A reef weather window at last!
Bait Reef and maybe the Hardy Reef lagoon were our destinations. Unfortunately, Bait Reef was everyone’s destination. As we approached Bait Reef it was apparent we would be travelling further on to Hardy Reef as the 5 moorings were already occupied, with another 5 boats anchored. Busy!
Bait Reef is the closest of the outer reefs to the Whitsunday islands hence its popularity. Hook Reef, Hardy Lagoon and Line Reef are nearby. Hardy Reef is a large lagoon, surrounded by reef but it has no obvious entrance as such. So having been there before with friends in 2016 we would rely on the waypoints Chances gave us and our last chartplotter ‘track’, to enter the lagoon. The trick is to wait for the water to cover the surrounding reef and enter (and exit) on a rising high tide, when the water has stabilized. Planning is important as you don’t want to get stuck inside the lagoon in bad weather. A high tide exit strategy is essential!
When we approached the Hardy Lagoon ‘entrance’ it was obvious the tide had some work to do, so we played around outside. An easy task as it was dead calm, glassy and still. We watched two whales meander by and I’m always in awe of the vibrant colours of the outer reef so just being there is captivating.
(Remember to touch/click each photo for a full-size view and the occasional caption.)
The ‘entrance’ to the Hardy Lagoon. Vera Jean is in the lagoon. The water is still running out and therefore not stabilised, so we wait.
Once inside … it’s magic! It was one of those brilliant sunny glassy days.
Hardy Reef has much appeal. There are numerous places to snorkel – inside the reef’s edge, outside the reef on the drop-off, over the reef at high tide, the many bommies further inside and a shallow white sandy area on the eastern side of the lagoon. It’s also shallow and clear enough to drop anchor, and you have all-round wind protection from the reef, especially when its exposed at low tide.
The highlight of this year’s visit to Hardy were the Clams and the Clownfish.
I saw numerous giant clams. There’s lots of man-eating stories about giant clams. I remember Tarzan tv stories of legs being chomped off but you’d really need to shove your foot in between two very strong shells for this to happen and there’s certainly easier ways to drown. Giant clams are the largest on the planet, living peacefully, feeding on algae and filtering plankton from the water. Their vivid colours serve as antenna’s and sun blocks. It’s their colours and patterns that I find fascinating.
I spotted this giant clam on my first snorkel. The sun was perfect and it wasn’t too deep and of course while clams can move, albeit very slowly, and especially if a nosey snorkeler is blocking their sun, they are relatively easy to photograph. This one was huge, with such intricate and different patterns, and amazing colours.
(It’s a slideshow … so hit the arrow buttons to view the photos AND if you double touch/click you will see them in full-screen!)
The following day we found the shallows at low tide. I wanted to try my new wide-angle lens and also some over-under photos again. There was a slight ripple on the water so we looked for the glassy little ‘lagoons’ within the shallow reef. I was able to snorkel around the shallow reef and actually stand in the white sand. It was like a maze so while finding my way in was easy, it was a little trickier finding my way out! My boat boy was at hand so instruction was welcomed. (Neville’s also discovered a great way to stay out of the sun while I play, see pic.) This was great. I could balance easily when kneeling, the sun was directly above and the water was clear and still. While these scattered shallow reefs aren’t usually that interesting, I found plenty to entertain me, including a family of Clownfish. Bingo! My favourite fish. I believe these were Tomato Clownfish and they were fun. Mama was not too keen on me at all, the intruder, hiding under the craggy coral behind the Anemone, but one young Clownfish did not care less. This is the prettiest Clownfish I’ve photographed. They were such a bright orange with three very distinctive white stripes. Clownfish are very protective of their home and young and with a protective mucus covering their bodies they are able to live in the Anemone, which is a bed of lethal stingers and are thus protected from their predators. This young Clownfish darted here and there, amongst the anemone, putting on quite a show for me.
I also played with my new wide-angle lens. Being able to capture a 120 degree view with this lens means I can not only get much closer to my subject but it can give my photo a sense of depth and context. I like the wide-angle photo I took of the Clownfish and the Anemone because it shows exactly where the Clownfish were living, often amongst craggy silted coral and not in colourful coral gardens as we perhaps imagine. This is typical.
Here’s a few more wide-angle photos as well as a few more attempts at over-unders. It’s certainly not as easy as you’d think. I’ve learnt that strong sunshine, no water movement and a dry dome lens are absolutely essential … arghhhh … water droplets on the lens is so frustrating. It’s all fun!
Wow that was a long post! Sorry. So many photos and this is only a small selection. My apologies!
Next stop … our favourite Whitsundays spot, Gloucester Passage where we’ll meet up with friends from home, then Townsville.