Having been hiding from bad weather at Fraser Island for a few days with a dugong and whales for company, we left the safety of Platypus Bay early Sunday morning and headed offshore, intent on being at the Great Barrier Reef for Chris’ birthday – 4th August. There still was a bit of swell and the forecast was for 15 to 20 knots SE abating overnight. That afternoon, we got to Lady Elliott Island, the very first cay in the Capricorn & Bunker Group after a long spinnaker run.
The island was not its usual bright green strip of vegetation surrounded by turquoise water. It was grim looking with a very cloudy sky and a dark and choppy ocean. And to add insult to injury we had to anchor in 18 meters of water – 100m of chain out – since both public moorings were taken. We suspect we will see a lot more of that during this season.
The anchorage was rather lively and the sharp short chop did not settle overnight. In fact the updated forecast was for more of the same for another day. We can normally put up with a fair bit of movement at anchor, but even for us, this was rough and we had our most rocky night at the reef ever! We woke up to an overcast sky and inky ocean. After all that, a snorkel did not appeal, nor another day and night of rolling around, so we decided to move to the Lady Musgrave Reef with its protected lagoon.
Normally when you think of the reef you picture idyllic conditions with crystal clear turquoise water and brilliant sunshine. This time there are mornings of grey on grey and moody cloudy days.
Even though the Lady Musgrave lagoon is a popular spot, we counted 35 boats at one stage, there is plenty of space to anchor. It is quite protected, you can paddle out with the kayaks, go ashore for a walk on the coral cay, and use the dinghy to explore different snorkeling spots. Wade has been spearfishing and catching us dinner! So life is good! It really is a special spot to come to and we have decided to stay a while rather than keep moving around.
And we had a few sunny spells during our first dives for the season and have been doing a lot of exploring. We met up with another cruising couple, Wendy and Alex on Gipsy, and have snorkeled together in a variety of spots in the lagoon as well as outside along the drop off. We had our best day ever when we swam with manta rays, sharks, turtles and even whales outside the lagoon wall. It was mind blowing!
The manta rays were so huge and graceful as they glided past us in a circuit with remora fish in tow! The turtles were endearing, the sharks not as much! As for the whales, they were very close to us although we could not see them underwater, but you could not miss their splashing around, deep loud grunts and blows as you surfaced!
Here is a selection of our favourite underwater images organised in a slide show. Most of the manta ray images were taken by Wade who was just at the right spot to photograph them flying by… and he might also have pursued them!
We realise how lucky we are to be here, safe, free to come and go, able to experience such wonders, while we know many of you are restricted with what you can do. Special thoughts go to our Victorian friends and family who are going through Stage 4 lockdown.