Ah the lure of the Reef! On 16 June, with a forecast breeze of less than 15 knots for the coming days, we headed for the Outer Reef from Hayman Island. We started with Hook Reef, then moved to Bait Reef. It is always exciting to sail away from the safety of the islands to anchor in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by coral reefs and aqua water. And we saw our first whales for the season!
We had forgotten how stressful it is to meander between the bommies along a reef wall to find just the right spot to throw the pick in! You can see our trail on the chart plotter photo. We wanted to allow for a full 360 swing clear of bommies and if you want to get reasonably close to the reef wall, it takes a bit of searching for a safe spot. It took us a while, but we finally dropped the anchor. It was a bit overcast and choppy, but still nice to be out there and the breeze eased during the day. 15 knots really is the limit for a comfortable stay and good conditions for snorkeling. It is harder to take clear photos when the water is not totally calm and you get jiggled around.
Despite some breeze, the water was very clear and we came across different types of creatures and soft corals. The highlights were colourful Christmas Tree Worms which we had seen before but not in these colours, and the Gorgonian Sea Fans, a first for us.
We had a very calm night in flat water. Waking up at the reef is always so special, anchored seemingly in the middle of the ocean, total quietness, gorgeous sunrise and soft pastels all around us.
We had another brief snorkel in the morning, near the reef wall. At high tide you get very tired having to duck dive deeper to see anything. Low tide is currently at dusk or before dawn… not ideal!
With stronger conditions forecast overnight, we figured we’d better pick up one of the public moorings at nearby Bait Reef, so motored over there at midday. If Roundface Batfish are the welcoming committee at Blue Pearl Bay, at Bait Reef it is the Black Trevally… very big and very tame!
We went for a few snorkels right inside the lagoon which were absolutely magic. Bait Reef is known for its coral gardens and this really was beautiful and interesting: all kinds of soft corals in particular as well as hard corals, many we had not seen before. And there were a few firsts on the fish front too : the Spine-cheek Clownfish in their favourite anemone for me and for Wade a Nudibranch quadricolor and two Longfin Batfish. Here is a gallery of our favourite shots. Click on the first image to display in full screen slide show.
Despite the stronger conditions, we ended up staying a couple more days hooked onto a mooring and explored different spots in the lagoon at low-ish tide. It is such a great site for snorkeling and diving. By the way, we have made good use of the Dicks Dinghy Ladder, which works a treat. So much more civilized to get back in the dinghy!
We left Bait Reef on Wednesday to return to Hayman Island overnight. The batfish were ready to welcome us back! Although the water was murky and this shot has a lot of backscatter, you get an idea of their numbers and variety of colours!
And then there was the Manta Ray! Again lots of backscatter in the images but Wade swam with it… a real thrill.
On Thursday afternoon we sailed back to Airlie Beach. Wade’s cousins Grant & Deb are joining us for an extended weekend. It will be great fun to have them on board and take them sailing on our pride and joy.