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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
After that experience, the shark shield was on at every dive for Wade.
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.
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.
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!
Here are the highlights of our snorkels at both reefs in a slide show.
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.