Location: Rottnest Island
Distance: 9.7km loop
Trail Marker: Yellow Wadjemup Bidi markers
Duration: 2 - 4 hours
Cost: Rottnest Island entry fees apply
Toilet Facilities: Yes, at various locations
Dog Friendly: No
Date Hiked: 23rd October 2018
I have visited Rottnest many many times in my life, all for different reasons but I had never actually walked the official walking trails around the island so thought it was about time I did. The Wadjemup Bidi is a series of 5 walking trails that takes you across spectacular coastal headlands, past stunning inland lakes and presents encounters with both natural and man-made attractions along the way. Each of the 5 sections boast cultural and environmental significant landmarks to interpret and experience. "Bidi" in Noongar means "trail" or "track". The Whadjuk Noongar are the Traditional Owners of Rottnest Island.
Now a trip to Rotto would not be complete without an encounter with the resident Quokka and I only had to walk a few metres up to have my first one (on this trip).
The trail leaves the shopping mall and walks through Rottnest Island Cemetary which gives visitors a look into pioneer life with an interpretive panel nearby providing a wealth of information about Rottnest's history. The trail continues up the steps to the first landmark, the Vlamingh Memorial and Lookout. Willem DeVlamingh was a Dutch sea captain who explored and mapped a lot of the west coast before the British settled here. Willem DeVlamingh described the Quokka as a kind of rat as big as a common cat. He named the island Rottenest ('rat nest') in honour of this sighting. The island is now of course known as Rottnest Island. Descending down from the lookout walkers are taken past Garden and Herschel Lake via a main road walking by the large wind turbine. The wind turbine is part of the Rottnest Island Water Renewable Energy Nexus Project. A new 600 kW solar farm was also commissioned early in 2017.
Only a few months prior to my visit, Herschel Lake was put on a new list of WA sites impacted by toxic chemicals from the use of old firefighting foams. A former landfill on the island, adjacent to the lake, is also impacted. The areas have been classified by authorities as “possibly contaminated with further investigations required.” The trail leaves the road and sends walkers up some stairs along a limestone ridge just above the road. With it being quite narrow and warm I was being cautious of snakes and sure enough I found me one slinky off into the dense bush along side the track.....eeeeek Passing by the Wind Farm I was greeted with another Quokka as I sat on the bench to take in the views looking out to Wadjemup Lighthouse. Descending off the limestone ridge the trail continues down across Geordie Bay Rd, skirting around the salty plains of Lake Baghdad alive with a plethora of birds dancing on the lake. Stop to watch the birds dancing on the Salt Lakes. These lakes have been recognised as Wetlands of National Importance, and as an Important Bird Area (IBA) for seabirds.
The trail heads on to Lake Vincent and an interpretative sign talks about the variety of birds of the Salt Lake with a bench for walkers and avid birdwatchers keen to take a break and soak in the surroundings. Walkers are then treated to some history about Thomson Farm. The trail traverses what was once their farm and relics from agriculture use can be seen including remnants of farm buildings, troughs and fencing entering the lakes. Moving on and walkers find themselves at the highlight of the walk, the Lake Vincent Boardwalk where walkers can experience the illusion of walking on water, assuming the water levels are high enough. The boardwalk safeguards the significant samphire communities below. Samphire is a native succulent also referred to as sea asparagus, swamp grass, salicorne, glasswort, pickleweed and sea beans. Woody at the base and with many branches it grows freely on many of Southern Australia’s salty flats. A bushtucker chefs heaven.
Next up was another highlight of the walk, the Pink Lake, although not quite as Pink as some of the other Pink lakes we have here in WA. A microscopic algae called Dunaliella salina is common in the open water of the lakes. It grows on salt srystals. This algae contains beta-carotene, a red/orange substance which is partly responsible for the pink colour of the smaller lakes. Following the path around, once again you are walking alongside Lake Baghdad providing a new view out to the Wind Turbine.
Once an underground cave system, these lakes formed when the limestone roofs collapsed some 6,000 years ago allowing the sea to flood the system. Today the salt lakes are completely land locked. The trail leaves Defence Rd and crosses over a grassy plain before reaching Bovell Way and the end of this trail for me as I now begin the Karlinyah Bidi.