Clear Waters of the Outer Reef

After a week of hiding at the top end of the Whitsundays, we had four days of calm conditions, perfect for the outer reef and its crystal clear waters. We started at Bait Reef where we spent three days, then moved to Hook Reef.

Bait Reef

The Humpback Whales have finally arrived in the Whitsundays and we saw many of them on the passage. At least they could hear us coming. We had an exceptionally light breeze after the strong winds of the past week and had to motor-sail!

Bait Reef is a favourite of ours. It is worry free with Anui clipped onto one of the public moorings so we don’t have to fret about anchoring amongst the bommies. We can just jump off the back of the boat to go snorkeling along the platform reef, which is a veritable coral garden. When you snorkel at low tide, you follow the edge of the platform, gazing at the variety of corals and amazing reflections. So here are a few images showing the mesmerising spectacle you see just under the surface of the ocean. Which is your favourite?

Bait Reef is famous not only for its coral gardens but also for its 18 Stepping Stones, coral pinnacles that mark the edge of the reef.

The Stepping Stones

This offers a different type of diving: doing figures of eight around some of the pinnacles. But you have to watch out, the current runs swiftly alongside them, so you drift one way then have to swim hard against the flow, which is particularly tough work when you have to tow the dinghy, since there is nowhere to anchor it or tie it up. The pinnacles were fairly barren where we went, but it would be different further along the stones, away from the passage inside the reef. The pluses were the big fish such as the Giant Trevallies, Maori Wrasses or white tip reef sharks, and the schools of small fish such as the fusiliers. It is a different feel, more like being on the edge of a drop off to deeeeep water where big fish live! The pinnacles are probably best seen with scuba gear so you can dive deep down.

Fusiliers

Hook Reef

We moved to Hook Reef, just long enough for a snorkel. Finding a sandy spot, not too deep and with enough swing room between the bommies is always a challenge. We could not find a big enough gap that we felt would be safe for overnight anchoring. We have a rule on board, both of us have to be comfortable wherever we drop the pick. We meandered for ages without success. So in the end we agreed to anchor for a few hours, go for a snorkel, grab some lunch, then head back to the islands.

Beautiful colours but lots of bommies!

To add insult to injury, the snorkeling was not fantastic: rubble from cyclone damage where we explored, and with 15 knots breeze, the water was agitated. But we still had a few interesting encounters, especially the intriguing looking sponges and the gorgeous lacy Sea Fans which tend to be found at a deeper level.

Sponge
Sponge
Sea Fan

Luncheon Bay – Hook Island

Back at Hook Island, we were having breakfast out in the cockpit in the sunshine. Guess what the cat dragged in?

Take It Easy, our old boat! Cecile and Yann were going for a scuba dive and picked up a mooring two boats up from us in Luncheon Bay! It was lovely catching up for coffee on Anui. They are doing really well, having fun and loving the boat even if like it is for us, maintenance is a constant occupation!

While we were chatting, a small group of manta rays were nearby. We could not resist jumping into the water to swim with them! The water was a bit murky, but what an experience!

Manta Ray and Ctenophore!
Manta Ray

We are now back at Airlie Beach, to pick up supplies and boat bits, then we are heading north on Monday!

12 thoughts on “Clear Waters of the Outer Reef

  1. OM Gosh! The scenery underwater there is nothing less than totally amazing guys! What a joy to swim there. 😎😍

    • Hi John, yes after the fairly low visibility of the fringing reef around the islands, going out to the Reef is stunning. Water crystal clear, colour, life as it should be.

  2. That sponge is scary! And beautiful at the same time. We understand the issue with Hook Reef. We were lucky and found a spot for a couple of nights (I would send the lat/longs but they accidentally got wiped a couple of years ago). Enjoy.

    • Hi Trish, we have had success before at Hook Reef on TIE but the last time on Anui was a bit anxious and this time was just spooky. It is a much bigger boat and we need more space!

    • Hi Pete and Deb, glad you like the posts. Maybe we will share an anchorage next winter! Catching up with TIE was fun! We have subscribed to their YouTube channel and it is good to see the guys having a great time. They will go further than any other Easy has gone I think… bound for the Solomons!

  3. The amazing colours and variety of what is hiding underwater never ceases to amaze. Great pictures Chris. Keep enjoying the warm up there while we rug up and light the fire down here.

    • It is sensational Annie, and great to share with Sue who is like a big kid, loving to play and discover new creatures. Wade can dive deeper than me and stay under longer… he took the sea fan and some of the sponge pictures… Aren’t they amazing?

  4. Hi Chris, the reefs are always filled with excitement! It’s incredibly beautiful and colorful! 🙂

    • Thanks Grant, it was so clear and rich in colourful corals. We wonder whether it will be as good and healthy further north. BTW we tried your digestives with peanut butter… yum!

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