The wind was still blowing at 15-18 knots when we reached Chilcott Islet, part of the Coringa Group. We selected Chilcott as the more protected anchorage of the two islets in the group, but it was not a comfortable spot, particularly on the first night. However we resisted the temptation to move on straight away and instead spent a full day exploring. Let us show you why it was worth staying.
Our first activity for the morning was flying the drone in 12-15 knots from the deck before the wind picked up too much. Launching from Anui is the only way to fly. You cannot launch from the sand cay because of the quantity of birds and the protected status of the island.
It is always easy to take off and go, but bringing the drone back with Anui lurching about in the chop and wind is the real challenge! Landing it on deck was out of the question – it was hard enough keeping your own balance! The trick was to bring the beast back down to eye level, avoiding the rigging, so Wade could grab it. He did a great job of catching it even though he ended up with a cut on a finger. Those props are sharp and if you grab too high you get slashed! But fear not, the cuts were akin to paper cuts, so no stitches required, just a lot of grateful hugs for the hero! And we got some good shots!
After the dangerous work it was time to dinghy ashore. We picked up Simon and Amanda who were a bit put off by the swell and were lying flat on the floor of their cockpit, feeling a bit green! initially they were going to stay on board. We had come too far to not check out the islet and its prolific birdlife. So we offered to ferry everybody ashore.
The island is a rookery for sooty terns, various types of boobies, frigatebirds, noddies. The species were a little more segregated on Chilcott than on East Diamond, with clear areas occupied by a large colony of sooty terns at one end, frigatebirds and boobies mingling in the centre and noddies at the other end. We saw so many chicks at different stages of development! So here are some of the cutest fluff balls we saw:
But the most exciting birds for us to see were the red-tailed tropicbirds, strikingly beautiful with their gleaming white plumage, their red beak and their red streamers elegantly trailing behind them. You only see them offshore, so this was a treat!
Birds in flight were also a delight to watch and photograph. We were lucky enough to see two male frigatebirds with their red gular sac inflated competing for the females ’attention in the air. They are magnificent flyers. They soar high in the sky and being black they naturally stand out. Add that red balloon and you really can’t miss them!
Here is a slide show of our flying friends:
With warm, crystal-clear water, we all managed a couple of dives in the afternoon￼. Simon and Amanda had their hookah set up and surveyed small bommies next to their boat. We had a go too but were not that impressed. Instead Chris decided to freedive at the reef edge to the right of the boat.
Although not in great health, the reef was in better condition than at East Diamond. It looked like it was in recovery. The Green protection zone may well be helping. There were both soft and hard coral slowly regenerating. The dominant specie was a mustard colour encrusting coral. Here are a few shots.
We stayed at Chilcott for two nights and are really glad we did. It was worth persevering. In the end we enjoyed ourselves. You just had to time cooking and showers before high tide to minimise the strong side chop and acrobatic moves in the galley and bathroom!
See you in a few days at North East Cay, in the Herald Cays Group.