Imagine soaring above Humpback whales as they breach in the water below, and seeing manta rays, dolphins, and shipwrecks as they whiz by under your feet. That’s the scene that visitors may experience on a sightseeing tour of the Abrolhos, an island chain off Western Australia that’s one of the nation’s best secrets. Save for a handful of lobster fisherman, the Abrolhos Islands are completely uninhabited—protected in conservation—though select areas are accessible to visitors who arrive by air and by sea.
One of the most popular way to experience the islands is on a flightseeing tour from Geraldton, where pilots search for splashing marine life in the turquoise waters below, and point out the wreck of the famous Batavia which sank in the 17th Century. Touching down on one of the islands, hike along white-sand, tree-lined shorelines for the chance to snorkel the reef, where the vibrant colors and wealth of marine life offer some of Australia’s best snorkeling. Unlike more popular spots, however, like Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, the Abrolhos Islands are nearly deserted—just you, your pilot, and the sea.
The Abrolhos Islands are about 36 miles west of Geraldton and consist of 122 islands. The three main groups are the Easter, Wallabi, and Pelsaert groups, and since the islands became a national park in 2016, it’s believed more facilities—and eventually more visitors—won’t be far behind.
Did You Know? When the Zweeijk was wrecked off the Abrolhos Islands in 1727, over 3 tons of gold coins were saved and rescued by its crew.