The Houtman Abrolhos Islands, more commonly known as “The Abrolhos”, is a group of 122 coral-reef fringed islands located about 60km west of Geraldton off the mid west coast of Western Australia. The island group is named after Commander Frederik de Houtman from Holland, who reached the islands in 1619. There are three main groups of islands Abrolhos are clustered into three main groups (Wallabi, Pelsaert and Easter) scattered over a length of about a hundred kilometres.
From the 1880s to the 1940s, guano (a fertiliser derived from bird droppings) was mined commercially. Remains of this industry can still be seen, such as the stone jetties on Pelsaert island, Gun island and Big Rat islands, and the remain of small gauge railway lines on Big Rat island and Pelsaert islands.
The islands are managed by the Department of Fisheries as a reserve for conservation of flora and fauna and for tourism. The waters around the islands are a protected for the conservation of marine life and for the management of tourism on the waters.
The Abrolhos are one of the most significant sea bird breeding sites in Australia. Schools of bait fish provide plentiful food supply to support colonies of Shearwaters, Noddies, Petrels and Terns. Over ninety species of sea birds have been identified on the islands, and numerous species roost and breed in the mangrove trees and on the dunes and shores. The shearwaters and petrels make their nests underground in sand burrows. The islands are free from introduced predators, and the White-breasted Sea Eagle is the only natural predator found in large numbers.
Around ten species of terrestrial birds are found on the islands, and the Abrolhos Islands Painted Button-quail is found only on these islands.
There are twenty five species of terrestrial reptiles are found on the islands including eleven species of skink, seven gecko species, four legless lizard species, one dragon species (the Abrolhos Dwarf Bearded Dragon), two species of snakes, and the Green Turtle. There are two species of terrestrial mammals found on the Abrolhos, with the Tammar wallaby found naturally on West Wallabi and East Wallabi and introduced to North Island, and the Bush Rat on West Wallabi and East Wallabi. The islands are home to Australian sea lion.
Vegetation communities on the islands include coastal heath, dunes, dwarf shrub land, salt lakes and saltbush flats, mangrove forest and mallee eucalypt woodland.
The islands are well known for numerous shipwrecks, the most famous being the Dutch ships Batavia, wrecked in 1629, and Zeewijk, wrecked in 1727.
The rich marine life, beautiful coral reefs, historical shipwrecks, and abundant bird life are attracting an increasing number of visitors to the islands. Some visitors come on diving charters, fishing charters or as guests of commercial fishing boat operators.
Odyssey Expeditions Abrolhos Islands Tour
Odyssey Expeditions offers nature based tours enabling visitors to enjoy the diversity of activities on the Abrolhos Islands. Odyssey Expeditions have two vessels, the Odyssey and the Oceania, which provide fully catered and organized tours of the Abrolhos. Included in the package is fully guided land based tours to points of interest on the islands. Pre-arranged dives can be fully escorted by an experienced dive masters if required.
The Expeditions aim to include many of the features of the Abrolhos Islands, and can be tweaked to suit your interests. Activities can include guided tours of the Abrolhos Islands, bird watching rare species, beach combing the coral atolls, diving and snorkeling on the sheltered reefs and fishing.
Five day Abrolhos Islands expeditions can be booked with Odyssey Expeditions. Cruises depart from the Geraldton Marina early on first day of your trip.
You can also fly out to the Islands with Batavia Coast Air Charters, and join the tour on the islands. This is a great way to see the area by air.