By Annabel Owen

It is deadly silent. Tranquil. The water trickles innocently down the rock face, slipping down quietly and leaping from the rock’s edge into the pool. Bright mixtures of turquoise, green and bluey water are contained by thick, red rock; a natural beauty. A group of girls lay on the sloped rock face in the second pool, another perch at the base of the waterfall, letting the water rush over their backs and into their hair. Some oat on blow-up toys, others lounge in the sun on the at, safer rocks. A couple and their small toddler play at the edge of the man-built steps that lead into the water; inviting you in.

I’ve always wanted to go to Serpentine Falls, and it seems that lately, I am not the only one. More and more people are travelling the 55km South East of Perth to visit this tourist attraction. Once upon a time, the falls were a little unknown hideaway, but these days it has become an extremely popular place to go for all ages, but especially the 18-30 age brackets. Groups of friends make a day out of visiting the pools, taking lunch to have in the picnic area and being greeted by friendly roos. The falls are only a short walk from this area, strolling along a dirty gravel path. The cool water is refreshing and clean, and gliding under its surface, I feel at peace.

You wouldn’t want to think about the 12 odd people that have died here. One moment jumping off the rocks, laughing with their friends, the next hitting their heads; blood spilling into the clear water. Panic. Desperation. Drowning. Have I scared ya yet? Chances are, I haven’t. There are about seven signs that warn patrons that swimming is not recommended, that dangers are involved and that there should be no diving or jumping from rocks. You are at your own risk. But when does your own risk become the responsibility of the government? Yes, there are signs, yet there are man-made paths that lead to the falls and concrete steps delving right into the water. It isn’t exactly difficult to enter.

Despite the amount of deaths in this dangerous yet beautiful setting, people continue to swim in the waters; myself included. Similarly, people continue to swim in the ocean given the risk of shark attacks. Of course, shark attacks is something out of our control, whereas those who die at Serpentine are stupid enough to climb, jump and dive off the rocks; increasing their risk of injury. I’m not going to go into the diverse shark-culling debate, but I will say this. In the past 40 years, 13 people have died from shark attacks in Western Australia. That’s just one more than the 12 who have had their lives taken simply from frolicking in a tiny waterhole. You have to wonder when the government are going to become involved.

The price to enter the National Park has continued to rise over the years, along with the risk factor. What would once have cost you two or so dollars many years ago, is now costing $12 just for the day, but that won’t stop people from entering. With the amount of deaths, this popular place we are blessed to experience could very well become untouchable. Will there soon be a day when we are no longer allowed to swim in the crisp fresh water? Will it become ruined or polluted first from our interference, or will the Government simply take a stand against patrons swimming in such a high risk area? How many people
have to die before the risk assessment becomes too high, simply because the public cannot evaluate levels of safety or control their own behaviour?

I can’t help but wonder. It’s a sad thought, really.

Even more so, is humankind’s tendency to ruin, or to attempt to ruin, the tourist attractions that nature gives us. The use of fertiliser polluting the Great Barrier Reef, proposal for gas elds at James Price Point, logging in the Amazon, mining on Barrow Island and palm oil plantations wiping out Borneo Rainforest; to name but a few. I am yet to travel the world; it would be nice to have some natural tourist attractions left to see. (Apologies for getting all environmental-political on you).

I think that Serpentine is an amazing spot to visit; almost everyone is doing it. I went, I survived. I chose not to climb on rocks, to instead frolic and play in the water with my friends, enjoy the serenity and the beauty and leave with a smile on my face. It’s all about what you choose to do, and if you haven’t been, I suggest that you do, because one day you might not have the opportunity. Be careful, take advantage of the beauty that is Serpentine falls, refrain from make life-threatening decisions, and perhaps we can preserve it for a little while longer.