Our experience at Bait Reef on the nearest part of the Great Barrier Reef was surreal, exciting, unique, and also a bit disappointing. When we first arrived, we dodged reefs into a slightly sheltered area where a few moorings are located. As soon as we tied up a bunch of large 1 m+ Trevally started swimming under the boat. Moments later two Napoleon Fish (a female and a male) showed up as well. Apparently, boats have been feeding these fish (something we don’t do because its bad to train fish in the wild to eat food this way). But, it sure was exciting to see these large fish up close!
Next we quickly put on our dive gear and snorkeled over to the nearby reef. This is where the disappointment came. The corals did not look very lively at all. Very few colors, and not very many reef fish really. I did spot this one bright colored thing – which looked like a giant nudibranch – it was over .5 m in length! Apparently they can grow that big.
We were so disappointed with what we saw with the reef, we went back to the boat and got in the dinghy. We then spent an hour driving around the reef scouting for more healthy reef and fish. We found a few pockets of live coral, but most of it did not look healthy. Not sure what happened at Bait Reef, but it is not looking all that good. We did spot some sea turtles swimming around though, and had a good time exploring.
The wind and water was almost dead calm that evening. We enjoyed watching the nearly full moon rising, and the awesome colors as the sun set. It was eery as the tide rose and the reef settled beneath the water. Except for the mooring balls it was like we were anchored in the middle of the ocean. Everyone really enjoyed the experience. (Some of the photos from the last slideshow show our experiences at Bait Reef).
In the morning, the winds picked up and it got swelly. The winds were stronger than forecasted, so instead of going out to the next reef, we decided to head back to the Whitsundays. It turns out the winds died off again a few hours later, but who knew? Anyway, it took us far longer to tack against the wind back to Hook Island, but we made it. We went snorkeling at Manta Bay and enjoyed it despite the dozens of tourists also snorkeling the little bay. Then we moved to Mackerel Bay to anchor overnight.
Our friends on s/v Boree called and suggested we come to Whitehaven Bay which has a famous 7km white sand beach. So, the next morning we had a delightful sail down there. The beach was beautiful, and despite several tourist boats, there was plenty of room to have some of this beautiful soft sand to ourselves. The Horch family had a great time playing on the beach after lunch, then mid-afternoon we took a 3.5km hike to another bay on the other side of the hill. We liked it so much we stayed another day and had more fun on the beach, swimming, and kayaking.
Yesterday we headed over to Hamilton Island and moored a short while so we could go to the store and get some foods we were in short supply. We also eagerly slurped up some Internet after a few days without. This is when we got some good news from back home. Our daughter Trisha had received a summons for jury duty a few weeks ago, right when she was supposed to leave to join us here in Australia for a month. She just found out she was NOT selected for jury! Yay! So, we quickly made the flight arrangements to get her out here next week.
We moved the boat to Cid Harbor and took the hike to the top of Whitsunday Peak and had a fantastic view of the islands. I was impressed with the kids as they made it on this strenuous hike up the peak in just about 1 hour instead of the 2 hour estimate on the sign we read.
Here is a photo album showing this part of the trip (and a few from the next few days):
Meanwhile, we plan to spend the last three days for the Horch family doing more snorkeling, swimming, sailing, and relaxing! They leave on Sunday night to return to Japan. Read the first part, and Part III, of our visit at the Whitsundays.