We have had the most enjoyable time at the Reefs of the Capricorn & Bunker Group. We have been there for three weeks, the longest stretch of uninterrupted time ever in this region! For two of those three weeks, it has been blowing northerly, an unusual thing at this time of year! The days are pleasantly warm, although you do need a decent wet suit for snorkeling as the water is cold. It is winter after all!
On suitable days we have explored reefs that offer minimal protection and on less settled or windier days, we have sheltered inside the relative sanctuary of a lagoon. There has only been a couple of days when we have not been able to get off the boat for a kayak and snorkel.
So here is a tour of this week’s explorations. We dearly hope you enjoy the virtual journey, particularly if you are stuck at home. And we also hope the photos of the extraordinary marine life inspire others to protect it. It is so precious!
Although we were not comfortable staying overnight at Hoskyn Reef because there was only a narrow strip to anchor in, with insufficient swing room, we did think this is a great day anchorage, worth a stop for a kayak around its two coral cays and a walk ashore below the high water mark. Look at this view and the colours: your typical coral cay seascape!
Just a few miles further north from Hoskyn Reef is Boult Reef, where we stayed overnight. No coral cay, but a kidney shaped ring reef with a large enclosed lagoon. We had been there before so knew where to throw the pick and enjoyed two interesting dives. The visibility was good and we were lucky to see a variety of marine life. And Wade caught a coral trout with the spear gun, a very tasty dinner! Here is a gallery of the highlights. To see the details in the images, click on the first one to display the gallery in full screen slide show.
Here is a link to another post about Boult Reef you may be interested in: https://sv-anui.com/2018/07/24/rock-roll-at-boult-reef/
Fitzroy Reef was next. This is a large reef with a navigable lagoon. It is always impressive to get inside as the entrance is narrow and does a tight S. But it is well marked and we arrived at noon with excellent visibility. And once in, the shades of blue and aqua are remarkable.
We had good protection and remained at Fitzroy Reef for several days, doing very much what we did at Lady Musgrave: trying different dive spots each day. The lagoon is beautiful and well used, with dozens of small runabouts coming for shelter every night after a day’s fishing, but you have the place to yourself during the day. The quality of the coral and variety of fish was hit and miss though. Some of the bommies were very colourful, yet nearly devoid of fish, others, particularly in the centre of the lagoon were damaged, with algae smothering the coral, however with a good variety of small fish. You could see storm damage on the edges of the wall with a fair bit of upturned coral heads and rubble. It is disappointing to see the deterioration of the reef over the years. We found the best snorkeling and spearfishing happened along the reef wall, both inside and outside.
We have written several posts over the years about Fitzroy Reef. Here are the links if you would like to read more.
As soon as the elusive SW breeze made its appearance, we left the shelter of the Fitzroy Lagoon and sailed north making a stop at Wistari Reef. This is a favourite of ours because of its coral gardens. We like to go there at mid tide so that we can float above the reef platform in shallow depth. It has a serene feel, clear water over a sandy bottom which in the right light gives shimmering reflections, but the current flows swiftly.
For more posts on Wistari, follow these links!
Final stop: Tryon Island, just north of North West Island. This was a new spot for us, and you know we like that; it appeals to our adventurous nature! We got there at low tide and it was hard to find patches of sand to anchor in but we eventually did in about 12m of water. Access to the island is not permitted above the high water mark to protect the vegetation and nesting birds. We did not snorkel there, but took a lovely walk around the island. As can often be the case at platform reefs, we had somewhat of a bouncy night. The current ran swiftly along the reef against a light wind for some of the night and we had little protection from the coral cay. Although raising anchor the next morning was trouble free, we have decided we will acquire dive gear for peace of mind. It is often hard to find a spot to anchor at the reef in less than 10 meters and in a patch free of rocks. If you know you can dive on the anchor in case of entanglement with coral heads, you are more likely to enjoy remote reefs instead of worrying about getting stuck!
Some of our time at the Reef has been shared with Alex and Wendy on Gipsy. It has been nice to snorkel together, chat about life, share a few morning coffees and sundowners. For our last night at the reef for this trip, we celebrated on board Gipsy with a fantastic meal of freshly caught mackerel and tuna sashimi with French champagne. Yum!
Although we have run out of fresh food, we have been sprouting mung beans and lentils, baking bread and biscuits, and sending the boys spearfishing for dinner… Coral trout and other delicacies have made regular appearances on the menu! But the weather is no longer cooperating and re-provisioning beckons, so we headed back to the coast to the Keppel Isles on Tuesday!