Revisiting the Whitsundays region is a bit different from our other destinations. It’s familiar, it’s always social because many cruisers spend time here, it’s relatively compact with short passages between islands, it’s close to the outer reef and it has two ports to reprovision, eat out and shop – Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach. We know it well!
This year it is our most northern destination. We have arrived later than in past years and with limited time here in 2020, we seemed to have appreciated this region a little more this year. We are missing our family visitors though. Both Abbey and Nathan, and Tim and Kaycee visited us at this time last year, but unfortunately not this time.
So after our ‘perfect’ outer reef adventure we sailed back (hmmm … think the diesel kicked in most of the way) to Whitsunday Island and dropped anchor north of May’s Bay, where we sat for a few days while the wind blew around us. We spent some time with Sally and Forfar on Sarisha. Morning teas, kayaks, reading and of course, yes, we enjoyed a few wines watching some stunning sunsets from the beach.
With strong wind forecast over the next few days, we snuck in a day at Whitehaven Beach and then enjoyed a two-day sojourn at Hamilton Island – we had three weeks of washing! After our washing, IGA reprovisioning and boat-washing, we did manage some time around the pool and had a lovely meal out at the relocated ‘sort-of’ Coco Chu (same menu, but different location). Quite a few eateries are still closed on the island, apparently because they can’t get staff.
Then it was back to May’s Bay to catch up with our very generous friends Jo and Kevin on Vivacious. Jo and Kevin had very kindly offered us their house at Shoalhaven Heads where we stayed for ten days driving north to our boat. It was a potluck and music night on Vivacious with Ilikai, Bushy Tales, Fusion Magic and Bossa Nova. We had three guitars, a drum and even a flute. Great night!
I mentioned how familiar the Whitsundays are, but there’s always somewhere or something new to discover. Vivacious suggested a drift snorkel through the Hayman Island/Hook Island passage. The fringing reef around the Whitsunday islands has not got anywhere close to recovering from weather damage but there’s always something to see. While the water seems to also be very murky this year, it was still great fun.
After a dinner on The Bossa with Vivacious and Ilikai, the next day we nicked around to Blue Pearl Bay for two nights (with a slight headache in tow). The wind had eased and we had a lovely few days there, snorkeling, kayaking, reading and playing with my photos. While I was on a mission to find the schools of ‘sardines’ and Bumphead Parrotfish Jo told me about, I did enjoy some great snorkels with a variety of Parrotfish. Parrotfish are such colourful fish and all have a variety of intricate patterns. There’s actually 95 species of Parrotfish family, so I’m not even going to attempt to name them.
I followed this rather large Steephead Parrotfish around for some time trying to get in close to those chomping jaws. It’s very tricky with only a snorkel. My weight belt helps me get down, but they usually take off with the slightest movement towards them. The fish are chomping on the dead coral with their grinding teeth extracting algae. Much of the sand around them is undigested coral they excrete. Apparently a Bumphead Parrotfish can excrete 90 kilograms of sand a year!
Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island used to be the snorkeling mecca of this area but sadly Cyclone Debbie destroyed it, along with the Hayman Island Resort. You can see from the Parrotfish photos, there is a lot of silted rubble below. This is common around most of the islands now, but particularly Blue Pearl Bay. So sad. But there is still fish life and there are some signs of coral regrowing, particularly the soft corals.
Here’s a few other photos in a slideshow from the southern end of Blue Pearl Bay. I’ve named each fish on each of the photos …
Ahhh, those schools of fish?? Well, unfortunately I didn’t find them, even after three attempts. But I did have fun trying. Snorkeling amongst big rocks at the bottom of a sheer cliff face was something I’d never done before. The water was calm and with Neville in the tender watching, I gave it a go. Not sure I’d be any good at caving, especially under water, but I did enjoy my very simple and calm little adventure. Just no fish though! Maybe I was in the wrong spot??!!
A had several attempts at some split shots amongst these rocky caverns. So hard! These are the best of them …