Best place in Australia: Going to the mysterious Abrolhos reefs

When you go to Australia for tourism, you inevitably go to Uluru (Ayers-Rock), the Great Barrier Reef and Sydney. But you can even get better than that. The Abrolhos Reefs are one of the most magical places in the world and home to incredible historical events. It is not easy to get to the reefs, but also not really difficult. It is best to book an overflight with landing from the mainland. The coral atolls are located about 60 kilometres west of Geraldton, on the west Australian coast, and consist of 122 islands. Flights can be booked in Geraldton or Kalbarri.

And in any case you should bring your copy of the book ‘Batavia’s Graveyard‘ with you. On the shallow coral atolls of the Abrololhos (from the Portuguese warning ‘open your eyes’) you stand on the remote small reefs that were the first part of Australia discovered when Dutch sailors sailed on their journey to Batavia, present-day Jakarta (Indonesia) and bumped into the new continent Australia.

In their quest to evade the Portuguese seafarers, their rivals in global conquest, the Dutch navigators sailed southward to the fortieth latitude. They were propelled eastward by the powerful winds known as the ‘Roaring Forties,’ and eventually set their course northward to reach Batavia. However, determining the precise moment to change direction posed a challenge, as latitude measurement was not yet possible in the 17th century. Those who made the turn too late found themselves colliding with the treacherous Abrolhos reefs.

Small fishing huts are housing the periodic inhabitants of the remote Abrolhos (c) U.C. Ringuer

Those who visit the Abrolhos reefs today will discover a place that holds a dark historical event in seafaring. The Batavia, one of the stranded ships, became the epicenter of a horrific massacre. After the Batavia wrecked on the coral reefs, its captain made the fateful decision to abandon the crew and passengers, embarking on a perilous journey in a small rowing boat to seek help in the town of Batavia. Against all odds, he managed to reach Indonesia from Australia and secure assistance. However, upon his return, he was confronted with a chilling scene that made him call for justice. One of the crew members had seized power and commenced a systematic murder of the other survivors. Only a small group, led by a soldier, had constructed a miniature fort to defend themselves. Remarkably, this fort stands today as the earliest known stone building erected by Europeans in Australia.

The details beyond this account are left untold here. To uncover the full story, I encourage you to read the book and venture to the Abrolhos. Don’t forget to bring your swimming trunks! Playful pods of dolphins frequently swim around the reefs, and you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to join them in the water at the perfect moment and enjoy their company.

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