Rachel Down Under!

Wild West

Posted in Australia, Perth by rssmith218 on July 13, 2011

Think this photo was taken on the Great Barrier Reef?

Guess again! Last weekend, I made my way to Western Australia (my last Australian state!) for a week in Perth, the state capital, and the largest remote city in the world. Western Australia is huge- you could fit three Texas-sized states into its boundaries- and, like a good deal of Australia, the state is mostly empty. Well, mostly empty of people anyway- as you can see above, there was plenty of wildlife! Photo credits in the post to Joey and Damon.

I traveled to Perth to attend the Australian Marine Science Association annual conference, where I presented a poster, and caught up on the latest marine science research from all around Australia. The conference was actually held in Freemantle, a historic port just outside of Perth’s city center. These maps should help you get your bearings:

West coast, baby!

And here’s Freemantle!

The AMSA conference was a great opportunity to hear presentations in the broad field of marine science, and it was great to mingle and make contacts with people from all over Australia. The conference was very student-friendly, and it was great to get feedback on the work I’ve done this year…here I am with my poster!

However, sometimes it did feel like we were spending about as much time taking in conference presentations as we did taking in the delicious beers at Freemantle’s local microbreweries.

Little Creatures!

After four days of presentations and numerous pints of beer, the conference came to an end, complete with marine animal balloons and Johnston lab antics.

Happily, several of us stayed on for the weekend in Freemantle, and it was great to have time to take in the local sites. We spent a lovely day exploring Rottnest Island, a public reserve just off the coast of Freemantle, as you can see here.

We took a ferry over to the island, and rented bikes and snorkel gear for a day of explorations.

Ready to go?

On the road!

On our tour around the island, we took in the natural features of the landscape- the beaches,

lagoons,

and dunes.

We evenutally made it to the end of the island, and we stopped for lunch at this remarkably beautiful bay!

Some of us were too distracted by the clear blue water to focus on lunch and Damo jumped in right away to have a snorkel! Can you spot him in the photo below?

Of course, it was hard not to jump in after him!

Swimming in the Indian Ocean in the middle of winter isn’t as warm as it sounds…are you guys cold?

Post swim, we hopped back on our bikes to venture to the other end of the island; of course, we found another beautiful snorkeling spot and had to test the waters yet again!

So what is under all of that water?

An amazing temperate reef! I couldn’t believe the number and diversity of fish here…

Baby Australian Salmon- how many can you count?

Beautiful corals!

Damon even spotted a giant crayfish!

During our bike trip, we spotted some terrestrial wildlife as well. Check out these ospreys that were nesting in the bay at the end of the island.

And on the road, we came across this blue-tongued skink, who was not as happy to see us as we were to see him!

And lastly, we came upon the island’s most distinctive species, the quokka, a small marsupial that is found only on one other island off of Western Australia and in a small colony in another Western Australian bay. Quokkas are not afraid of humans, and we came across several of these little guys on our ride.

So cute! We finally returned to the ferry terminal for the ride back to Freemantle- you can even see Perth in the distance!

The next morning, Mel and I wandered around historic Freemantle, picking up a crepe at the Freemantle Markets as we enjoyed these historic buildings.

Beautiful buildings!

In the afternoon, I took to the water with Joey, Damo, and Glenn for a lovely sail around the Indian Ocean.

Let’s get the boat in the water!

Who’s ready to go sailing?

Just have to get the sails up and then we’re on our way!

The catamaran was fast, and, even though we were cold and wet, we passed a lovely afternoon out on the ocean.

Of course, you have to stop for a break every now and then….

Our time in Freemantle quickly came to an end, and we headed back to Perth to catch our flight home to Sydney. I made my way into the city early before the flight to check out Perth on my way out of town.

Surprisingly, Perth felt a good bit like my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The cities are similar sizes and both are cut down the middle by a river, in the case of Perth, the Swan River. I spent my morning hiking up to Kings Park, a beautiful botanic garden that overlooks the city. Check out this view from the gardens-beautiful!

Overall, my trip to Perth was a good mix of work and play, and I am happy to have had the chance to see a bit of the other coast of Australia.

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