The Magic of the Outer Reef

At the Outer Reef at last, after a week of rainy and blowy weather. We had a few days of calm conditions and went out exploring. And what a find! The Outer Reef really is magic.

Sudbury Reef

At the sand cay at Sudbury Reef

We often say every place we dive at is different, but snorkeling this far north is even more the case. A mooring to hook on to, a coral cay, beautiful crystal clear aqua water, healthy reef with no rubble, no smothering algae, no coral bleaching, lots of beautiful hard and soft coral… What more could we want?

Even Bengie liked it!

So at low tide, we suited up, jumped into the dinghy and took off!

Off for a snorkel!
Gathering at the end of the cay

What was striking about Sudbury Reef was the clarity of the ocean and coral gardens. We did not know what to expect, having been told the water may not be clear, and having heard the reef may be quite damaged, but at Sudbury Reef we did not find it so. We had a wonderful time. Here is a slide show of underwater photos.

  • Sudbury Reef
  • Purple Sea Star
  • Vagabond Butterflyfish
  • Sudbury Reef
  • Sudbury Reef
  • Brain coral close up

Most of these photos have needed very little post processing. There were no particles floating in the water, which normally produce lots of backscatter and require time-consuming clean up.

Flying the Drone

Because Sudbury Reef has a sand cay, it was a great opportunity to try the drone, a Mavic Air. It was my first real go at flying it and taking photos. I discovered the drone did not come with a micro SD card which it needs to record videos and lots of photos. So I simply used its minimal internal storage to take a few aerial images for now. When we get to Cairns we’ll get what we need!

It is fun but a bit nerve-racking to fly the beast over water! I learnt a few things:

  • Don’t fly it into the sun; not only can’t you see it high up in the sky, but your photos will be blown out … duh; I wanted a shot of Anui from the air, but she was moored in exactly the wrong spot for the light!
  • Go high, but not too high. Being worried about our tall mast, I first had the drone flying over at 30m high, but it was too high for good shots of the boat. My second attempt was at about half that height and is a little better, but if I can muster the courage, I will try even lower and make the drone do a circuit right around Anui!
  • Remember the difference between the landing button and the home button. They both land the drone, but one does it wherever it happens to be at the time, the other brings it back to its starting point.  I kept looking for the drone in the sky and could not see it where I was expecting it to come to, then suddenly realized as I spotted it descending straight over water on the side of the sand cay, that I had pressed the wrong button. Panic! Hit ‘Cancel’, “are you sure you want to cancel?” Yeah, yeah, just do it… I brought it back up and hit ‘Home’ – Ah, that’s better! Phew!

So here are a few more aerial shots… And yes, that really is the colour of the water and sky!

  • Sudbury Reef Aerial
  • Sudbury Reef Aerial
  • Sudbury Reef aerial

Milln Reef

Another 16nm northeast of Sudbury, Milln Reef was an absolute splendour: lots of canyons and trenches where a multitude of fish big and small hung around, many new to us. Whereas Sudbury was all about the coral, Milln was bountiful with fish. The Surgeonfish in particular were plentiful and varied, playing hide and seek among the crevices; the elegant Moorish Idols were mesmerising with their trailing white fin; big Parrotfish like the Steephead patrolling the gullies and munching on coral; stunning Butterflyfish were fluttering about, flashing shades of yellow. And all this in the middle of a huge expanse of hard and soft corals. What a treat! And again, no rubble, no bleaching.

Here is another slideshow for you to take a virtual snorkel with us! We will definitely be back to this gorgeous reef… and bonus, we nabbed the one and only public mooring there, so no fretting with anchoring required!

  • Barrier Ref Anemones
  • Teardrop Butterflyfish
  • Pinestripe Butterflyfish
  • Bluelined Surgeonfish
  • Steephead Parrotfish & Fusilier
  • Threadfin Butterflyfish
  • Milln Reef
  • Clown Surgeonfish
  • Anui at Milln Reef


With stronger winds coming back over the weekend, we have headed into Cairns and are anchored in the river. Lots to do here: a huge load of laundry, provisioning, pick up of boat gear we have ordered, and what could be an expensive visit to Digital Diver, a shop specialising in underwater photography gear.

Cairns is where Sue leaves us, after six weeks on board. It has been fun to share this part of our cruise north with her: about 350nm since Airlie Beach, new horizons, lots of wondrous experiences over and under the surface.

21 thoughts on “The Magic of the Outer Reef

  1. These were fabulous aerial shots! That sandy beach is like a dream! Good work Chris. 🙂

    • Exactly. Some additions to the gear and repairs to my Canon 7DII which no longer fires up. Fortunately I have kept my old Canon 60D as a spare!

  2. Beautiful pictures of the coral and fish and those from the drone. Enjoy yourselves in Cairns. ⛵️⛵️

  3. Hey Chris … you are doing very well with your drone! Love the pics of Wade & Sue walking along the sandy spit. You have all angles covered now with your cameras. We just have to both master the split-shots and I’m finding it’s not that easy! But fun trying. A

    • Hi Amanda – nice to get your feedback! Lots to learn. Going to Digital Diver for a new housing and dome lens as the original set was for the TG4 and doesn’t fit the TG5! May be they’ll take a trade in!

  4. Magnificent….
    Can I ask a question?
    Is it possible to ever tire of Paradise?
    “Just another Day in Paradise” is true for you two….:)

    • Hi Grant! Well it is not paradise every day. There are ups and downs, but there are definitely fantastic days though and we relish them, and love the lifestyle. You should come up and join us again. We are in Cairns and it is amazing.

  5. Wonderful location and photos. 15 deg C and rain all day here in S England. They call it summer….in name only. I’m not jealous.

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