Friday, November 18, 2016

After a week’s worth of depressing news from the U.S. that’s made me cry and get angry, I figure it’s about time to take us all to one of my happy places. I wish I was there right now!

Just a 30-minute ferry boat ride off the west coast of Western Australia (from Perth’s Fremantle neighborhood to be exact) lies a beautiful island where an adorable, playful marsupial lives called a quokka. More than likely you’ve never even heard of a quokka because this vulnerable creature only lives in a few places in Australia.
Fortunately, I spent one blistering hot, summer day leisurely cycling around Rottnest Island to frolic on its gorgeous, nearly deserted beaches and be on the look out for quokkas. Sometimes I found them hiding under bushes. Sometimes they would approach the side of the road as I stopped for a water break. One tried to nearly scramble up my leg as I ate my much-deserved ice cream cone! Quokkas appeared to be everywhere!
In fact, the quokka population on Rottnest Island is between 8,000-12,000 (data from 2008). Dangerous snakes are largely the quokka's only predator on the island unlike the mainland where foxes, dogs, dingoes and deforestation pose a problem. On Australia’s mainland, an estimated 4,000 quokkas live here, with nearly all those populations in groups of less than 50, although there is one declining group of more than 700 in the Southern Jarrah-Karri Forest. So basically, if you want to see these cute critters, head to Western Australia.

Per local history, quokkas were one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans. In 1658, the Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting "a wild cat" on Rottnest Island. In 1696, another Dutch explorer mistook them for giant rats and thus named the island "Rotte nest,” which comes from the Dutch word rattennest meaning “rat nest.” The word quokka is actually derived from an Australian aboriginal tribe which was probably gwaga.
Mamma quokka and her lil joey. How cute!
Anyway, the popular thing to do on Rottnest Island is to take a quokka selfie. Squat down on the ground and try to capture yourself and one of the cute critters in the frame at the same time. I tried to do so as you can see from my photos. You can even search on Instagram for the hashtag #quokkaselfie which pulls up 9,460 posts!
Once you spot a quokka, if you get lucky, it will appear to smile, which is how this charming creature earned the moniker “the world’s happiest animal.”
As you can see, quokkas certainly are cute, and hopefully they brightened up your day as well.
 I guess you can see why the Dutch thought quokkas looked like a rat.
No quokkas allowed in the local store!
Hey quokka, don't steal my ice cream! ;)
My Traveling Joys

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BacktoBodrum said...

I'm also looking for things to cheer me up and your post worked. Thanks.