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On the beach
On the beach
Flying over

Abrolhos Islands

Thursday, June 10, 2004
Brendon gets a birds-eye view when he tracks down some of WA’s forgotten islands.

The Abrolhos (officially known as Houtman Abrolhos) archipelago lies 60km off the Western Australian coast at Geraldton. There are 122 islands — mainly coral atolls — forming three groups which extend 100km north to south, rich with flora and fauna and surrounded by crystal waters.

The south-flowing warm current creates a combination of tropical and temperate conditions which allow corals, sea grasses, tropical and other sea life to thrive. It is also home to more than 90 species of birds.

It is believed the first European landing was at the Abrolhos Islands. The Batavia, a Dutch East India trading ship, was wrecked on Morning Reef in 1629. Eighteen other ships found their graves there during the 19th century.

Now the islands supply the livelihood for rock lobster fishermen for 14 weeks of the year. The rest of the time they are uninhabited, making them a great place to enjoy a picnic on a beach, swimming and snorkelling among the coral gardens.

Lori and Chris Shine own Shine Aviation Services and fly out of Geraldton Airport. The family-owned and run airline has nine aircraft and carries around 10,000 passengers a year.

From the airfield, the plane climbs to cruise level, usually 1500m above sea level, and the Abrolhos gradually come into view. There is usually plenty of activity below in the form of rock lobster boats, large passing cargo ships and, in season, migrating whales.

On descent to the southern group, there is coral as far as you can see, spectacular colours, masses of sea and birdlife, including sea lions, dolphins, manta rays, sharks and thousands and thousands of birds.

You then move on to the Easter Group, where there are more even larger and more colourful atolls with small beaches dotted with basking sea lions. You see all this from just 350 metres.

As you head back to the coast, the aircraft climbs to 750m and in good conditions you can see Kalbarri to the north and Tallarang Peak in the north east.

Swim and snorkel tours are wonderful for those who want to land and swim close to the wreck of the Batavia. The position is easily identifiable from the air, as it is a large clear sandy patch which will be indicated by your pilot. Its amazing story is told before leaving Geraldton, so then to see it for real just a short while later is overwhelming.

The Western Australian Museum - Geraldton celebrates the environmental, social, cultural and economic stories of the mid-west region of the state and outlying Abrolhos.

A 75-metre wall meanders through the main exhibition hall, with the north side exploring the region's geology, flora and fauna. The southern side has stories of human endeavour, celebrating indigenous and European communities as well as today's industries. Hanging above the exhibition is a replica Bristol Tourer which was flown by WA Airlines, Australia's first commercial airline. They started flying a year before Qantas.

The Shipwrecks Gallery tells tales of tragedy and triumph. The Batavia's colourful story is one of mutiny, blood, lust and murder, while Zeewyck's story is an inspirational tale of the human ingenuity shown by its survivors. There are artefacts, glimmering coins, cannons and the magnificent Batavia stone portico.

The mid-west, which stretches from the desert to the sea as far as the Abrolhos Islands, is showcased by the wonders of its natural diversity, landscapes, wildflowers and wildlife. Its social history, the lives of the Yamaji people, the impact of European settlement, transport, industry and regional development are also covered.

The Marra Aboriginal Corporation has its own collection of indigenous art, which includes paintings, textiles, didgeridoos, boomerangs and many other traditional items. These can be purchased.


Off Western Australia's coast at Geraldton


Shine Aviation Services scenic tours start at $165 per person. They run on demand with a two-person minimum.
The Western Australian Museum - Geraldton is open each day from 10am, except Christmas Day and Good Friday. Admission is free.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.

More information

Shine Aviation Services
c/- Post Office, Moonyoonooka 6532
Ph: (08) 9923 3600, fax: (08) 9923 3793

WA Museum – Geraldton
1 Museum Place
Batavia Coast Marina
Geraldton 6530
Ph: (08) 9921 5080, fax: (08) 9921 5158

Qantas: 13 13 13

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