Behind the Scenes with Malcolm Roberts

With a passion for nature and his work as a tour guide, Malcolm shares some insights into the uniqueness of Rottnest Island, a biodiversity hotspot home to more than its famed quokka.

What is there to do on Rottnest Island?
In the water, there’s snorkelling, swimming, and diving. On land, there’s cycling and walking – the island is 25 kilometres all the way around, which is very achievable with a bicycle. There’s also the Wadjemup Bidi, meaning Rottnest walking trail in the local Whadjuk Noongar language. It’s 45 kilometres of tracks where you can bushwalk. You can also just relax!

What does Rottnest Express offer?
We’ve got our guided 90-minute Discover Rottnest Bus Tour, which includes stopping to get out and explore, and our eco Adventure Boat Tour, where you can experience Rottnest from our 900-horsepower speedboat. We use that same boat to go whale watching in spring.
Rottnest Island has quite a history – do any tours delve into this?

Both tours absolutely do. Talking about the Aboriginal history is an important part of what we share with guests. It was an important meeting place for Indigenous people 6-7,000 years ago, before Rottnest became cut off from the mainland – it’s been an island for less time than most people realise – and stories have passed down from those times. The European history, much more recent, is also important.

What’s something that would surprise most people about the island?
Being a Class-A reserve means there’s no private ownership of land. Everything you see is all leasehold; even the hotel and other big businesses – it’s all leased. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the richest person in Australia, you can’t buy a piece of Rottnest.
Any secret spots you’re prepared to share with us?

My two favourite snorkelling spots are on opposite sides of the island. There’s Little Salmon Bay on the south side and Little Armstrong Bay on the north side. Both are no-take marine sanctuaries and have 25 tropical corals and 135 species of tropical fish, not seen on the mainland Perth coastline, thanks to the Leeuwin Current.
Where are your favourite places to eat on the island?

Isola Bar e Cibo sits right on the beach overlooking Thomson Bay and serves up Italian food that’s got just the right balance of simple and traditional, but very tasty. The Lane Cafe does great burgers and awesome coffee.



What led you to becoming a tour guide?
A change of career after 30 years of working as a chef. I combined my love of outdoors and nature and shared that joy by working as a bushwalking guide. That then led to working on Rottnest, guiding and managing glass-bottom kayak tours, then stand-up paddle board and water bike tours, and now I’m loving the team at Rottnest Express.

What are you passionate about outside of work?
Nature and photography – I have my @AussieBushGuide Instagram account. And I like woodworking using Western Australian timbers like sheoak to make furniture and other items.

Why is Rottnest Island special to you?

It’s a really unique place… almost undeveloped outside the main settlement area and Geordie Bay. It’s an island for nature. And it’s really photogenic. It doesn’t matter how busy it gets; you can always find your own little piece of quiet.

What’s your favourite memory from Rottnest Island?
This one’s an easy one – getting married on the beach at The Basin.

Rottnest Express offers tours of Rottnest Island and ferry services (plus bike hire packages) between the island and three locations on the mainland – Fremantle, North Fremantle and Perth – starting at $35. Find out more here

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