A maiden trip to the land down under proved to be all the more memorable as
I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone to enjoy thrilling adventures, trysts with wildlife, and off-the-radar natural wonders of ‘the dream state’—Western Australia!
By SHIBANI BAWA
I WAS REALLY LOOKING forward to my first trip to Australia. More specifically, to its largest state— Western Australia. As the name suggests, this destination covers most of the nation’s western region, boasting a diverse landscape, from spectacular deserts and white beaches to lush vineyards, indigenous flora and fauna. As well as the country’s longest coastline! Interestingly, the state capital, Perth, is just two and half hours ahead of Indian Standard Time—a testament to how close it actually is to India.
As my flight landed in Perth, I immediately spotted one of the state’s most beautiful and loved attractions—the amoeba-shaped Rottnest Island. And I could hardly wait to begin my explorations. Surrounded by the cerulean waters of the Indian Ocean, the isle is a short ferry or seaplane ride from the city. My excitement did wane momentarily as I realised the island tour was going to be conducted on a Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing transporter device. A daunting challenge for me as I’d never been on one before. The mind, when it goes off in a tizzy, can really take you for a spin (pun unintended) and my mind debated with itself on whether I’d be able to
balance on the contraption or not.
As it turned out, my fears were nothing that a brief tutorial by an expert couldn’t wash away! In just a couple of minutes, I felt confident on my ‘vehicle’ and thrilled with the prospect of discovering the many delights of this gorgeous little gem.
LIVIN’ THE ISLAND LIFE
As I rode along with my group, I couldn’t stop smiling. A popular holiday destination, Rottnest Island, home to 63 beaches and 20 bays, has a fun vibe, and is usually packed with holidaymakers, families with children, couples, and even solo travellers, all of whom are enjoying the wonderful natural environs. Add to this, abundant cafés and spectacular vistas and you have a vacation spot that is a paradise unto itself. The island boasts 45 kilometres of scenic walking and hiking trails; one of these led us up to the iconic and historic Bathurst Lighthouse, where we caught stunning views over the pretty Pinky Beach and the expansive Indian Ocean ahead. While I was mesmerised by the sight, it was the native wildlife that stole the show for me! For here, one can see and interact with the quokka—a mammal that, apart from a small colony on mainland Australia, can only be found on Rottnest Island. These cute, little creatures resemble mini kangaroos, complete with the hop and the pouch, and they can be found almost everywhere on the island. An essential part of their diet, the Rottnest Island Tea Tree, catches my eye. I loved the windswept look of this specimen of flora that recalls a tall shrub. It was almost half bent over when I saw it—this is, after all, one of the windiest places on Earth!
A DIFFERENT KIND OF DESERTED
From an island to a desert! That was the treat in store for us the next day, as we made our way to the Lancelin Sand Dunes just outside of Perth. This is where I realised that seaside bliss and desert dreams can coexist side by side—utterly magnificent! It was a particularly windy day, and I could see the soft, white sand wafting from the top of the dunes against the backdrop of a dramatic grey and cloudy sky. Although the spot is very famous for sand surfing, I satisfied myself with clicking some lovely photographs, and prepared for our
next amazing destination.
About a two-hour drive from Perth sits one of nature’s most spectacular creations—The Pinnacles Nambung National Park. These natural limestone structures found alongside the Indian Ocean, were formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, after the sea receded and left deposits of seashells on the surface. Over time, the sand was swept away, leaving behind these pillars, some of which are almost 3.5 metres high. I was fortunate to witness this vista at sunset. For, at golden hour, if the sky showcased a million shades of fire, the Indian Ocean below unveiled as many hues of azure. And as if this magic of nature was not enough, I was blessed by a gorgeous
rainbow in the sky!
If I were to pick a single, indelible image from my trip, it
would be of this spot.
From the desert, it was now time to move on to the region’s lush vineyards. The Margaret River Region is the most awarded fine wine region in Australia, and home to pristine beaches and tall timber karri forest. With more than 90 cellar doors (over 65 of which are
rated Halliday 5-star wineries), it’s marked by low-lying mountains and hopping kangaroos—simply picture perfect! After spending a couple of leisurely days sampling wines here, I stopped by to say hello to some animal friends on my way back to Perth.
INTO THE WILD
I was extremely interested to learn that more than 80 per cent of Australia’s mammals, reptiles, and plants are not found anywhere else on Earth! Which made my visit to Caversham Wildlife Park, home to unique native animals like koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and more, even more exciting. This is also where
I overcame another personal fear: feeding kangaroos by hand! While it may not be considered a great feat by most, for me to get that close to a wild animal and let it eat from my hand is something I haven’t done so far. After that, petting a koala was a breeze!
Although the natural wonders of Western Australia are mesmerising to say the least, there’s no denying the charm of its peaceful capital. Showcasing a wonderful juxtaposition of swanky high-rises standing tall against lovely heritage buildings, Perth is scenic in its own right. I was especially taken by the vision of the Swan River flowing through its heart, and its beautifully landscaped gardens including the graceful Kings Park and Botanic Garden.
One of the best places to enjoy picturesque views of the river is from the rooftop of Optus Stadium. A world-class multi-purpose arena, it offers recreational activities, as well. One of latest additions here is the thrilling ‘Vertigo’, After a tour of the rooftop, you can step off it and traverse 10 meters on an adjoining platform without any handrails. Did I try it? Yes! After refusing initially, the adventure team encouraged me to take on the challenge and I’m so glad I did. I even dared to look over the edge to see the city below. What a spectacular
finale to an amazing trip!