Wondrous Wistari Reef

For the fifth and last post in our Southern Great Barrier Reef series for now, we take you somewhere really spectacular: to Wistari Reef. This is the snorkeling highlight to date, with outstanding coral pools and a large number of attractively patterned fish. It is amazing how every reef we stop at has its own identity with diverse marine life.

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We pass between Heron Island and Wistari Reefs

But first, we had to get there, and our friends the humpback whales were frolicking while we were sailing under spinnaker! Breaches, tail lobbing, right up to the passage between the Heron Island reef and Wistari Reef! One particular whale was amazing, with a lot more white coloring than we have seen before. May be it is related to Migaloo, the totally white whale?

Humpack Whale Breaching

Humpback Whale Breaching

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Tail Lobbing

Here is an aerial shot of Wistari and Heron Island Reefs, showing the mooring we tied to and where we snorkeled.

Wistari & Heron Aerial

We again took advantage of the Marine Parks mooring buoy, hooking up Take It Easy on the Heron Island side of the channel, but choosing to dive at the renowned Wistari Reef, also renamed by us as Wisteria, or Wasabi because we kept forgetting the proper name. Our excuse is that we saw lots of wasabi and wisteria colored corals and fish! One of the things we found is that we could snorkel at high tide as well as low tide and still enjoy superb dives. You just have to wear a weight belt to make it easier to duck dive and get close to the striking marine life. This also meant we could go for a snorkel several times instead of being limited to one dive at low tide very late in the day.

Here are a few examples of the brilliantly colored coral and clams. Can you spot the wisteria and wasabi?


The fish diversity was quite astounding. The parrotfish in particular are eye catching in their mix of vibrant turquoise, green, pink, orange or purple colors and striking patterns. The butterflyfish are fascinating too with their mix of yellow, black and white, needing you to look closely at the line patterns on their body to differentiate the species. To us the parrotfish and butterflyfish are the essence of the reef’s fishlife. But then we saw the anemone fish and were mesmerised!

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Barrier Reef Anemonefish

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Double-saddle Butterflyfish

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Yellow-Head Parrotfish

Blue Angelfish – this could be a new favourite!

Blue Angelfish

Here he is again, hiding from the camera

We feel very blessed to be enjoying great weather, gentle conditions and experience so much beauty. We have been on the Reef for 9 days, but feel like we have been away for much longer. Although we have seen some damage in places, with broken coral and rubble mainly due to storm damage, overall the Southern Great Barrier Reef is healthy.

This post concludes our Capricorn series for now. We will return either when the wind allows or later in the season and explore further. In particular we want to go back to the cays at the NW end of the chain. Masthead and Northwest Islands where we have been before interest us, as does the Fairfax Islands Reef.

Capricornia Cays

With a weather change approaching, we left the reef on 19 July, to hide behind the Keppel Isles, just 8nm off the mainland and about 55nm north west of the northern most cay on the chart. It was also a return to internet and phone coverage, allowing us to schedule our series and be in contact with everybody!

22 thoughts on “Wondrous Wistari Reef

  1. lovely shots – thanks for info on moorings in last post – sounds like a visit to Heron and Wistari Reefs is worth it. We will put it on our itinerary.

  2. It’s reassuring to hear that the Southern Great Barrier Reef you personally see it as healthy. The news always publish that scientists claim the Reef is almost beyond repair or it will not exist in the near future. I’m glad that you told me otherwise. Your photos are a feast of colors, the fish in general are so beautiful and have the oddest shapes. I think you’re going to need a vacation to rest from this vacation. 🙂 Cheers!

    • Hi H.J. – the Southern Great Barrier Reef is healthy but further north it is bad… 60 to 80% damaged. So not as good a news as you think. Yesterday we saw our first evidence of bleaching and algae choking the seabed in the Keppels. Will do a post on that to show the huge difference.

  3. Lovely photos of the reef & sea life . There is a book ( Cruising thr Curtis Coast ) by Noel Fitspatric that covers from Gladstone to Mackay that you might find interesting , he named his yacht Wistari .

    • Everything about the reef is superb, Mike, and we are lucky to see it healthy in the South. It might be a different matter further north. And the whales, well the migration continues – theirs and ours and that too is a delight.

  4. So – in between inticing distractions (such as your posts) I’m trying to work out my ground tackle order, and was wondering: what anchoring depths do you need to allow for out on the reefs. I have heard of depths of over 10 metres in places?

    • Yes at Boult Reef for instance we were in 10-12 meters. We have 50m of chain and wish we had more, but because of the weight problem on TIE we haven’t. If you can carry 80m, do it!

  5. Love all the fish and the semi white whale was beautiful , I wonder if it is related to Migaloo. What a spot.

  6. Hi guys, loving the Southern Barrier Reef posts, Wistari looks really nice. We’ll have to spend some more time in that area next time we’re up there. We had our own whale encounter today off Mount Martha! Three humback whales, one slapping its tail a lot – it’s not every day you have whales pass you by in Port Phillip bay.

    • Hi you two! Nice to hear from you… Excellent encounter and it would be quite rare in Port Phillip Bay! We never tire of seeing these beautiful creatures. Any cruising plans?

      • Nothing too definite yet – we need to have a serious discussion with our workplaces about a work/life balance adjustment! It would be nice to do some cruising around mainland Tasmania this summer.

      • Tassie remains a favourite place… we had a great time going right around earlier this year. Articles about the West Coast in Cruising Helmsman August issue and Australian Multihull World for the current and next issue. Will post these here a bit later.

  7. Pingback: More exploration of the Capricorn & Bunker Reefs | sv-anui.com

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