We are in catch up mode with our posts, having been on the Southern Great Barrier Reef for 9 days without internet service. We have so much to show you that we have decided to publish a series of five posts about the Capricorn and Bunker Group, each post showcasing a particular coral cay or reef we stopped at. This initial post in the series focuses on Lady Elliot Island, the first link in the chain of reefs.
The chart shows the overall chain of cays and reefs, starting at the very bottom right hand corner at Lady Elliot Island. Over our five posts we will explore in a northwest direction.We have a dream run from Burnett Head on 11 July and cover the 42nm in 6 hours with a steady SE breeze. It is such a buzz to start our Coral Sea Cruise after two months of struggling up the East coast. There is an odd mix of anticipation, relief the day has finally come and apprehension.
You lose sight of land for a while and that too adds to the excitement. We sail for a few hours, with no one else in sight, just the ocean all around us. If you have never sailed to a coral atoll, it is quite an experience. About 10 miles away from the cay you spot a skinny strip of vegetation on the horizon.
Then as you get closer, you notice the waves breaking on the reef, the change in water color, from deep ultramarine, to brown where the edge of the reef is and beyond that the most amazing aqua color where the sandy lagoon is.
At Lady Elliot the lagoon is enclosed so there is no access by boat and you have to anchor in the lee of the island, on the edge of the reef. One of the new things we have discovered is that Marine Parks have installed a few public moorings near some of the reefs. Here there are two, both available for 24 hours. We pick the one that offers most shelter. It makes life easier instead of having to anchor in deep water. The island houses a resort and a tiny airstrip. Yachties are discouraged from coming ashore but we don’t care. We are here for a snorkel and an overnight stay on board, then we are off to the next island along.
The water is 220 which sounds warm after we have been used to much cooler temperatures, but even with a wetsuit on you soon get chilly. Wade is immediately at ease in the water, diving and pursuing turtles; I am a bit rusty with the snorkeling thing and underwater photography but still manage a few pleasing shots. And it really is wonderful to be at the reef.
We have a jiggly night on the mooring but feel so good about being here and waking up at a coral island! Our next stop will be Lady Musgrave where we intend to spend a few days.