Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sailaway to Low Isle

Tuesday 7th August 2012
You can't swim to the Great Barrier reef from the beach at Port Douglas.  It is about 72 km to the outer Agincourt Reef (90 minutes in a high speed catamaran) or an hour sailing to the inner reef island of Low Isles which is about 15 km off shore.

We decided to head to Low Isles because there is an actual beach to land on and the calm reef in the lee of the wind is more low key for the Frost to practice snorkeling.  

We left at 8am, meeting at the Port Douglas Marina along with many other tourists and buses.  Some of the big outer reef catamarans can take 400 people but our sailing catamaran (Sailaway) had 31 on board.

Mum and Frost in the early sunshine.  We have had sun and warm weather all week.

On the boat at the marina, with fresh muffins and coffee.

We motored out of port into the swell of the Pacific and the captain raised the sails while the staff gave out fins and masks to everyone who was planning to swim and then we wallowed in the waves for an hour on the way to the Low Isles islands. 

When we arrived, the Captain pulled up alongside the catamaran in a glass-bottomed boat and ferried us to the beach.  As we drifted above the coral Wren peered into the glass box and saw a shark.  Later, on a glass bottom boat tour he saw "a giant clam, that was the best thing I saw!  And A SHARK!  And a  SHARK!"  He also saw a glimpse of a turtle swimming away.

Frost and I went on the advanced snorkel tour of the rim of the surrounding reef.  Frost poked his head up at one point and said "This is blowing my mind!"

We were at the Island for about 3 hours and Frost was snorkeling for 2 of them!  He described his snorkels:
"We saw vibrantly colored corals, many different types of fish included wrasses and large angelfish and cool looking zebra fish.  The biggest fish I saw were a pair of really big bat fish and I also saw a huge shoal of baitfish that you would swim towards them and some would swim away and some would go aside and some would swim behind you."

On the beach at Low Isles with Wren.   
A Starfish on the beach at the tide came in.

Wren says "I was lying in the sand to get the water off and then I was going
to jump in water again to get the sand off and do it again."

The lighthouse has been staffed for over a hundred years.
There was a lunch buffet on the beach followed by some snorkeling off the boat.   Some large batfish and remora hung around the boat hoping to be fed and Frost and Mum swam out to some coral bommies 50m from the boat.  

Wren couldn't be left on the boat alone so I snorkeled by the boat in the deep deep blue water - watching the huge batfish while he dabbled his feet in the water from the bottom step of the dive platform.  At one point, while snorkeling about 5 m from the boat, a 4 foot reef shark passed near me with two ramora on it!  I confess, I left the water for a moment.

Watching fish off the back of the boat

Wren sits over the deep blue sea watching batfish and small shark. 

On the way back into Port Douglas in the late afternoon we saw a small pod of whales - a pair with a small baby whale they were holding up.  The captain pulled up and we watched them for a while.  It was the closest I have ever been to a whale.  You could see the warty bumps on the whales faces.

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