Look at that face, isn’t it cute – the furry thing, not me! Well, as simple a snap as this seems, it took nearly five years, at least one close encounter with poo and about 200 outtakes to achieve. Here’s my story of attempting to get the perfect quokka selfie – and my top tips to help you do the same.
Attempt 1: That time they moved the quokkas!
Our story begins in April 2012 when I took my first visit to Perth in Western Australia and heard about this magical place called Rottnest Island just a short ferry ride from the city. Rumour had it this isle of excitement was home to 12,000 super-cute marsupials called quokkas – and they liked people.
I couldn’t get on the boat fast enough.
There are no cars allowed on Rottnest Island and so you walk or cycle around it. We hired our bikes (around $30 a day) and off we pedalled to find the furry cuteness – and we pedalled, and we pedalled, and we pedalled. All day we cycled and we didn’t see one smiling fluffy face.
Thinking this was normal – after all quokkas are small, about the size of a cat, and generally nocturnal so we figured we’d be lucky to spot one- we returned back to our friend’s house. ‘You didn’t see one,’ they asked looking at us strangely. ‘No,’ we replied, ‘Not even by the shops,’ they said. ‘No,’ we replied again, throwing another shrimp on the barbie, or whatever other Aussie pastime we were partaking in at the time. ‘Weird,’ said our friend.
In the intervening years, the quokka selfie craze began. At this point, I did start to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there might have been something in our friend’s amazement. People were snapping these furry bundles of joy left, right and centre. And not with long lenses, they were lying next them wielding selfie sticks and snapping with phones. The quokkas even smiled into their camera lenses.
It was only a few years later I discovered that at the time of this trip they’d actually rounded up the quokkas to count them. Thankfully, I got the chance to try again.
Attempt 2: When I realise I don’t actually know how to take a selfie
Fast forward to August 2016. We’re moving back to Australia and decide to visit Perth en route – and a quokka selfie is goal numero uno for my trip.
By now, one of my closest friends has also moved there. ‘What do you mean you’ve never seen a quokka,’ she said. ‘They’re everywhere. We had our Christmas party on Rottnest last year and they were on the dance floor.’
I am now determined. Even if I have to move to this blooming island, I’m getting my pic.
Within minutes of leaving the ferry, I spy one…at a bus stop. Then I spot my second, my third, my fourth….and I suddenly realise why everyone has looked at me so weirdly all these years; not spotting a quokka on Rottnest is rather like not seeing a pigeon in London.
I decide to go in for my pic. As the quokkas see me they scamper over. I get down to quokka level and realise….I have no idea how to take a selfie with a moving target. I’m looking one way, the quokkas hopping the other – never do the two of us appear properly in the same frame.
I resort to kneeling, then to lying…ignoring the quokka poo all around me…my friend Lu is in hysterics as I take roughly 100 pictures, none of which actually have me and the quokka aligned appropriately! Seriously, look at the efforts above….and these are the ones I saved. Can you imagine how many got deleted?
Exhausted by my contortions (I’ve bent into fewer weird shapes doing yoga), we retire to the pub, where, the fat little feeder quokkas hang around begging for chips. This at least gets some super-cute pictures – at one point I even had one hanging off my hair. But, still no proper quokka selfie. This was the best I managed all day
Attempt 3: When I learn from my mistakes..
I now bring you to last week, my third trip to Perth, my third trip to Rottnest.
This time my partner in photographic crime is The Boyfriend, a man referred to as ‘Rawson The Animal Repeller’ due to the sheer number of times we’ve gone to view wildlife that hasn’t turned up! Thankfully it seems his curse was lifted this time. There are quokkas virtually around every corner – there’s sleeping ones, hopping ones, baby ones, ones eating leaves… cue quokka selfies, cue more outtakes
And finally, the magic happens. I GET MY QUOKKA SELFIE
So, what did it finally take to get the pic?
Well considering how many times I’d mucked it up, I’d worked out what not to do and using that information came up with what I think it takes to get the perfect quokka selfie on Rottnest Island. And bingo, it happened. So,.here’s my nine need-to-know quokka selfie tips.
1) A selfie stick will help if you can bring yourself to carry one. I didn’t which was half my problem
2) Choose your quokka carefully. They are fantastically inquisitive little beasties. As soon as they see the camera they poke their nose at it – which leads to super cute shots like the one below (look at those little paws in the air), but if you want to get a selfie, you need a still one. So, try and find one who is happily munching on a leaf.
3) Find a surface you’ll be happy to kneel on. You have to get down to quokka level – and at worse that means sitting in quokka poo (not recommended as it can contain some nasty bugs), kneeling on gravel (which is uncomfortable), taking a chance on grass (this is Australia, everything here wants to kill you and lots of them live in grass) or, if you’re super lucky like I was, finding a sandy surface you’re happy to sit in while you wait for your chosen quokka to look up from their lunch.
4) Don’t touch them or feed them. You don’t need to do either of these things to get a picture and it’s against the rules of the island. Touching or feeding quokkas comes with a hefty fine.
5) Watch the light: Sun shining directly behind you does not a good picture make.
6) Remember things are backwards in selfie world. Yes, I know some of you are laughing at this, but this is what I always forget when I’m trying to take them – I always turn the camera the way to where I see the item, not the opposite way. My friend pointing out that I needed to go the other way blew my mind!
7) Oh, and while we’re talking blindingly obvious tips that I didn’t realise until recently – selfies are far easier taken with the phone’s volume button than the big white circle you normally press!
8) Watch your bag: The quokkas associate bags with food, particularly the brown paper ones given out on the island. We watched two girls taking pics with one quokka while another one rifled through their shopping. I think there might have been some marsupial mugging scam going on here… Quentin, you gaze into the phone looking cute, I’ll grab the muffins! !
9) Smile….the quokka will!
So, finally, I have the picture of my dreams; about a year after the fad has passed, but I don’t care, it’s super cute and makes me happy every time I look at it.
How to get to Rottnest Island to take your own quokka selfie.
The easiest way is by ferry. There are three terminals in Perth, but I’ve always travelled from what’s called B Shed in Fremantle about a 30-minute train ride from Perth. The crossing from here is only 30 minutes and there are now two ferry companies crossing via this route. Rottnest Express is the most established, but this trip we went with Sealink. A newer company they were offering some seriously cheap deals and the timings worked better for us. One thing to watch when comparing prices – you have to pay a fee to enter Rottnest (from $18 for a day tripper) so check whether your ticket includes that when comparing prices. It’s also best to book in advance especially at weekends.
How long you want to spend on the island depends what you want to see and do. If you want to cycle around the whole island you’ll need at least a day. There is a bus that drives around dropping off and picking up at stops along the coast, but it’s not that frequent, so even if you want to use this, you’ll need a full day – and plan your timings carefully. It’s a really beautiful place so do spend some time wandering around it.
Because I’d been to the island before, I took it easy this time. We got on the 9.15 ferry departure which got us to Rottnest at just before 10am and the 3.30pm back – that gave us enough time to walk from Geordie Bay to Kingfisher Barracks, exploring all the sights (and quokkas) en-route and then have lunch in the pub and an ice cream.
And do go to the pub – the quokkas there are very used to humans so you’ll get some extra super cute pics there too. At one point, I was sitting at the table looking at the sea while The Boyfriend got our drinks. When he comes back he’s holding a beer and a Corona and looking ridiculously excited. I think it’s because he’s scored me a beer I like and then he gets close enough to tell me to look down – and there, right by my feet are these two – mum and baby. Next thing I know baby is sitting on my shoe. It was the perfect end to a completely, brilliant day.
If you like this post, please share it on social media. The quokkas like the publicity.