In this fourth post in our Southern Great Barrier Reef series, we take you to Fitzroy Reef. This is a different setting again: no island but a navigable lagoon, although much more restricted than Lady Musgrave. The appeal here is the amazing underwater garden with a wide variety of hard corals, a multitude of brilliantly colored dainty fish and the fact it is deserted during the day!
We motor the short 12nm from Boult Reef in very light head winds which is probably just as well as we see quite a number of whales along the way. Sometimes it is better to be obvious to our friends the humpback whales, rather than doing the stealth thing and sneak up on them under sail! One in particular gives us an impressive display of raw energy through repeated tail lobbing. It is as if it is telling us ‘‘I know you are here, but this is my spot, mine, mine, mine.”
The approach to Fitzroy Reef is similar to Boult Reef since there is no island so it is just the breaking waves that give it away as you get close. Unlike the lagoon entrance at Lady Musgrave the entrance to the Fitzroy Reef lagoon is not straight but does an S. Inside there are numerous bommies, so the triangle from the entrance to the start of the coral outcrops is where you drop the anchor or pick up one of three moorings.
Inside the lagoon you feel quite protected, both for sitting at anchor and for snorkeling. You don’t have the current to deal with as you do at Boult Reef. So you can withstand a little more wind. But beyond 20 knots it gets uncomfortable especially at high tide when you no longer get shelter from the reef wall. If not on a mooring, you still need to be very careful with setting your anchor and pulling back on it, as if you drag and end up against the numerous coral bommies and reefs, you will do terrible damage to your boat.
But on calm days as we had, it is very serene. Fitzroy Reef is appealing because it is a very attractive reef yet not crowded. There is only one or two other yachts during the day. At night you can get an invasion of motor cruisers taking shelter in the lagoon after a day’s fishing, but they are gone before you get up!
We spend three days at Fitzroy Reef. We had been here before and were really looking forward to the snorkeling. The coral here is sensational, with vibrant colours, different shapes like tabletops, antlers, brains, huge leaves, etc… and the fish life is abundant.
Here is a selection of underwater images to give you an idea of how beautiful this place is, first the vibrant coral then the fish and finally one odd looking beastie!
Black vent Damsel with its lovely pink cheeks
Our next stopping point is Wistari Reef. Here is that chart again!