Sunday, 28 October 2018

Parker Point Snorkel Trail (Rottnest Island)

One of Trails WA's Top Trails, the Parker Point Snorkel Trail explore an area protected by Parker Point Santuary Zone. Starting with a walk across the rocks, the trail takes snorkelers through a stunning mix of seaweed beds and massive coral bommies as it follows the edge of a limestone ridge. A relatively short trail, Parker Point offers a varied an different experience to the nearby Little Salmon Bay

Distance: approx 200 metres (loop)
Gradient: Gentle; the bay is never too deep over its entire length
Quality of Path: Non-existent
Quality of Signage: Clear trailhead on the beach, buoys and info panels are of mixed quality
Experience Required: No Snorkeling Experience Required
Time: Variable. Allow at least 1 hour
Steps: No Steps
Best Time to Visit: Spring-Autumn
Entry Fee: Yes. Rottnest Island Entry fees apply
Getting There: From The Settlement, catch the bus or cycle the road to the Parker Point bus stop. Trail starts at the beach

After completing the Little Salmon Bay Snorkel Trail twice (because it was that good!), Alissa and I gathered our gear, hopped on our bikes and headed back up the hill to tackle the nearby Parker Point Snorkel Trail. Considered one of the Western Australia's Top Trails by Trails WA, Alissa and I had attempted the trail on a previous visit to Rottnest, but due to less than perfect snorkeling conditions had decided to save it for another visit.

From the bus stop and bicycle parking spot, the access to Parker Point follows a series of stairs down to the beach. It is not immediately clear, but the beach at Parker Point is basically filled with seaweed, and snorkelers looking to get to the trail have to follow the often sharp limestone rocks to the right of the stairs to the cordoned off area of the Sanctuary Zone.

This is an awkward journey that one would hope will be made easier in the future, as it means walking on top of jagged limestone that is best with footwear and wading through the water. Some people swim in from the beach, however Alissa and I preferred having our backpacks and gear within easy reach and sight.

Starting at a sandy beach facing the sanctuary zone, Alissa and I swam through shallow water filled with seaweed to the first marker of the trail. The trail markers are an identical setup to the Little Salmon Bay Snorkel Trail - buoys tied to a rope mark the way while underwater panels provide information about the area. As with the Little Salmon Bay's panels, the panels of the Parker Point Snorkel Trail had been completely grown over with algae at the time of our visit and were thoroughly unreadable - quite possibly even more so.

With so much seaweed, Alissa and I were wondering if this area would have any of the Pocillopora coral we had seen and enjoyed while in Little Salmon Bay, and the first sighting of some coral along the trail served as confirmation that we would indeed be seeing some more coral at Parker Point.

The second marker was completely overtaken with seaweed, and had Alissa and I wondering if there was even a sign buried under there.

Overall, this was a major issue with the Parker Point Snorkel Trail's signage, however Alissa and I agreed that the buoys were more clearly visible and easier to follow than the ones we had encountered at Little Salmon Bay.

While I feel like coral was far less plentiful at Parker Point than Little Salmon Bay, the size of the coral bommies seemed considerably larger, so what was there at Parker Point nevertheless blew us away by sheer size.

The marine life within the sanctuary zone were a major highlight of the trail. Moon Wrasses were again particularly common, as well as a number of other species we had spotted earlier in the morning at Little Salmon Bay.

The biggest difference between the trails is the predominance of seaweed, which is fair denser and more dominating here at Parker Point. These beds of seaweed provided a lot of interest for us and created a nice contrast between Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay.

The more varied scenery and the fact that the signage at Parker Point was much easier to follow is probably the reason why Parker Point was selected as the Top Trail for snorkeling at Rottnest, even though I actually think Little Salmon Bay is the superior location.

Which is not to say that Parker Point was not spectacular. The seaweed and the walls of limestone reef created a lot of outstanding locations to snorkel, and the fish life on offer was just as good as Little Salmon Bay.

And while coral was less dominant, there were still pockets of brilliantly coloured coral throughout the trail.

From the limestone ridge that the markers follow, the trail reaches the edge of the sanctuary zone, and then follows the rope and buoys back to the beach.

Along this swim back to the beach, Alissa and I spotted a large school of fish swimming through the seaweed beds.

As if to finish the walk with a fitting finale, just as Alissa and I were about to get out of the water, we spotted this sea cucumber in the shallow waters of the Parker Point beach.

And then upon rounding the corner to walk back to our bikes, we spotted an Osprey as it swooped down into the water and caught a fish!

Perhaps due to Parker Point being the Top Trail listed on Trails WA's website, Alissa and I were probably expecting a bit more out of the snorkel trail. While easier to follow and more varied due to the seaweed, we felt like the trail was a bit less spectacular than the one at Little Salmon Bay, and I think it is telling that I did two loops of Little Salmon Bay but only one of Parker Point. Nevertheless, the scenery was enjoyable at Park Point, and given how short both trail are - why not do both?


After lunch, Alissa and I decided to continue our cycling and snorkeling adventures by heading out to some of the island's more secluded northern beaches. After first checking out Little Parakeet Bay (which is like a slightly quieter version of the Basin), Alissa and I decided to check out Little Armstrong Bay. This was a beach we had been wanting to check out since doing the Karlinyah Bidi back in 2017, and was recommended by Bonny of Wild Western Australia as a great area for snorkeling due to the large schools of fish and the being the best spot to see Nudibranches.

Bonny's information absolutely checked out - within minutes of being in the water, we spotted a nudibranch on one of the rocks. Smaller than I had expected, the nudibranch's vibrant colours did however live up to expectations.

Further along the limestone reef, Alissa and I were amazed by the massive schools of fish. While the northern beaches ironically have less of the tropical fish and coral seen at Parker Point and Little Salmon Bay, the area was spectacular in its own way. This definitely made Alissa and I want to come back and check out more of the island's snorkel spots on a future visit.


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