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Wildlife encounters at Wadjemup

The habitats that sprawl across Wadjemup / Rottnest Island are home to a collection of native wildlife species, each one moving naturally through this Class A Reserve.
6 minutes

With 19 km of Indian Ocean between the mainland and Wadjemup / Rottnest Island, native wildlife has found its sanctuary. This island, a Class A Reserve, is a puzzle of six unique ecosystems, each one home to thriving animal, bird, and sea life. Some play in familiar surroundings, others cross vast distances to breed new life and sustain their own. Some are seen and not heard or heard but unseen. Some sleep, others roam. 

Wadjemup wildlife is, by nature, wild. Your experience of their native refuge spots will be unlike anyone else’s. It’s not ours to control - and that’s the beauty of it. 

The island’s six wildlife ecosystems 

Every corner of Wadjemup is a biodiverse environment, purpose-made by nature for native wildlife. When you venture through each area, it’s as if you have travelled across continents to find yourself surrounded by a whole new landscape.


  • Coastal. The limestone landscapes and rare bird species.
  • Scrub heath. A bird and reptile respite that carpets the island’s floor.
  • Wetlands. Salt lakes, swamps, and freshwater holes draw in amphibians. 
  • Woodlands. Native trees brush the clouds and welcome rare birds and bats.
  • Ocean. A marine ecosystem for tropical fish, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and migrating whales.
  • Settlement. A populated centre where the natural and man-made world co-exist. Native wildlife roams freely, gently encouraged back into their homes further afield.
It’s unlike anywhere else in the world. These six diverse environments knit together to create the unique landscape of Wadjemup, where you can see native wildlife in their natural environment.



Aerial view of Geordie Bay and salt lakes
A collection of unique ecosystems

Ngobar / Coastal 

The crisp air and building swell 

When you speak about your time on Rottnest Island, the coastline will likely play a leading role. Its sweeping beaches, sand dunes, and limestone cliffs are familiar, yet completely unique. With every gust of wind, seashell particles and quartz sand form the coastline’s ever-changing fingerprint. 

This process has created the landscape for wedge-tailed shearwaters , cormorants, terns, and the impressive osprey. Along with the familiar king’s skink, these bird species are just as much part of the coastal landscape as the sand dunes.


Ngobar djooraly / Scrub Heath

Amongst dense island covering 

Take a deep breath and if you are smelling salty-sweet air, you have moved into the scrubland ecosystem. As one of the biggest systems on the island, scrub heath covers more than half of Wadjemup. Its dense covering is a refuge for reptiles like bobtails and the king skink. 

If you’re an early riser, you can look out into the scrub on a crisp morning and see white-fronted chat, silvereye, and scrub wren. They all live freely amongst the native bushes — prickle lily and feather speargrass grow undisturbed thanks to the quokka’s natural aversion to the plants.

Learn the Noongar names

Salt lake


King skink

Eastern osprey

Balyan boodja / Wetlands 

Refuge in serene spaces 

An intricate network of salt lakes, brackish swamps, and small freshwater holes (or wet spots called seeps) make up this natural ecosystem. Fed by winter rainfall and groundwater that moves to the surface from the underground aquifer, the wetlands cover more than ten per cent of the island. 

While a draw for the select few, these wetlands do not pique the interest of the masses. This makes the area a secluded haven for travellers as well as native wildlife, especially amphibians. The moaning frog, motorbike frog, and squelching froglets can often be heard but rarely seen. 

The same cannot be said for the wetland’s birdlife, who are visible at every turn. Rock parrots, Australian shelducks, bridled and crested terns, waders, and red-necked phalarope are all possible sightings. 

One per cent of the world’s banded stilt population is found in the island’s wetlands. It’s one of the most delightful finds for bird lovers.


Boorn boodja / Woodlands 

Tangled in enchanting woods 

The rare and exquisite make their home in the unique woodland habitat of the island.

Three types of native trees can be found here, the Rottnest Island pine, the Rottnest Island tea tree, and wattle trees. These trees provide shelter for countless species of bush birds, including the rare and beautiful golden whistler, red-capped robin, silvereye, and the singing honeyeater. 

As the heat slowly dissolves on a warm evening, a walk in the woodland will showcase the island’s white-striped free-tailed bat population. These nocturnal creatures create a sense of ethereal beauty in the woodland, quietly foraging above the tree canopy. Their unique echolocation calls reveal their presence to travellers listening from the wooded boundaries.


Maambakoort / Ocean 

Marine garden sanctuaries

The marine reserve is one of the most spectacular drawcards of the island. From sandy floors, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, and rocky shores, the diverse marine habitats attract 400 species of tropical fish.

Thanks to the warm Leeuwin Current that surrounds the island, the diversity of fish species — baldchin groper, harlequin fish, samson fish, and yellowtail kingfish — is often joined by the magnificent green turtle and crustaceans like the famous western rock lobster. 

Towards the end of winter, you may even spot humpback whales migrating through the waters, particularly at West End. You can also see long-nosed fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and Australian sea lions from the Cathedral Rocks viewing platform.


Learn the Noongar names

Boya-k maambakoort-koop
Sea coral

Fur seal



Settlement areas 

Wildlife among historic development 

The settlement of Thomson Bay is not devoid of island wildlife. As you warm up with a coffee and devour a pastry from the local bakery, you will likely be joined by quokkas, bobtail lizards, and silver gulls. These species clearly flourish in their natural habitats further afield; therefore, be mindful not to encourage their stay in the settlement with food that can be harmful to their physical and behavioural development. 

The quokka population is a big island attraction. These iconic mammals can be found all over the island and while they are commonly spotted in the settlement area, head out towards the reserve to see them in their natural habitat. If you visit during August, you can see little joeys poking their heads out of their mothers’ pouches; come September, you can watch them take their first hops out into the world. 

Remember, we are here to simply observe the quokkas (and all wildlife on Wadjemup) as they continue their natural movements around the island.


Conserve the island
Wadjemup is a Class A Reserve meaning that the island is protected for both recreation and conservation. When you experience the island, by foot, flipper, or bike, there are ways to respect the land you’re on and its unique natural environment.