More exploration of the Capricorn & Bunker Reefs

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!

Hoskyn Reef

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!

Boult Reef

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:

Fitzroy 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.

Fitzroy Reef lagoon entrance
Just picked up one of three public moorings – we are by ourselves!
Just inside the reef wall at low tide

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.

Anui and Gipsy inside the Lagoon at Fitzroy Reef, while we snorkel outside!

We have written several posts over the years about Fitzroy Reef. Here are the links if you would like to read more.

Wistari Reef

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.

Gipsy sailing past Wistari Reef

For more posts on Wistari, follow these links!

Tryon Island

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!

Approaching Tryon Island
Tryon Island

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!

Photo from Wendy, our wonderful chef

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!

Gipsy & Anui sailing back to the Keppels

20 thoughts on “More exploration of the Capricorn & Bunker Reefs

    • After 3 weeks there we are having a break to save my back and neck as well as get some fresh food, but looking forward to doing more later!

  1. Chris – thank you ! I have walked the walk a long time but never had the privilege to repost such beautiful Australiana to friends . . . the reef photos are unreal . . .

  2. Fabulous and informative pictures as always, and the diet looks great. Enjoy the Keppels.

    • Hi Meredith, we have been most lucky to be exploring the southern reef for three whole weeks! Heaps of pictures both under and above the water line, multiple daily snorkels… I have managed to wreck my arthritic neck in the process, so enjoying a rest for a few days at the Keppels.

  3. What a wonderful trip visiting so many magnificent spots, may it continue. Did you find a JP? I hope your neck gets better. Too much fun eh!!!!

    • Hi Susie, although we overdid it for three weeks, a couple of days without snorkeling are helping settle the pain fortunately. I will need to pace myself a bit though! The GPO at Emu Park had a JP able to help so all is sorted for France.

  4. Loved the pics of corals and fish! You’ve made it feel like we were there as well ….. thanks Chris ‘n Wade!
    We were almost salivating at the thought of fresh caught coral trout. At least we have our weekly fish man who comes across from St Monan’s on the east coast with his fresh haddock …… not quite the same though, as a fresh caught fish dinner beside a tropical sunset!

  5. Hi to you both. My wife and I have been following your Keppel Magic article as a guide to the the best 5 walks and best 5 snorkeling sites and over the last 7 days been captivated by what we have seen. Presently day tripping each day on our little Seafarer5 over boat from Roslyn Bay. What a wonderful resource well written. I applaud and thank you. Our next move is to a cruising cat next year, may an Easy Sarah as these are in our price range. Once again may I thank you for your wonderful contributions, I will follow your adventures and continue to use your information as a guide. Regards Kathy and Peter

    • Hi Peter and Cathy, so pleased to hear this and very glad you are enjoying your outings. We don’t tire of the Keppels. It is a gorgeous spot with lots to do. We are actually here at long beach on GKI so if you want to catch up, you are welcome on board! Cheers – Chris & Wade

  6. What a wonderful collection of amazing photos, Chris, with actions shots, detailed photos of the fish and vegetation, and seascapes. Thanks so much for all of the additional work you did to identify the different kinds of fish and plants (by the way, I have to say that the brain coral looks really creepy) and including maps for orientation. This is the reward for all of the hardships you put up with earlier in the year with quarantine and incessant repairs–the “good life.” It is rough when the only thing you have to worry about is running out of food, but even that does not seem to be a huge issue.

    • We have had a good run of late, Mike. It makes a huge difference to how we feel. The ID of fish and corals is part of the fun. Just like with your posts on birds or dragonflies, you get to recognise main species and might have to look up subsets, it is what happens underwater.

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