Reef Magic

Reef hopping really excites us, so does trying something new, somewhere different. Enjoying this in company is even better. Our guests Murray and Maree have been enjoying a very different world to what they are used to. The sights, vibrant colours and calm weather are all contributing to making this reef adventure a real treat for all of us.

Murray having fun
Maree absorbed in a different world
Maree & Murray ready for breakfast

Lady Musgrave

We have spent several days at the Lady Musgrave lagoon, initially anchored near the island in the company of a dozen boats. We snorkeled near the island, went for a walk, put up with the loud music from other boats.

Anchored near the island at first

When the Parks & Wildlife boat came to service the moorings, it was an opportunity to move to the northern end of the lagoon and anchor away from the crowds. From there we explored, snorkeling at different bommies twice a day, along the reef wall, even dinghying outside the reef wall to look for manta rays. Although not successful at spotting them, we had fun anyway! We also used the lagoon as a base for day trips to neighbouring reefs, something we had not done before.

Dinghy ride to the outside of the reef wall

Here are a few of our underwater highlights in a slide show. Click right to view each image.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. A couple of days were totally calm, not a breath of wind, turning the lagoon into a mirror reflecting wispy clouds. It was dreamy and the drone gave us an unusual view of our surroundings at low tide. The colours you see may seem unreal, but that is what it was like. It is very pleasing when the images you get are unlike anything published before. So Chris is hopeful these will appear in a forthcoming article!

Lady Musgrave island and reef entrance at low tide with the moored fleet near the cay
Dreamy views of Anui at the other end of the lagoon
Panorama of the Lady Musgrave lagoon

The other advantage of being at the northern end of the lagoon is that you can fish and spearfish. Wade caught us a few dinners of coral trout and stripy snapper. But the fishing came to an abrupt end when he saw a hammerhead shark cruising past, and he did not have his shark shield on. Everybody returned to the dinghy after that! We don’t mind blacktip or whitetip reef sharks, but a 5 meter hammerhead is in a different league! One of the drone photos actually shows the beast not far from Anui. Can you spot it on the right? And there is also a turtle.

Anui and visiting beasties

After that experience, the shark shield was on at every dive for Wade.

Wade ready for action with his shark shield attached

Fairfax & Hoskyn Islands

From Lady Musgrave, we headed off for day trips. These two sets of reefs and their twin coral cays are beautiful and seldom visited destinations. We had checked them out in previous years, but never anchored there. The reefs are edged on the SW side by a very narrow strip of clear sand in 5 to 12m of water. We knew they were only suitable as day anchorages as with a change of wind direction or tide, you could easily end up with the stern of the boat back to the reef, not something we want to do for an overnight stay. But being close to Lady Musgrave, in light conditions you can return to the safety of the lagoon at night.

Anchored at Fairfax Reef

Both reefs are in a green conservation zone and access to the coral cays is not permitted. But the attraction is the variety of healthy, colourful coral and the abundance of fish. We had both sites to ourselves, something we value. There is something really special about being in a wild place with so much to offer and being away from other boats. We felt very privileged.

Everybody is on deck – we have just spotted dolphins and a manta ray!

We had calm conditions at Fairfax, allowing us to fly the drone and get a different perspective of our surroundings. It was a little too breezy at Hoskyn to launch it. May be another time!

Awfully close to the reef in about 3 meters at low tide
Hoskyn Islands Panoramic

Here are the highlights of our snorkels at both reefs in a slide show.

  • Orangefin Anemonefish
  • Sea Cucumber
  • Yellowhead Parrotfish
  • Whipray
  • Remora

Fitzroy Reef

From Hoskyn Islands we sailed to Fitzroy Reef, to seek shelter in the lagoon from forecast thunderstorms. We were lucky enough to get there late in the day and still pick up one of three public moorings. We woke up the next day to an eerie light, dark skies and teal water… quite a sight!

Fitzroy Reef has the sad distinction of being the most damaged reef we have seen. We had noticed it had been getting worse at every visit but this time is particularly heartbreaking. The vibrant, densely covered and spectacular coral bommies in the centre of the lagoon have been replaced by lifeless fields of grey, bleached and algae smothered expanses. There is a lot of rubble and upturned coral heads from storms too on the edges and we saw very few fish on our first snorkel. It is a very sad sight and quite depressing to witness. We heard from the Marine Park patrol boat that there had been a bleaching event last summer, which would explain the state of some of the large bommies.

Some parts of the reef wall are in better condition, especially at the southern end of the lagoon in the shallows but overall this reef is not well. We will share some underwater and aerial images of Fitzroy Reef, but it will have to wait for a future post as we have very poor internet coverage!

We intend to stay at the Fitzroy lagoon for one more day while the wind is blowing then move on to Wistari or Heron Reefs. Here is a satellite image of the Capricorn & Bunker Group to show the reefs we are visiting.

23 thoughts on “Reef Magic

  1. Loved all the pictures! You look very professional going straight down, Chris! Please be extra careful with a hammerhead in the proximity. 🙂

    • Hi HJ, lots of diving practice! The hammerhead in the lagoon was a surprise. I did not go snorkeling with the guys that morning choosing instead to fly the drone. It is not until I developed the photos that I saw the hammerhead not far from the boat!

  2. I continue to be amazed at both the drone shots and the underwater shots, Chris. Wow. The colors are so vibrant and almost neon-like in some cases. I am so happy to hear that you are having such a relaxing time, despite the shark scare and the inconvenience of sometimes being around other people. I love the freedom of enjoying nature away from crowds (and nowadays thanks to the pandemic, I tend to see groups that are bigger than a few people as a “crowd” to be avoided).

    • Hi Mike – it is a fine line between enjoying meeting like minded people at anchorages and feeling a bit anti social! Because we have family in board at the moment we prefer keeping to ourselves and enjoy the wilderness away from it all.

      Getting a lot more comfortable with flying the drone in stronger conditions but in mirror like days it is a treat to cruise around high up without fear of not being able to bring it back to Anui!

  3. Thank you for this week’s journey. Having just read the manifold horrible morning news you have methinks brought the sun and the sea and the good in nature to all of us and made us forget ‘the other’ for a brief while. Really love the underwater photos and, always wanting to know exactly ‘where’ love the satellite image of your current area . . . . may more fair weather follow you . . . . big rubs to Bengie . . .

    • Thanks so much for your comment Eha and for sharing the post. Glad you are enjoying the beautiful photos and description of what we experience. It is nice to get feedback!

  4. enjoyed your post and the photos. Glad you are enjoying the reef at last, Hey watch out for the sharks, a bit scary eh.

  5. I love viewing your adventures up there; bringing to mind a short stay at Lady Musgrave a few years ago !
    The drone must be a good aide in choosing an anchoring spot; flying conditions being ok I guess !

  6. Great photos and content as always so excited to see where you are⛵️ Missing you guys of course

    Hammerheads, coral bleaching eeek 😧

    Biggest hugs xx

  7. I didn’t mean to write idyllic twice, but it probably is apt …..FYI, there is a glitch in this message bar, can only see the top half of the typing …

  8. Great pics of the Bunker group! We are on our way up – currently in Coffs. Will definitely check this area as we go past.

  9. Now I am Really envious. I’m sure you are getting plenty of freediving practice in. I will have to look at getting a shark shield for solo snorkeling. Wonderful drone perspectives of the reefs at low tide. Enjoy

    • Thanks Graham… have been doing the ‘dive straight down’ thing a fair bit, but not a lot to extend breath holding time… just having fun really! Very mixed state of reef health. Wistari coral gardens are no more. Hope to see you somewhere!

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