Our 2019 sailing season is nearly over … and it’s definitely a wrap for my snorkeling season!
My last snorkel was at Lady Musgrave Island. We snuck out to Fitzroy Reef and Lady Musgrave after we were doubting we’d get there. We were watching the weather forecasts daily, looking for even just a few days of reef weather. One appeared, which was perfect timing. It’s always good to finish on a high in the water, so what a treat it was seeing my hermit crab at Lady Musgrave.
I came away this season with my trusty Olympus TG4 which I’ve had since 2016 and some new purchases … an Olympus TG5 (later model) with an Olympus underwater housing, a Fantasea wide angle wet lens which I can attach to the housing, a tray to mount the new TG5 with housing, and a video light which can also be mounted on the tray. And of course, a camera bag to put all this in!
I also came away with a plan – visit as much of the outer reef as we can, particularly Lady Elliot Island in the Southern Reef which we haven’t been to before. Lady Elliot is known for its excellent snorkeling reef. We also wanted to get as far north as Cairns visiting the outer reefs along the way and the reefs off the coast of Cairns.
As well as the new photographic purchases I’d also upgraded my mask so I could finally see! I purchased a new mask with magnification lenses … and a new snorkel … and new fins … of course! A few dollars all up! But as a friend recently pointed out to me, how good is it to find something new you are passionate about?
As well as the photography, there’s the editing and the sharing of my photos via my blog. I love the snorkeling and taking photos, but I also look forward to the photo sorting, editing and then finally composing a blog post about our Bossa Nova adventures above and below the water. There’s several hours of entertainment on board after every snorkel.
I can’t say I’ve ticked off all my plans this season, but there’s always next time. We didn’t get out to Lady Elliot Island. LE needs very calm weather as there’s no where easy to anchor (depth and protection) and the two moorings there are quite exposed to wind and current. For several reasons we didn’t cruise as far as Cairns, but we did get to see some of the outer reefs off Magnetic, Orpheus and Dunk Islands. They were an unexpected treat as the waters there were very clear, the reef in very condition and they are very close to protected island anchorages if the weather did unexpectedly change. We also got out to the Southern Reef twice, on our way north and south. We also visited Hardy Lagoon twice and had a wonderful time at Bait Reef with Tim and his drone. All big ticks!
So then there’s my new camera gear. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing with my new wet lens, particularly trying to learn how to take split-shot (over-under) photo … without water droplets on the lens! I didn’t have great success but it was certainly fun trying. I’ve had some great snorkels in some unexpected locations and no matter where I am, I manage to find something under the water to photograph. My magnification lenses have worked a treat too. I’m keen to learn more and improve my photos using my existing gear. Macro photography and more practice with split-shots are high on the list for next season. There will be no more big purchases!
As a snorkeler it really is all about location, shallow water, sunshine, low tides and still water!
So I thought I’d wrap up by putting together a selection of my favourite snorkels from this season choosing only one or two photos for each. Revisiting my last five months under the water has been fun, although restricting it to one or two photos has not been so easy! (Remember to click-on each photo for a larger size view.)
blue pearl bay
The Blue Fusiliers at Blue Pearl Bay were plentiful especially with a bit of encouragement. They came from nowhere. Tim, Kaycee and myself had so much fun with these fish. There were a few Parrotfish amongst them too which meant a close-up view of those big chomping teeth (Kaycee wasn’t so keen). Lots and lots of photos! This is my favourite photo because I almost took a great split-shot photo which captured the frenetic activity under the water and Hayman Island in the background.
The first photo is from the clam garden at Orpheus Island. We first visited Orpheus Island over 30 years ago on our first trailer-sailer, so there were a few memories here. While the clam garden is tricky find as the clams are no longer farmed here, I was surprised how many were actually still here. Not surprising I suppose when clams really don’t move! It was almost ‘prehistoric’ snorkeling amongst so many of these giant clams. They were quite active too with unexpected spurts often catching me by surprise. They really are alive! The second and third photos are all about the amazing colour and patterns that attract me to clams. I have so many favourite clam photos, so reducing it to three was a challenge.
We were fortunate enough to visit Hardy Lagoon twice this season and I found these small fish in the sandy shallows. Getting close in shallow water with the sun overhead made taking these photos of a Humbug darting in and out such a pretty coral and this Tomato Clownfish (or is it a Spine-Cheek Clownfish) so much easier. I hadn’t seen this Clownfish before. It was such a bright orange and while this little Clownfish was happy to entertain me, the parents we not so keen.
monkey beach, great keppel island
Monkey Beach is always a favourite snorkel with so many different types of fish in a confined reef area. I saw many more rays this season than I have before including at Monkey Beach. The third photo is of a Blue-spotted Lagoon Ray trying to bury itself under me. Eventually it gave up trying to hide and scooted off.
butterfish bay, great keppel island
This photo was my very first attempt at a split-shot photo with my new wide angle wet lens. Way back then I had no idea just how many few glassy days there would be this season. On this day I had a midday sun, a white sandy bottom next to a coral reef, an interesting background and very still glassy water. Everything you need for this type of photo. Nor did I realise just how difficult it is to keep those water droplets off the lens. Funny, with these first attempts at Butterfish Bay, I wasn’t having a problem with the water droplets, but I certainly did with future attempts.
We’ve visited Whitehaven Beach many times over the years and its such a special beach. But this year, courtesy of a dinghy explore by Vivacious, we snuck around the Whitehaven headland, across Solway Pass, to Pig Bay for an unexpected snorkel. The soft corals and fish life were the best we’d seen in the Whitsundays for some time. It was sunny day, low tide and the water was very clear. An unexpected great find!
Feather stars are beautiful. These photos were taken at various locations around the Whitsundays. Seeing red under the water is always an eye catcher. Strangely enough I didn’t see any more Feather Stars apart from these.
Lodestone Reef is 30 nm out to sea from Orpheus Island and Magnetic Island. Crystal clear water and a white sanding bottom made for great photos. The highlight at Lodestone was the condition of the coral and the water clarity. So much plate coral. We would have loved to spend more time here but the winds turned northerly and very few outer reefs in this area had northerly protection. Lodestone was very pretty.
xmas tree worms
Once you get an eye for these tiny creatures you spot them everywhere. They embed themselves into coral, in pairs. They can be a variety of colours – blue, black, white, yellow and even orange! They are tiny and if you shadow them (especially as you get in close with the camera), they retreat in to their burrow.
I’ve taken so many photos of schools of Blue-Green Pullers. They really are very pretty with their pale blue to green bodies as they dart in and out of the cream staghorn coral. They are quick and they hide, so capturing them up close is tricky which is why I like this photo. It was taken at Fitzroy Reef.
lady musgrave island
It’s always great to finish your snorkel season on a high and my Hermit Crab at Lady Musgrave Island was just that! I was debating whether to return to the dinghy, knowing it was my last snorkel. I’d seen schools of Blue-Green Pullers, a Blue Spotted Lagoon Ray, endless Butterflyfish and numerous Parrotfish chomping on the coral, Moorish Idols, even large Coral Trout, and I thought “ok, more of the same”. But I decided to take one more look. I’m so glad I did because this rather large Hermit Crab was a find! Such vibrant colour. It was waddling across the silty damaged coral right underneath me, not in any hurry to hide and not that deep, so it was easy to get some good shots.
To finally wrap it up … not a photo from below but one from above. Bait Reef is known for its Stepping Stones which are round coral pinnacles lined in a row, hence their name. You can see them behind the moored yachts. We were so pleased we managed to take Tim out to the outer reef. We had a picture perfect day for this fantastic drone photo he took from The Bossa.