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Little Salmon Bay Snorkeling
Little Salmon Bay is one of the best snorkelling sites around Rottnest Island, suitable for young kids and other beginner snorkellers, but also with plenty to interest people who like to swim out further and deeper.
The entire bay is excellent for snorkelling, as is the reef pool below the cliffs to the east (to the left of the offshore rocks). The bay is rich in fishlife and has some of the best coral reefs at Rottnest - rivalled only by Parker Point around the corner.
Fish you're likely to see there include all the usual suspects (bream, red-lipped morwong, zebrafish, king wrasse, etc) and in particular, tropical fish. These tropical species include moon wrasse, green moon wrasse, red-spot wrasse and scissortail sergeants.Here's a page with photos and descriptions of fish common around Rottnest.
A typical underwater scene at Little Salmon Bay: a green moon wrasse and scissortail sergeant swimming over some pocillopora coral.
For me the best thing about snorkeling at Little Salmon Bay is the clarity of the water, even during the afternoon sea breeze, or on rough and windy days when the visibility most other places around the island is terrible.
Conditions for snorkelling are best at low tide with winds from any direction apart from south. On a windy, wintry day with choppy water, the visibility should still be okay, unless there have been consistent strong southerley winds and big waves recently. A good indication that it might not be so good is if there's lots of seaweed (or worse - bluebottles!) close to shore and washed up on the beach.
If you find the water isn't clear enough for an enjoyable snorkel, chances are Parker Point (an easy 500m walk or ride to the east) will be better.
The Little Salmon Bay Snorkel Trail
Several years ago, 10 underwater information plaques were set into the seafloor in Little Salmon Bay. Swimming in a line following each info plaque from one to the next creates a snorkel trail that takes in some of the best of the bay's coral reefs, while encouraging you to notice and learn about the fish, coral, seaweeds and other marine life.
Unfortunately the past few times I've snorkelled at Little Salmon Bay (most recently November 2012), I found the information plaques to be grown over by something that made them impossible to read. However, the trail is still worth following - afterall you don't need the information to enjoy seeing the fish and coral.
The Rottnest Island Authority says that maintanence on the snorkels trails is schedules for February/March 2013.
One of the impossible to read information plaques:
My Recommendations for Little Salmon Bay Snorkeling
For a short snorkel, taking in the best of Little Salmon Bay's coral reefs:
Make the best of the coral reefs your top priority and begin your snorkel by swimming straight out to them. They're about 100m off the beach in the middle of the bay. You'll swim over a few small limestone reefs on the way.
Spend plenty of time swimming over and around these huge banks of pale pink to brownish pocillopora coral. There's so much to see here, including colourful fish swimming over the banks of coral, schools of buffalo bream, scalyfins guarding their seaweed, and patches of several different coral species other than pocillopora.
Head to the two smaller offshore rocks. Before you reach them, you'll pass a small limestone reef which seems like a magnet for fish. See if you can find the lavender-coloured purple coral coating sections of the rock.
Swim back along the eastern side of the bay. The water is shallow here, with limestone reefs undercut with ledges. There are some small patches of pocillopora coral and plenty of fish to see, though not as many as you near the beach.
A More Extended Snorkel:
Start the same way as the short snorkel, by swimming straight out to the large banks of coral in the middle of the bay. Instead of heading back to shore after exploring these reefs, you can either follow the reefs around the outer edge of the lagoon, or head east and cross over into the reef pool behind the off-shore rocks (or do both). Follow the eastern edge of the bay back to the beach.
The outer edge of the lagoon often has large waves washing over it, and is covered in kelp and other seaweeds. There are still a few areas of coral to see, and plenty of fish.
The reef pool is fairly exposed, so is only worth snorkelling when the ocean is calm and the winds are light. It's usually full of fish, especially schools of bream. To get there, swim or crawl over the reef from Little Salmon Bay, around where the two small rocks are. You could possibly climb down the cliffs from the road directly above the pool, but I've never tried this and wouldn't recommend it.
On a very calm day, you can swim all the way from Little Salmon Bay to the beach at Parker Point, via the reef pool, Jeannie's Pools and the Parker Point snorkel trail. So long as you have a wetsuit and are a strong swimmer, I highly recommend doing this! It's a long swim, but you'll see some of the very best that snorkelling at Rottnest has to offer.
Snorkelling around all the reefs in Little Salmon Bay and into the reef pool takes an hour or even more. The Little Salmon Bay to Parker Point swim also takes about an hour, if you swim straight to the reef pool along the eastern edge of Little Salmon Bay.
Where to Snorkel at Little Salmon Bay:
The Big Banks of Pocillopora Coral
An Interesting Isolated Reef
Reef Pool Beneath the Cliffs
The Outer Reefs
Along the Eastern Edge of the Bay
View Little Salmon Bay Snorkelling Map in a larger map
Underwater Photos from Little Salmon Bay:
A. The Banks of Coral in the Middle of the Bay:
B. The Interesting Isolated Reef:
E. Along the Eastern Edge of the Bay
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