It is always exciting when we head out somewhere new, especially at the Great Barrier Reef. We took advantage of very calm conditions to explore a series of reefs we had never been to before. Unfortunately, most of this was under motor rather than sailing but we can’t have everything! The chart below shows our path south.
In this post, we are taking you to three reefs: Beaver, Taylor and Walker reefs.
Although it was calmer than it had been for a while, it was still a bit blowy when we reached Beaver Reef and at times very overcast. The cay at Beaver is the smallest we have seen. You’d better not blink or you’ll miss it, and in fact at high tide it disappears all together.
We tried the drone there, but as I made it fly up and away to get an overview shot of the cay and surrounding reef, it struggled to punch back into wind so I did not keep it in the air for long and only have one aerial to show you.
Beaver Reef is quite small. We had a snorkel in a couple of spots: the first looked promising, but the visibility was not good probably because of the agitated ocean. The second was interesting in shallower water with lots of small fish, weird creatures such as the yellow tunicates, the deep red crinoid sea stars, and a bright red and lacy gorgonian fan. You generally see these on the edge of reef walls at some depth, so we were lucky to enjoy it in shallow water. Here is a slide show of our favourites.
When the cay is out of the water, seabirds seem to congregate on it, but when it is submerged, Anui is the landing spot. Noddies, black-naped terns and sooty terns have a party at the bows and along the life lines. It is clean up time the next morning!
Just a few miles further out is Taylor Reef, with its more substantial cay than Beaver. When you reach Taylor Reef, you can’t help but say “wow, wow”! The colours are to die for and seeing this spot in totally calm weather and flat water is gorgeous! The reef is much larger with an extensive area of clear sand in front of the cay to anchor in, free of bommies. So easy… This could possibly be a new favourite!
Our day in paradise consisted of a dinghy ride to the cay, drone flight, bird watching, snorkel off the beach, back on board for a rest and lunch, bread making, another snorkel in the inviting crystal clear water, back on board… G&T and Cider time!
Here are a few aerial shots to show you our surroundings:
And a few underwater shots of the weird creatures we saw.
The reward for getting up before dawn is a beautiful sunrise and nil wind. We decided to take advantage of the super light conditions and continue our reef hopping, albeit under motor. Thirty nautical miles south, offshore of Hinchinbrok Island is Walker Reef. We found it by chance while scouting the charts to find our next destination. And guess what, it has a cay, although a very shy one that disappears at high tide!
Walker Reef has the sad distinction of being the most damaged outer reef we have seen, with quite a lot of rubble, and an infestation of Crown of Thorns Starfish which eat the coral polyps and kill the coral. These nasties settle on a piece of hard coral, extrude their stomachs out from their bodies and digest the polyps, leaving the coral bleached and dead. In small numbers on healthy coral reefs, Crown of Thorns are an important part of the ecosystem. But once you get an outbreak (30 in a one hectare area) they can be disastrous for the reef. We counted at least that along the reef edge.
A redeeming feature of Walker Reef was the number of different clownfish we saw. Wade managed to find Nemo, the Eastern Clownfish! And we also found a few Orangefin Anemonefish.
In the next post we will take you to two even more stunning reefs: Keeper and Wheeler Reefs. These were the highlight of our time at the reef with Murray and Maree, so stay tuned!