It is always exciting when you do something new and an Outer Reef escapade to Hook and Bait Reefs rates high in our book. In fact this was one of our bucket list items while in this region.
As soon as the SE eased and lighter variable conditions were forecast we were ready! We made our way from Macona Inlet to the top of Hook Island, mooring overnight at Luncheon Bay. First thing on Saturday morning, we took off for a slightly bumpy ride, all sails out, headed for Hook Reef for starters. We figured we would anchor there, then spend the next days exploring further to Hardy or Bait Reefs if the breeze stayed light.
We got there just after low tide and went straight for a snorkel, Wade armed with the spear gun, me with the underwater camera! We did the same again the next morning. We were not disappointed. Wadie caught some sort of Sweetlip and a Snapper – a treat for our tummies for two nights, and I a collection of colourful fish and vibrant seascapes – a treat for the eyes.
A few hours later we are sitting inside the horseshoe of Hook Reef at high tide and look around: not a soul about, it looks like we have anchored in the middle of the ocean… very surreal. And in the morning, the sea is totally flat as far as the eye can see, not a breath of wind, not a ripple in the water. It is so otherworldly.
On days like this, the outer reef is incredibly serene, the water clarity stunning, the snorkeling superb. It is also what you are looking for when anchored in such an unprotected spot. Ideally you want no more than 10 knots breeze. When it blows over 15 knots it gets very uncomfortable, particularly at high tide when there is no shelter. So at this time of year when the trade winds are active and running at 15 to 25 knots, the weather window to be out there is short, typically a couple of days, then you have to beat a retreat. The advantage of Hook, Bait and Hardy Reefs is that there are not far from ‘safety’. You are only about 20 miles from the Whitsunday Islands and about 40 from the mainland.
With the breeze forecast to pick up on Sunday night, we left Hook Reef and had a quick look at Bait Reef, just a few miles away. This is another fascinating spot which attracts commercial dive boats to the wonderful site of The Stepping Stones. You can’t anchor there, but there are 8 or 9 public moorings available for two hours. So you don’t get that feeling of being away from it all, can’t settle there for the day and have to share the spot with lots of tourists! We had a brief snorkel there at mid tide. The Stepping Stones are 18 flat-topped coral pinnacles which have an abundant variety of fish and corals. Definitely worth a look for the novelty of the pinnacles, especially for a dive with tanks, but Hook Reef wins for anchoring and snorkeling in private for as long as you like!
We reluctantly returned to the islands on Sunday night. There are other exciting things to come later this week though, as we pick up our friend Sue on Thursday at Airlie Beach. And who knows, we might very well go back to the reef with her if the weather allows – a return to Hook Reef and an explore around Hardy and Line Reefs are on the cards!