We have visited Monkey Beach on Great Keppel Island many many times and I’ve snorkeled here most of those visits. But this time we scored the perfect anchorage. My ‘dream’ anchorage is one that lets me snorkel straight from The Bossa. There’s no need for Neville to hang about in the dinghy. He can return to the mothership and I can linger for as long as I like!
These anchorages are not always easy to find as generally we don’t like anchoring too close to coral reef nor other boats. But at Monkey Beach there’s a little nook that we have never been able to nab. This time we did!
I love this spot. Clear water with a sandy bottom, a lovely beach for sundowners (and a birthday celebration), a short hike over the hill to the café for a hamburger (or a short dinghy ride in our case) and a fringing reef to snorkel close by … every day! Such an easy place to be, particularly in the calm weather we had.
They do say “the definition of cruising is … fixing your boat in exotic locations”!! Neville dealing with our first toilet blockage this season and cleaning The Bossa’s bum with Pearce from Ilikai.
Having featured many underwater photos from Monkey Beach in several blog posts over the years the trick now is to not take the same photos as I’ve taken many times before. Surprisingly the fish life at Monkey is always a treat and you’ll usually see … wrasse, damsels, angelfish, pullers, rockcod, sergeants and the same schools of silver fish (no ID?!) every time and sometimes even in the same place, so it’s a challenge to photograph the ‘same’ fish but differently.
Unfortunately, the water clarity on the reef was still not great at Monkey this visit, even at low tide. The coral was substantially covered by brown algae growth and there’s a lot of damaged coral. So sad to see reef in this condition. Like many fringing reefs in the Whitsundays, the Monkey Beach fringing reef has deteriorated over the last few years. I’m sure you will notice the areas of brown silt, algae and broken coral in my photos.
So, my task in this post is not only to present a different collection of photos from Monkey Beach but also clear photos from the cloudy water, and with several snorkels, hopefully I’ve succeeded.
I think the turtles were my highlight. I saw turtles every time I snorkeled. I watched them forage on the dead brown coral and always with fish hanging about for the scraps they stirred up. I could watch them, observing their behaviors and thus wait for the right photo opportunities. Remember, I could linger! I swam right next to several Hawksbill Turtles as they scooted off or swam to the surface for a few gulps of air. They were not fussed about me at all. I haven’t been this close nor for such an extended time before.
I even managed a video … you can see it on my Instagram feed @ajcandthebossa. And remember to click-on each photo for a larger view.
The fish …
One morning I was hell-bent getting some close-ups of a Humbug. These are tiny black and white fish, cute, only 3-4cm long and are generally found near staghorn coral. They are quick too. They are also quite territorial, bullying other fish away that swim nearby. So getting close before they darted back in to the staghorn and snapping them in focus is quite tricky as a snorkeler.
More Anemonefish! Thankyou Jo from Vivacious who directed me to a rather large community of Anemonefish. There were several ‘families’ scattered in a large area, mainly of the Blackback Anemonefish (including Anemonefish eggs being guarded by the male parent), but also a juvenile McCulloch’s Anemonefish … I think. This species, I’ve read, is found at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island. But not in Queensland? So, is it a McCulloch’s Anemonefish?
There were numerous Blackback Anemonefish in this large community. But it was one Anemonefish that caught my eye. It was the male guarding the Anemonefish eggs (you can see the red eggs). The male will guard the eggs till they hatch, apparently about 6-10 days, and then they hatch typically two hours after dusk.
After our lovely time at Monkey we headed south to The Narrows with our friends on Ilikai. (A great kite run too, we flew!) Sandfly territory! After a hot and humid still night amongst the mangroves at anchor, we were happy to see the wind and a marina. How such tiny creatures can cause so much discomfort is amazing! Fortunately, we are both not allergic to their bites.
We have just left the Gladstone Marina after a week of sitting out strong SE winds. We are hoping for a few days at Lady Musgrave then back to Boatworks when we’ll head home to Vic.