It’s so good to be back in the water. However to date, I’ve only managed to get to the fringing reef around the islands. The outer reef is hopefully not too far away … we are waiting on a ‘weather window’!
The popular Whitsundays snorkeling spots here have been the likes of Blue Pearl Bay, Butterfly Bay, Luncheon, Manta Ray and Florence Bays and Langford Reef near Hayman Island. However, things have noticeably changed. The tour operators have had to find new reefs as these popular spots have been too damaged by Cyclone Debbie.
In the last few weeks we’ve tried three different locations, one old and two new.
Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island has long been THE place to snorkel. It’s open to the Whitsunday Passage on the western side of the island and often visited by whales. There are moorings for visiting boats and it has always been a popular charter boat and tour operator anchorage. I was keen to give Blue Pearl a go, hoping it hadn’t changed too much. The appeal of Blue Pearl in the past hasn’t so much been the coral, but the fish. The fish, while not as abundant, did not disappoint. The Parrotfish have always been a highlight at Blue Pearl and I was pleased to see they were still there, along with the hundreds of Yellowtail Fusiliers looking for a feed and the friendly Batfish who visit your boat while moored. The bottom unfortunately was silted over for the most part but the friendly fish were still a treat.
The Stonehaven anchorage on the western side of Hook Island is a pretty and popular overnight anchorage with fringing reef. The best anchorage for a sunset too. If the wind gets over 10 knots we all seem to experience Stonehaven’s unique weather system with ‘bullets’ of wind firing at us down the valleys … “Quick … catch the crackers!”
Stonehaven is not far from Hayman Island so it also copped Cyclone Debbie’s wrath last year. The tour operator boats now drop by Stonehaven snorkeling, an indication that the past popular spots are not so good any more. However, there is one spot not far from where we can pick up a mooring and swim to the fringing reef for a snorkel.
It is a treat to find somewhere “new” in such familiar waters. Saba Bay is on the eastern side of Hook Island, hence quite exposed to the SE trade winds. We have never visited Saba Bay before. With little breeze around it was an ideal opportunity to visit Saba Bay. We were pleasantly surprised to find moorings and also quite expansive fringing reef to explore. What was exciting about the snorkeling here was the coral. There were signs of new growth both with the soft and hard corals, and plenty of fish, particularly juvenile fish. We will visit Saba Bay again as there was so much more to explore in the dinghy and back in the water.