With a couple more days of calm weather ahead and everyone enjoying the Great Barrier Reef explorations, we continued our southward trek and moved from Walker Reef to Keeper Reef, motor-sailing past John Brewer and Lodestone Reefs, which we would love to check out during the next season, then ended our reef hopping at Wheeler Reef.
Keeper Reef is very aptly named. We all loved it and declared it a real keeper! A few small boats were there fishing, but did not stay the night, however the one and only mooring was vacant, so we hooked onto it. We arrived at mid tide and laid a track through to the buoy to make it easier to leave early the next day. There is a maze of bommies and when you move before the sun is high in the sky, it is hard to see where the safe passage is.
Keeper is an interesting reef with an elongated shape and multiple long bommies lining the reef flat. The water colour was particularly blue and crystal clear, probably because of the bright sun as well as the very light breeze for several days. These were dream like conditions. We had two long snorkels, exploring at mid tide to start with, which allowed us to drift atop vibrant coral gardens, and we had a second dive at low tide when we meandered around different sets of bommies. You could easily spend more time at Keeper, exploring along the length of the reef. What was most striking there was the clarity of the water – 30 meters plus of visibility – the brightness and intensity of colours. We have a large gallery to share with you. For those who think the images are very blue, that is because it really was! Click on the first image to display the photos in full screen slide show and see the captions.
Only one negative at Keeper: the quantity of seabirds which settled on Anui at night and made a racket and a mess! Murray counted over 20 on the deck at one stage, as well as a few in the cockpit! Not much sleep that night and a big clean up job in the morning!
Our last hop ended at Wheeler Reef, 15 miles further on. Wheeler is an oval reef with deep water all around and a patch of clear sand in the center, which turns out to be another shy little cay appearing at low tide. There is one public mooring on the edge which we tied onto. We got there at high tide and went for a snorkel straight away, thinking there might be a lot more current and chop later as the wind picked up. But it turned out the best dive was at lower tide.
Although less colourful than Keeper, at Wheeler Reef it is the isolated coral pinnacles and the deep gutters patrolled by some big fish that held our interest. Trevallies, giant sweetlips, Maori wrasses and mackerels were there, reminding us we were further offshore. And there was one particular shark which took a lot of interest in Murray and was a little too inquisitive for his liking. Being larger than him, it was time to head back to Anui!
Yet again, the water was crystal clear with amazing visibility. Wheeler had a different feel to other reefs we have visited. Murray had three dives, lapping up the last opportunity for seeing the reef for this trip, while the rest of us had two. Here are a few images.
Of course we had to land on the shy little cay. The drone struggled in the strengthening wind, but here are a few aerial shots. I was not game to fly it all the way to Anui!
Where to now?
With a strong southeast breeze settling in for several days, we won’t be able to go further south for a while. This morning, Wednesday, we had a brisk sail west towards the mainland and took refuge at Horseshoe Bay, Magnetic Island. We are back to civilisation, but with the prospect of a couple of nice restaurant meals ashore, it is not too bad! Townsville will be where Murray & Maree leave us for their flight home to Melbourne on the weekend. As for Wade & I, we will do the usual chores: re-provisioning, re-fueling and laundry, then move on as soon as the weather allows. We are praying the northerlies start soon!