochre rocks mark a place of ceremony and gatherings. Meelup is derived from the Noongar words meela (your eyes, to see) and meeka (the Moon). From time immemorial Wadandi people have set the moon free from the horizon and have lived off the fruitful cape. They camped alongside the freshwater lagoon above Meelup which is a place of great cultural significance. Fishing for ngari (salmon) is one of the many important traditons that is still practiced at Meelup.
Seasonal tip: The season of salmon fishing is Bunuru (February to March) and tours can be booked with Koomal Dreaming. You can also watch a variety of whales come close in the bay as they migrate throughout Makuru, Djilba, Kambarang and Birak (June-December).
Yallingup “Place of Love” or “Place of Caves”
Yallingup is known for the songline that depicts Korrianne Gnwirri — the beautiful one. Korrianne would sit combing and braiding seashells and wild flowers into her hair. The songline describes a story of forbidden love between Korrianne and Medinite, who described her “eyes like stars”. When she left to marry another man that she was previously promised to, Medinite fell sick and could not eat, he had a “sore head” and soon passed on. The statue of Korrianne Gnwirri now sits facing Kurranup (the land between the ocean and horizon — spirit meeting place) where she thinks about Medinite, the man she didn’t marry.
Seasonal Tip: The wildflowers bloom throughout Djilba (August – September) and Kambarang, (October to November) they are extraordinary in the transition of seasons.
Mokidup (Ellensbrook) and Meekadarbee falls
Mokidup was a camping ground for thousands of years with access to fresh water and shelter from the sweltering summer sun. Meekadarbee (where the Moon bathes) is interlaced with the story of Mitanne and Nobel. A boardwalk will take you to view Meekadarbee falls where Mitanne and Nobel’s spirits live in the caves behind the waterfall.
The area changed in 1857 when Alfred and Ellen Bussel arrived and built the first settlement known as Ellensbrook house. Mokidup is known to be a place of conflict and holds the spirits of ancestors buried in the dunes behind the house.
Seasonal Tip: All seasons bring change to the flora and fauna however Djilba and Kambarang (August-November) will see the brook flowing and hopefully a sunny day to enjoy a packed picnic on the grounds after a tour to learn more.
Created by the Wagyl, this river is a significant bidi (path) from inland areas to get to the coast and represents a cultural boundary between the Pibelmen and Wadandi groups. An ochre deposit at the Great North Road is recorded as a place of ritual exchange between women of both groups. There are many ways to enjoy the river and experience both sides of the land intimately through mountain biking, canoeing and walking.
Seasonal Tip: Traditionally Makuru (June-July) is the time to retreat inland as the coast brings stormy windy weather and the season of fertility. Although the best time to fish is during the season of conception and birth — Djilba (August-September) and Kambarang (October – November).
Lunch with locals: how to eat your way around the world without leaving WA
ISABELLA BEILIN was on the hunt for Perth’s most authentic, homemade, unique food. Who better to ask than people who know what they’re talking about? She got in touch with some of her friends to ask where their families eat for a little taste of home
Vietnamese teaching student Michelle Quach, 23, is a lover of all things authentic. Her family originate from the town of Soc Trang, about five hours south of Ho Chi Minh city. An avid traveller, Michelle and her family travel to Vietnam yearly to visit family, attend Buddhist retreats and eat tasty street food. Her recommendation for authentic Vietnamese rolls, banh mi, is unexpected. Bibra Lake Lunch Bar is a five-star smash hit, with more than 500 positive Google reviews. The modest Vietnamese lunch bar specialises in banh mi, and with more than 12 different options for only $9 — it’s an absolute must-try. From pork belly to lemongrass beef, to tofu and vegetable, there’s something for everyone. Michelle also recommends trying the Vietnamese iced coffee; “It’s my favourite!” she says. “I even skipped my morning coffee to hold out for this one. The condensed milk makes it so sweet and tasty!”.
Address: 1/40 Port Pirie Street, Bibra Lake
Online fashion store owner and curator Strawberry Osaki, 19, is an expert on delicious food — noodles in particular. Hifumiya Udon Noodle House is a cafeteria-style lunch spot on Murray Street in Perth’s CBD, and her recommendation did not disappoint. Strawberry’s mother moved from Hokkaido to Australia in 1998 in an unexpected turn of events; a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables, she had booked a flight to Canada, where the movie was filmed. But her flight was cancelled. With flight credits, time off booked and suitcases packed, she spontaneously got on the next flight to Sydney, and the rest is history. “My mum was the type to get up at 4am and cook until dinnertime,” Strawberry told me. This is a statement that certainly rings true to the authenticity of Hifumiya. One highlight was certainly the service — our noodles were ready before we even chose which table to sit at. Although it is only open for lunch, this snug little restaurant has plenty of udon noodles and rice dishes to choose from, along with a great selection of alcoholic sake — if you need a little pick-me-up from your corporate city job.
Address: Shop 2 ground level/100-104 Murray Street, Perth
Despite being Australian born and raised, the Freemans are true Greeks at heart. Mother-daughter duo Yiota, 44, and Amara, 20, brought me along to the fabulous Brika in Perth’s CBD for a Greek feast like no other. Yiota’s parents immigrated from Greece in unique fashion; her father, then aged 14, a stowaway on a boat that travelled the world, and her mother, adopted by a Greek couple that moved to Perth. Brika, she tells me, means glory box. “It’s a sort of dowery that Greek parents prepare from birth for their daughters for when they get married.” And to no surprise, Brika (the restaurant), was a treasure-trove, for sure. With an extensive menu, highlights including the saganaki kefalograviera (a halloumi-like cheese) with jam and jalapenos, grilled eggplant and slow-roasted lamb — it was divine. With a selection of Greek sharing plates, desserts and alcohol, Brika receives high praise. “Absolutely delicious,” Amara remarked. “I think this might be just as good as Mum’s cooking at home.”
Special mention goes to the loukoumades (Greek doughnuts) — topped with salted caramel and candy floss, they are a must-try dessert on the Brika menu.
Address: 3/177 Stirling Street, Perth
It’s not every day you meet someone from Nepal — at least not in Perth. A Nepalese colleague of mine and masters student, Saby Basnet, 25, recommended Himali Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant for a little taste of home. With an extensive menu, Himali Gurkha is one of the only restaurants to have remained in the area for more than two decades. The service was immaculate, and the food was delicious; Nepal’s famous Momo dumplings were to die for, along with the wide range of curries and other local dishes — with many vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Other highlights include bhanta ko tarkari (eggplant curry) and goat curry; both equally flavoursome and aromatic. If you’re looking for a new and exciting cuisine to try, Nepalese is the way to go.
Address: 17 Kearns Crescent, Applecross
Killer whales of Bremer Canyon
Each summer, just off a tiny town along the south coast of Western Australia, the southern-hemisphere’s largest congregation of killer whales gather for a feeding frenzy extravaganza. Every year, Naturaliste Charters captures all of the action, and so much more. BELINDA CHARMAN reports
Each summer, just off a tiny town along the south coast of Western Australia, the southern-hemisphere’s largest congregation of killer whales gather for a feeding frenzy extravaganza. Every year, Naturaliste Charters captures all of the action, and so much more.
Travelling some 40km out from shore and several nautical miles over the edge of the Continental Shelf, the icy ocean air becomes almost too much to bear. The Antarctic sea breeze brings with it the relentless and unforgiving chill of the glacial continent below. An isolated speck at the mercy of the notoriously ruthless Southern Ocean, the boat aggressively jolts with the open-water swell. The only thing spectacular enough to make the voyage worthwhile; a close-up encounter with the ocean’s most formidable inhabitant.
The quaint coastal township of Bremer Bay, located about 500km south of Perth, is home to the largest known congregation of killer whales, also known as orcas, in the southern hemisphere. It is the only place in Australia you can be guaranteed to meet the apex predator of the sea.
“There are only three different populations of killer whales that we know of in Australia,” says New South Wales-based conservation biologist, Nicola Kennedy, who has recently spent time in Bremer Bay identifying orcas.
“There is a population in Western Australia, across the southern part of Australia and off the east coast. We know the least about the east coast population, we don’t even have enough information to know where to go out and see them, so sightings are purely opportunistic. Being able to reliably see the western population in Bremer is quite remarkable,” says Kennedy.
Between January and April, more than 150 orcas visit an area about 50km offshore from Bremer Bay. The Bremer Canyon, as it is known, consists of a group of deep-water rifts carved into the slope of the continental shelf, plunging to depths of up to 5000m.
The oceanic currents work with the undulating topography of the land to stir up food sources such as zooplankton and phytoplankton. The nutrient-rich autotrophs are brought to the top 200m of water known as the ‘photic zone’ where they develop quickly through the food chain. Above the canyon, pelagic wildlife such as giant squid and beaked whales amass in high numbers, providing a smorgasbord buffet for orcas and generating a feeding frenzy during the summer months.
Kennedy, who witnessed a pod of orcas orchestrate and execute a brutal hunt of a beaked whale, describes it as a “truly humbling” experience and one that cannot be captured in photographs.
“Being there, seeing them firsthand, it just makes you realise, we may think we rule the land, but they truly do rule the sea,” she says.
According to marine biologist at Naturaliste Charters, Pia Markovic, it was filmmaker Dave Riggs who first discovered the hotspot in the Bremer Canyon. His 2013 documentary, The Search for the Ocean’s Super Predator, is credited with initially sparking the interest of tourist operators in the Bremer Canyon area.
A year after the release of Riggs’ documentary, Naturaliste Charters founded ecotourism expeditions to the canyon, taking passengers out on a multi-deck, 20m catamaran for an all-day whale watching experience.
But whale-watching tours are just the tip of the iceberg for Naturaliste Charters.
In 2014, the tourism operator partnered with an existing conservation initiative known as Project Orca Research and Conservation Australia which “started as a university research project, cataloguing photo identification of orcas from expeditions out to the canyon”, says Markovic.
“We work with (Project ORCA) and as we go, each time we encounter new whales we’re adding to the catalogue. We have a marine biologist and usually a marine intern on board to take the photo ID and log it back ashore.”
Markovic giggles lightheartedly as she remarks that passengers often seem surprised that the crew can recognise orcas and identify them by name at sea. She can seamlessly rattle off an impressive array of names, as though she’s describing her own group of friends. The line-up of two of the main families, she says, includes: El Notcho, Cookie, Oreo, Nibbles, Digby, Razor, Slug and a calf called Little Blade.
“They are matriarchal, so they’re female-lead and we think one of the older females, Spilt Tip, is potentially the main matriarch of the whole system, connecting lots of different pods together,” Markovic explains.
According to Markovic, understanding the orca’s family groups and social structure is just one element that can be determined from the data. It can also be broadly used to assess their abundance and other trends including calving rates, population estimates, habitat preferences and possible migration routes.
“To put it quite simply, research is crucial in conservation because we can’t protect what we don’t understand,” says Kennedy.
“Killer whales are actually classified as data deficient because we know so little about them. Naturaliste Charters have now catalogued almost 200 individuals, so you can see why what they’re doing is so huge,” she says.
Orcas are also classified as a keystone species, meaning their presence indicates the health of the surrounding ecosystem. Their abundance in Bremer Bay suggests the place is alive and thriving. According to Kennedy, gathering more data on the elusive species provides us with the best possible chance of keeping it this way.
As the peak season draws to a close in Bremer Bay, Naturaliste Charters will now move west to Augusta to continue voyages in winter. Here, the company leads whale-watching tours to witness the humpback variety migrating during the colder months.
Markovic encourages as many people as possible to support research by going out to see the powerful predators firsthand.
She says the beauty of combining tourism and science is that tourists get to experience an incredible opportunity and gain an appreciation for the wildlife, whilst supporting crucial research.
“Combining tourism and research industries is really the only way forward in the tourism space.”
Dates with a difference
Wouldn’t you love to be surprised by your partner? Most people love surprises because they are a key ingredient to intense feelings of happiness, locking in memories and igniting connection. CAROLE POBLETE and her partner set out to explore alternative dates that made us laugh, scared and shocked with an unexpected sense of wonder and connection
Swim with wild dolphins
This is a bucket list adventure! We arrived at Rockingham on a warm, sunny morning and jumped on the boat. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, seagulls, pelicans and a peaceful atmosphere, it was simply breathtaking. We were in paradise.
The friendly crew knew exactly where to find dolphins. As they came near the boat, we were encouraged to get in the water with snorkels on. I could see dolphins swimming in a playful way all around us, so close that we could nearly touch them. My heart was pumping with excitement and my eyes couldn’t get any bigger; it was like a magical dream. We are experienced divers and yet we had never seen so many dolphins playing up close; we will be back for more!
Check out Rockingham Wild Encounters.
Best for: Swimmers in summer and spring.
Bounce, climb & play
We laughed from the moment we stepped on to the first trampoline to the end of the one-hour session. We tried everything from somersaults into giant airbags, to pretending we were in a “survival game” at the obstacle course or in the “Matrix” at the X-Park. I have to admit that we come here few times a year, even though we are over 40! The instructors are willing to give you a mini-lesson or show you how to do some jumps; we couldn’t believe what was possible until we tried. My partner, Mark, says: “It’s so much fun — it beats most date nights and we even get fit in the process!”
Check out BOUNCE Inc.
Best for: All ages at any time of the year.
Move through emotions of awkwardness, weirdness and end up laughing at yourself. Here, you will get out of your comfort zone by learning to improvise and play. “This is something I have never imagined doing before, and I love it!” says Lou, one of the participants. We laughed so much by having to make sounds and mimics we may not have made since we were 10! “Just Improvise” goes by a fantastic philosophy for couples, and are called the “9 Be’s”: Be playful, be present, be kind, be positive, be flexible, be bold, be yourself, be imperfect, be changed. You even get these reminders on a fridge magnet to take home and look at them when you need to be prompt to lighten up and laugh!!
Check out Just Improvise.
Best for: All ages at any time of the year.
Outdoor Flying Trapeze
With blue skies on a warm Saturday morning, we arrived at Alfred Cove and immediately felt excitement when we saw the huge trampoline in front of us. After a short safety briefing, I climbed up towards the trapeze and, unexpectedly, my legs started shaking and my heart was racing as if I just run a marathon. “This is higher than I had imagined” I thought, but nothing would stop me now. Mark was behind me, smiling and confident, I smiled back as we arrived at the top platform. The instructors were reassuring but I couldn’t help feeling a cocktail of excitement mixed with fear. They were ready, I less so, as they called me to jump! But jump I did! What an incredible rush as I flew through the air to catch the instructor’s hands! When we got down, we wanted to do it again and the big smiles on our faces didn’t wear off for the rest of the day. After conquering the fear, knowing that I had Mark by my side, I felt brave and strong, like an unstoppable warrior that could climb any mountain no matter how high it was.
Check out Flying Trapeze Perth.
Best for: Those without extreme fear of heights. Operates from September to June.
Virtual Reality – A Game of 2
As we entered a large room where people were wearing headsets, being mostly quiet and moving in a slightly strange manner, we were kind of bemused. However, after being shown how to use the VR equipment and choosing our joint experiences, we entered an incredible world filled with mysteries, puzzles and adventures. From diving through a shipwreck, to getting my gun loaded and shooting zombies before they bite Mark’s arm off! There are so many landscapes, characters and activities to play in this world that seems so real once the headset goes on; it’s pretty amazing! Especially memorable was to experience how we could save each other from being eaten by monsters or virtually killed by Medusa.
Check out VR-Arrival.
Best for: All ages, all year.
Blind tiger snakes and sea lions only a hop, skip and a jump from Perth
Just 45 minutes by boat from Perth, there is a rare population of sealions and a thriving den of venomous tiger snakes, many of which are blind. Carnac Island’s unique ecosystem has attracted the attention of scientists and tourists alike from around the globe. SASKIA CUMMING investigates
Cool wind swooshes past, sweeping your hair into spider webs behind you as the boat jets off, bouncing along the surface of the glistening Indian Ocean. Only 45 minutes after departure at Fremantle Port, a small speck of land takes shape in the distance. Approaching closer, the view transforms into a pristine beach of fine sand and limestone cliffs. Once anchored, the boat wobbles from side to side, as crystal water lightly sweeps under the boat. On the shore, brown seals can be spotted lazily lying in the blazing sun. Occasionally, a seal rolls themselves in the sand and plonks their round bodies into the water. Under the water, the seals transform, splashing and speeding around the place like a little kid on a sugar high. The sealions guard the beach, protecting tourists from what lurks in the bush behind them.
Within the bushland of Carnac Island is a flourishing population of one of the world’s most deadly snake species, the tiger snake. Carnac Island is considered one of only two islands in WA where these venomous reptiles can be found.
Emeritus professor and zoologist Don Bradshaw says there has always been speculation over how the tiger snakes arrived on the isolated island in the first place.
“It is most likely that the snakes were released on Carnac by Rocky Vane in the 1930s,” Bradshaw says.
Rocky Vane was a travelling showman who “decided to get rid of his snakes after his wife died from a lethal bite,” Bradshaw explains. It is believed the performer released about 80 snakes onto the island and the population grew from there, as there is “no records of snakes on the island before that date”.
Pedestrians are allowed to venture onto the small strip of beach at Carnac Island, although they are cautioned not to endeavour further inland. This is because the tiger snakes are the fifth deadliest snake species in the world with their venom. However, Bradshaw says the snakes on Carnac are “very docile as they are not harassed by people or dogs”. This predator-free environment and abundance of food has allowed these tiger snakes to successfully grow their population over the past 90 years.
The Island is also home to a large population of silver gulls, who use it as a nesting ground year-round.
“It’s an endless supply of food in the form of seagull chicks,” Bradshaw says. The silver gulls are an ideal food source for the local tiger snakes. However, the gulls are vigilant and violent protectors of their young, with reports of snakes “regularly being attacked by seagulls when feeding on their chicks”. Because of the sharp beak of the silver gulls, many snakes have had their eyes pecked out and have adapted to survive in their environment blind. The silver gulls are renowned for avoiding the fatal bites from the snakes.
While most species evolve over time because of selection pressure, which allows the best adapted animals for that environment to survive, this isn’t the case with the tiger snakes on Carnac Island. The Carnac Island tiger snakes are genetically identical to those near Herdsman Lake in Perth which has very different environmental selection pressures. Even the weakest snakes on Carnac Island can survive and breed due to the predator-free environment with an abundance of food. While tiger snakes commonly rely on their vision to hunt and detect predators, the Carnac variety have adapted and survived without their sight. The blind snakes now rely solely on using their forked tongue, which can measure the strength of a smell. The Carnac Island snakes are also considered unique as they have adapted to survive with little to no fresh water on the island.
Carnac Island is home to the world’s rarest sealions, which are only found on Australian coastlines. Charter 1 boat charters owner Jules de Angelis has been running tours to Carnac Island since 2017. De Angelis says the “snorkelling and magnificent wildlife” is what attracted him to begin tours to Carnac. It is renowned for providing a quality underwater exploration experience, among sealions and bottlenose dolphins. De Angelis states that “the Australian sealions are the rarest sealions in the world” and so he focuses the tours on these animals.
“Only the male sealions come to Carnac after breeding north of Perth,” De Angelis says. The breeding season lasts for 16-24 weeks (every 18 months), before the male sealions return to the metropolitan area.
“The females stay in the breeding location for the entire season,” he says, explaining that this is believed to help relieve the pressure for females and pups with limited food sources. On the tours “people get a chance to feed the sealions from the beach, boat or water”.
According to De Angelis, Charter 1 is very respectful to the sealion’s environment “not allowing people to go ashore” as he says, “last thing we want to do is disturb (them)”.
Carnac Island provides a sanctuary for the rare sealions, tiger snakes and silver gulls which inhabit and flourish on the land. It’s important that people are made aware of this to keep them and the animals safe.
“It’s a priority to educate our guests on why they’re there and what they’re there for.”
PHOEBE ROBSON waxes lyrical about Geordie Bay, the holiday destination that has it all
You will find the beautiful Geordie Bay nestled on the northern side of Rottnest Island, it is the perfect holiday destination that truly has it all. Filled with newly renovated holiday units with panoramic ocean views, its own general store, a delicious cafe with freshly roasted coffee every morning, and a beautiful beach to swim at, you will be struggling to find a reason to leave. Embrace the wonderful outdoors and prepare for a glorious holiday filled with salt, sand, and sunscreen.
Feel any worries and stress leave your body the second you step off the ferry and arrive at every West Australian’s favourite holiday destination, Rottnest Island. As the warmth from the sun hits your sunscreen-soaked skin, relax in knowing that you are now on “island time,” surrounded by a crystal-clear ocean. You are ready to make your way around to Geordie Bay, escaping the relative hustle and bustle of the main settlement of Thompsons Bay. Geordie is just a 10-minute bike ride away.
Each holiday unit in Geordie is classified as premium Rottnest Island accommodation, so look forward to living in island luxury. Each with its own kitchen, television, open-plan living area, beautiful big balcony with breathtaking panoramic ocean views and are available in four, six and eight-bed options, suitable for a family of any size. Just be prepared for the inevitable sand-filled beds after your first night of being there, a small price to pay for having the beach at your doorstep. Be sure to open the window at night and lie in bed as you fall asleep listening to the soft sound of the waves slowly meeting the shore just below you.
Geordie’s cafe is located next to the general store which is never more than a three-minute walk from any accommodation in Geordie. It serves breakfast until 11.30am, “boaties big breakfast” included, lunch at noon, and dinner is served from 5pm. With an array of seafood options, a decadent drinks menu, and happy bubbly workers it really is the ideal location on the island. Sit back in pure bliss with an Aperol Spritz in hand, oysters on the way, and enjoy a beautiful sunset over the bay.
“My Rottnest Island Holiday” author, journalist and mother of three, Tazli Bowe visits Rottnest Island up to four times a year. Her family has their own secret rock lobster potting spots, bikes stored for them on the island, and even a son who works at the Island’s mini putt-putt course. She truly knows all there is to know about the island and any secret gems.
“Being positioned on the northern side of Rottnest Island, protected from the strong south-westerly winds, Geordie Bay is definitely the best bay on Rottnest due to the safe swimming and boating. It’s a very pretty bay, particularly perfect for families with young children as the beach is free of waves and provides crystal clear water which remains shallow and safe for young children.”
“Geordie Bay would have to be the most popular bay for boating due to being protected from ocean breezes and thankfully the island authorities agree and supply many moorings for the boating enthusiasts.”
Brian Davies lives full-time on his boat docked in Fremantle and loves to travel between Fremantle and Rottnest and visits Geordie Bay frequently.
“Geordie has everything a boatie could want or need for a weekend away at Rotto. The waters are easy to navigate and the bay is protected by an outer reef. The jetty is great too, makes it easy to access the shore and pop up for a beer.”
Geordie Bay is filled with swing moorings which can also be hired out if land life isn’t your thing from as little as $25 a night in the low season and $66 in the peak holiday season.
“There is no better feeling than arriving in Geordie, turning off the engine after you’ve hooked on to the mooring and knowing you’ve got nothing but relaxing to do.”
So, whether you’re looking for delicious foods, an island lifestyle, a beach getaway, fun with your family, or love travelling on your boat, Geordie Bay is the place to be and has it all. It’s simple, it’s easy and it’s going to be one of your favourite holidays to look back on and reminisce about the sunshine-filled moments accompanied by incredible views and surrounded by pure bliss.
The engine at the heart of York
The York Motor Museum brings much more to the town of York than old cars and an appreciation of motor history. ISABELLA HOLLAND reports.
Walking through the stained-glass doors of the York Motor Museum was like stepping back in time. The smell of cleaning solution, old books and gasoline hang in the air as a kind-eyed woman staffing the front desk welcomes me in with a soft smile.
“I’ll go get Brian for you, dear,” she says brightly as she notes my camera, pen and paper. The York Motor Museum houses more than 80 motorcars and motorbikes, all with their own unique history.
The current manager, Brian Johns, is a fountain of knowledge about the old museum that he dedicates his time to. He takes his time and guides me through the maze of vintage cars, stopping at each car to explain its significance. Not only is he happy to show me around, but he also explains the museum’s importance to the country town.
The York Motor Museum lies on the main street in the centre of town. The museum started in 1979, when Perth mining magnet Peter Briggs needed somewhere to house his vast collection of vehicles. The building itself, a large shed-like structure with a typical shopfront entrance was built in 1908 and has been home to motorcars ever since. Until 1936, the building was used as a Willys-Knight dealership and then subsequently a Ford dealership, with many features from these two automotive shops still evident in the museum. “We’ve got all this history that goes with the building,” says Johns. “That’s what makes it so special.”
In 2017, an elderly Briggs put the museum up for sale after almost 38 years of running it. At first, offers from overseas were made to Briggs to purchase the cars and have them shipped over to display within their own country. But the community of York decided to chip in to buy the museum off Briggs to preserve the cars and to keep the museum. This was after Briggs kindly lowered the asking price to sell it to the township. “The whole concept of this is, this brings people to York as it’s a major tourist attraction. The rest of the businesses benefit,” explains Johns. The museum is now owned by the town under the not-for-profit Avon Valley Motor Museum Association and is run by volunteers like Johns. “We didn’t want the town to die, we had to keep it alive,” he says.
The Shire of York president Denise Smythe says it’s hard to overestimate the importance of the York Motor Museum for the small town. “The York Motor Museum is an integral part of the attraction of tourists to the town of York.” She says Briggs understood the importance of the museum to the town when he decided to sell it. “We are very grateful for Peter Briggs and that the museum has remained in York.”
As we walk deeper into the museum, I ask Johns which of the cars is his favourite. He smiles, stops walking and slowly turns to show me a 1919 Australian Six Tourer. As a motor enthusiast myself, I expected to see well-known and well-loved cars such as old Holdens, Fords, Toyotas and Porsches. The Australia Six, however, took me completely by surprise. Not only did this car take centrestage within the museum but was surrounded by large posters and plaques explaining its history and significance, particularly within Australian motor-history. Johns explained the short history of a somewhat doomed car company.
“The Australian Six was created in 1919 to create employment for returned diggers from World War I. Everything was handmade in a factory in Sydney except the engines and gearboxes which they got from America. They built about 500 vehicles and there are only four left in existence that we know of, and they are all in museums. This is the only one in WA,” explains Johns. Unfortunately, the Ford Motor Company were too dominant and the Australian Six folded after only six years.
Australian Six: The forgotten Australian icon
During World War I, the Australian Government restricted the importation of luxury items including automobiles. The Australian Six was an early attempt to establish an automotive market in Australia but unfortunately it could not compete with the US. Australian Sixes were built to be durable and luxurious, with a choice of five body types. Their motto was “Made in Australia, by Australians, for Australia.” Four Australian Sixes survive, one in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, one in the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, another in the National Motor Museum in Birdwood, South Australia and the final one in the York Motor Museum.
Many of the cars on display are either donated or on loan by locals of the town. When the museum was started by Briggs, only 12 cars, all from his own collection, were displayed. Today, the museum houses more than 80 cars and 15 motorbikes, from different eras, used for different purposes and each with a personal and significant background that every volunteer, including Johns, attempts to highlight.
One of the more unique rooms of the York Motor Museum is the “Briggs Room”. A room dedicated to the original owner, it recounts the story of how the town came to own the museum after a combined effort from both parties. Memorabilia from Briggs’ racing days as well as his plans to start the museum born out of a need to house his own personal car collection line the walls of the room. Johns acknowledges how grateful this small country town is to Briggs for setting up the museum and subsequently creating an institution that breathes life into the town’s other businesses. “This museum will be a legacy to Peter, the way we are going about it,” says Johns.
Briggs, now in his late eighties and in the early stages of dementia, remains supportive of the museum as well as the town of York. “We get so many comments from travellers and caravaners who go through the Wheatbelt and say, ‘It’s just dead but we come here and it’s great to see a town that is actually alive,’” says Johns. “Obviously we are doing something right,” he laughs.