Voyage Log: Wild Islands of South Australia | Adelaide to Adelaide

4 December 2023 – 14 December 2023

Authors: Quentin Chester & Dale Arnott

Jump To: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 |  Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11

Day 1: Outer Harbour, Adelaide

4 December 2023

It was a glorious, sunny afternoon for our embarkation at Outer Harbour. Before long, all the bags were checked in, and we boarded the Coral Geographer. In the comfort of the Bridge Deck Lounge, it was time to enjoy a welcome beverage before safety briefings and an outline of day-to-day life on board from Purser Arron and Expedition Leader Wayne. Then, it was down to the dining room for the first of many convivial evenings – and a chance to relax and meet our fellow travelers. Meanwhile, the “CG” was tracking south down Gulf St Vincent, with the skyline of Adelaide and Glenelg hovering on the horizon. By bedtime, there was the faint glow of settlements along the Fleurieu Peninsula as we edged closer to our first stop – Kangaroo Island.

We awoke to witness the expansive beauty of Antechamber Bay and its pristine white beaches. This bay stands as the first among many destinations named by Matthew Flinders, who also christened Backstairs Passage, the Pages Islands, and Cape Willoughby.

On this soft, overcast morning, with little wind but just enough swell to add a touch of challenge to our wet landing, we observed Sea Lions making a short trek through the dunes while waiting buses stood by. Our group of Great Whites strolled along the beach before rejoining the loop trail across Chapman River. Activities were later swapped in the afternoon.

Our exploration on the beach commenced with a visit to the ancient, jagged black sedimentary rocks at the headland. Peter elaborated on how this coastline was once connected to Antarctica nearly 300 million years ago when the continent resided much farther south near the Antarctic Circle. Even more intriguing was the origin of these rocks — as sediment washed from Antarctic mountains — and the evidence of glaciers that had once sculpted the surrounding landscape.

As we wandered inland, GL Peter Canty, a botanist among other expertise, highlighted distinctive elements of the coastal flora. The feathery flowers of the clinging vine, aptly named Old Man’s Beard (Clematis microphylla), adorned many shrubs and bushes. This plant, cherished by the Ngarrindjeri people along the mainland coast, served as a favored remedy for treating colds and respiratory ailments. Coastal Daisy (Olearia axillaris), Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia), and the Flax Lilies (Dianella species) were among the various flora pointed out during our meandering exploration.

The GLs provided insights into identifying different Eucalyptus species and distinguishing between a Eucalyptus tree and a mallee. They highlighted the distinctive features of the Narrow-leaf Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia), characterized by its multi-trunked structure, which thrives on the island and served as a primary source for distilling Eucalyptus oil, another noteworthy plant on the island. The native Southern Cypress-pine (Callitris priessii), with its distinctive spear shape, and the Drooping She-oaks (Allocasuarina verticillata), notable for their weeping canopy, were also prominent features as we followed the trail to the banks of the Chapman River.

A recently installed swinging suspension bridge offered a secure and dry passage across the dark, tannin-stained waters. The Swamp Paper-barks (Melaleuca halmaturorum), responsible for the brown stained water, cast reflections that created moody and picturesque photo opportunities along the shores as we traversed the bridge. Amidst the surroundings, Peter detected, then located, a male Scarlet Robin perched in the branches. The bird graciously posed long enough for us to admire its vibrant red breast.

The lighthouse team had a diverse experience that included a walk down to Smugglers Cove, as well as a tour of the lighthouse and its surrounding precinct.

Cape Willoughby holds the distinction of being South Australia’s first lighthouse, standing as the 12th among Australia’s historic lighthouses. Only two others older than Cape Willoughby still operate in their original towers, both located in Bass Strait. Our visit included the opportunity to climb the tower, providing spectacular views over Backstairs Passage. We also had a close look at the exquisite Order One Chance Brothers lens, a marvel in terms of both aesthetics and workmanship, earning much admiration.

Meanwhile, the walkers followed the trail leading to the bay, which served as the landing point for all goods and people arriving at Cape Willoughby. The foundations of the original keeper’s cottages remain visible, offering a glimpse into the historical landscape.

Upon returning to the ship, we took the opportunity to freshen up for Captain Mark’s welcome drinks. The day had significantly brightened, allowing us to appreciate the beauty of Antechamber Bay’s surroundings. As the evening progressed, a stunning sunset adorned the horizon, providing a perfect conclusion to our exploration.

South Australia

Day 2: Antechamber Bay

5 December 2023

The day began with the sight of the broad expanse of Antechamber Bay and its white beaches. Named by Matthew Flinders, this bay was the first of many destinations on our journey. The morning was soft and overcast, with just enough swell to make the wet landing challenging. Sea Lions made their way through the dunes, and our Great Whites explored the beach before rejoining the loop trail across Chapman River. In the afternoon, the groups swapped activities.

On the beach, we started exploring the ancient, jagged black sedimentary rocks at the headland. Peter explained the geological history of the coastline, its connection with Antarctica, and how the landscape evolved over almost 300 million years. As we meandered inland, GL Peter Canty, a botanist, highlighted distinctive elements of the coastal flora, such as Old Man’s Beard (Clematis microphylla), Coastal Daisy (Olearia axillaris), Coastal Wattle (Acacia longifolia), Flax Lilies (Dianella species), and the Narrow-leaf Mallee (Eucalyptus cneorifolia). The GLs also discussed the identification of different Eucalyptus species and other native plants.

The trail led us to the banks of the Chapman River, where a new swinging suspension bridge provided safe access across the tannin-stained waters. Peter spotted a male Scarlet Robin, showcasing its red breast for us to see. Meanwhile, the lighthouse team enjoyed a walk to Smugglers Cove, a tour of Cape Willoughby Lighthouse, and a close look at the Order One Chance Brothers lens.

Cape Willoughby is South Australia’s first lighthouse and the 12th in Australia. The evening brightened, allowing us to enjoy Captain Mark’s welcome drinks, surrounded by the beauty of Antechamber Bay. As the day concluded, a stunning sunset painted the sky with vibrant hues.

South Australia

Day 3: Cape Borda

6 December 2023

At first light, the CG traced its course past the northwestern shores of Kangaroo Island, with our ultimate destination set for the remote outpost of Cape Borda. While breakfast was being enjoyed, a reconnaissance of our planned landing spot at Snellings Beach revealed that the swell was too fierce to consider a safe landing. Continuing along the coast, we reached the craggy opening to Western River Cove, one of the most spectacular bays on the island. This location holds historical significance, being the scene of a dramatic rescue on the harrowing first day of the bushfires that swept the island during the summer of 2019-2020.

Upon our arrival, the skies were adorned with vivid steely-gray clouds, featuring undulating mammatus formations. Despite the dramatic scenery, we boarded the Xplorers for a second attempt at a shore excursion. Unfortunately, the wave surge was deemed unsafe once again. Our consolation prize came in the form of an extended coastal cruise, tracing the imposing cliffs of the Western River Wilderness Protection Area. These shores stand as some of South Australia’s wildest, providing us with the opportunity to observe not only the geological formations but also the post-fire regrowth of vegetation.

At Seal Beach, we encountered opportunities to witness both Sea Lions and Fur Seals frolicking around the jagged pinnacles. Amidst the ubiquitous presence of gulls and cormorants, our GL Peter also skillfully captured a photograph of a Kestrel in action, swooping over a none-too-pleased Sea Eagle.

Rejoining the CG, we resumed our survey of the shoreline, enjoying the breathtaking views from the comfort of the ship. Over the next few hours, the landscape continued to unfold with soaring bluffs and secluded bays, including renowned anchorages like Snug Cove and formidable formations such as Cape Torrens – South Australia’s highest sea cliffs.

Following a hearty lunch, we returned upstairs for Quentin’s insightful presentation on the stunning geology of the coastline. He delved into the mighty forces that continue to shape these shores, providing a captivating backdrop to the scenic wonders we were encountering. As Quentin’s talk unfolded, we finally reached Cape Borda, marked by its distinctive pillar box lighthouse atop a massive craggy edifice. The lower band of the cliff comprises ancient 522-million-year-old meta-sandstones, capped with a thick layer of limestone dating back just a few hundred thousand years.

As we crossed Investigator Strait, the clouds parted, gracing us with brighter skies. The afternoon brought the first round of bridge and engine room tours, providing insights into the inner workings of the Coral Geographer. Following these tours, Arron hosted a special Wine Tasting event, featuring premium wines expertly paired with delectable canapés.

As the day unfolded, we were treated to more geological wonders in the form of Wedge Island’s limestone ramparts. These formations glowed in the warm hues of the setting sun, providing a fitting and visually stunning conclusion to an extraordinary day filled with geological marvels.

South Australia

Day 4: Reevesby Island

7 December 2023

In stark contrast to the towering geological formations of the previous day, we awoke to a picturesque view of low-lying isles. Reevesby Island, the largest in the Sir Joseph Banks Group, took center stage. Sir Joseph Banks, a renowned ‘scientific gentleman,’ was aboard the Endeavour with James Cook in 1770. Serving as the president of the Royal Society, Banks played a crucial role in launching Flinders on his voyage of discovery. Reevesby Island and its neighboring isles are named after villages in Lincolnshire, with Banks’s country seat being Reevesby Abbey.

Notably, Reevesby Island is infamous for its resident populations of Black Tiger Snakes and Death Adders. Our shore parties exercised extra vigilance as they navigated the island’s interior, ensuring a cautious exploration of this unique and potentially hazardous environment.

The island’s other notable inhabitants are the Greater Stick-nest Rats, affectionately known as ‘Stickies.’ These charming rodents are among Australia’s most endearing and endangered native species. Once abundant on the mainland, their population dwindled, and by the 1970s, they were found only on the Franklin Islands in the Nuyts Archipelago. In an effort to secure their survival, captive-bred Stickies have been introduced to various islands and mainland sanctuaries. Reevesby now boasts a healthy resident population of Stickies.

Our adventures on Reevesby Island began at Morton Bay on the northern flanks, greeted by rippling grey clouds overhead. Stepping through the shallows to the beach, we had the opportunity to observe birds, swim, and explore the shoreline. A discovery of a deceased Sea Lion bull sparked a discussion about this species’ powerful teeth and jaws.

Reevesby Island, like many larger islands in the state, holds a fascinating farming history. A visit to the homestead after lunch prompted reflections on the perseverance of families who attempted to make a living in such a wild and windswept locale. A dedicated Tumby Bay volunteer group has worked tirelessly to preserve the remaining farm buildings. Since the end of farming in the 1970s, the island has been incorporated into the Sir Joseph Banks Group Conservation Park.

We traversed the isthmus to Haystack Beach and looped back around to Home Bay. The ‘long walkers’ embarked on a journey along the isle’s east coast, strolling along white-sand beaches and granite headlands en route to the homestead. Bird sightings along the way included Red-necked Stints, Hooded Plovers, Red-capped Plovers, White-fronted Chats, and a juvenile Sea Eagle, accompanied by the usual array of gulls and cormorants. The exploration also involved beachcombing, adding to the rich experiences on this remarkable island.

Amidst the exploration, there were moments of shared maritime wisdom and observations from Anita and Peter. The granite boulders were briefly inhabited by several Stickies, their agile movements adding a touch of enchantment to our island encounter.

Back on board, Peter delivered a presentation on Coastal Photography, which showcased various features of coastal Australia and provided insights into his personal approach to photography. Dinner that evening featured BBQ night, with chefs working over the outdoor BBQ on the Vista Deck to present a selection of meats and salads. Wrapped in blankets and down jackets, we relished a very convivial night. Judging by its popularity, there were even several trips for seconds!

South Australia

Day 5: Coffin Bay

8 December 2023

At first light, yet another remarkable sky revealed itself as the CG glided through glassy-calm waters south of Point Whidbey. This presented a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of islands seldom seen, including Perforated Island, Four Hummock Island, and, in the far west, the shapely granite pyramids of Greenly Island. Epic beams of light broke through, illuminating the mainland coast of Coffin Bay Peninsula.

As the sou’easter picked up, the CG dropped anchor, and soon, white caps adorned the water. Matthew Flinders named this sweeping bay after Sir Isaac Coffin, an Admiral of the Blue, who enjoyed a distinguished naval career, marked by courageous rescues of drowning sailors in two separate incidents. The injuries sustained during these rescues eventually limited him to shore duties, including the role as commissioner of the naval shipyard at Sheerness. It was here that Sir Isaac befriended Flinders and played a pivotal role in fitting out the HMS Investigator for its Voyage to Terra Australis.

Our full day ashore began with a lively Xplorer run through shallow enclosures leading to Coffin Bay’s township. Passing the expansive oyster leases in Port Douglas, bosun Jesse skillfully maneuvered our vessel through waves and tight turns in the entrance channel. We reached the recesses of the bay, past throngs of cormorants, to the boat ramp, where massive trailers revealed the size of the oyster punts working in the leases. Free time allowed us to wander the town’s Oyster Walk, spotting several birds, including a Spotted Crake. After shopping, ice creams, and coffees, we regrouped at the yacht club for a bus ride to Yarnbala on the edge of town.

Yarnbala, a new family venture, conserves and celebrates the remnant sheoak woodland adjoining the township. Kane and Brooke Slater created a characterful venue using rustic and recycled materials. Kane led us on a short but information-packed walk through the bush, highlighting important plant species, bush tucker, and sharing ‘big picture’ ideas about caring for the natural world. The walk concluded with an entertaining introduction to the art of water divining.

Lunch at Yarnbala HQ featured an endless supply of delicious wood-fired pizzas, complemented by various beverages, including distinctive gin concoctions. After a long day ashore, it was time to return to our Xplorer for the run to the National Park. Under the warming sunshine, we paused at The Brothers, two small and ragged limestone islands home to an array of birdlife. A pair of dozing Long-nosed Fur Seals and a handful of Australian Sea Lions enjoying some R&R together added to the day’s discoveries.

After dinner, our day was bookended by another vivid sky adorned with whorls of cloud and fiery hues.

South Australia

Day 6: Flinders Island

9 December 2023

Clouds and spattering rain greeted us at first light as the CG slipped northwards past Topgallant Island to anchor off Gem Beach on the northern tip of Flinders Island. This island, South Australia’s second-largest offshore island, is named after Samuel Flinders, who was aboard the HMS Investigator with his older brother Matthew. The island, along with the entire Investigator Group, marked our western limit of exploration on this voyage. Unfortunately, the unruly weather ruled out any thoughts of making a landing.

Thankfully, the Woolford brothers—Tobin and Jonas, along with Tobin’s wife Carissa—were able to visit the ship to share their story. A family of farmers and abalone divers, the Woolfords have owned Flinders Island for more than 40 years. Along with cooking abalone for us, they discussed their diving operations and their partnership with National Parks SA for the restoration and revegetation of the island. This is in preparation for the introduction of several endangered species to the safety of the island. On the tourism side, they have renovated a handsome beach house at Groper Bay for holiday stays. In the comfort of the Bridge Deck Lounge, the family treated us to a taste of green lip and black lip sashimi abalone, along with some pan-seared abalone. They shared the history of the abalone business and the advancements in packaging and preservation for freshness and flavor. They expressed their hope to expand more into the Australian market, and for those interested, it was possible to purchase tins and vac-packed produce. Overall, it was a highly informative session and a revealing look at one family’s fascinating island history.

After lunch, the CG resumed its journey, with Captain Mark deciding to make for Port Lincoln and the safest possible anchorage due to a major weather event looming. Skirting the eastern shores of Flinders Island, Quentin provided an overview of the remarkable exploits of Flinders and Baudin as they charted these shores back in 1802-1803. Shortly afterward, Peter took the stage to present his talk ‘What’s in a Name?’—an outline of modern botany, referencing botanical specimens collected on the Flinders and Baudin expeditions and linking this to the ongoing work of the SA Herbarium.

By dinnertime, the CG faced big seas and strong winds. The rain had eased through the afternoon, and a setting sun backlit the plumes of spray lifting off the waves. Just before seeking the sanctuary of our cabins, there were glimpses of Coffin Bay’s rakish dunes, and to the west, the silhouette of Greenly Island flanked with clouds.

South Australia

Day 7: Port Lincolin

10 December 2023

Amidst this morning’s dark skies streaming with clouds and rain, a few of us early risers also spied the flashing beams from Cape Donington Lighthouse. This was a welcome sight as the Coral Geographer eased into Boston Bay. After a tempestuous night at sea, it was a relief to be back in smoother waters. Given the inclement weather, we had a day of mostly land-based activities.

After breakfast, we boarded the Xplorer for a commute to Port Lincoln. Once ashore, there was time to enjoy the esplanade’s attractions, including statues of both Matthew Flinders and, by way of contrast, Melbourne Cup legend Makybe Diva. The next stop was the Axel Stenross Museum, celebrating the achievements of this Finnish boat builder who made Port Lincoln his home after jumping ship in the 1920s. Packed with maritime history, relics, and artifacts, the museum provided a wonderful insight into the days of windjammers and the town’s rich fishing and nautical traditions. Kim from EP Bus Charters also shared a wealth of information about Port Lincoln’s history and remarkably diverse fishing industry.

Our overland journey took us back to Coffin Bay, where we were treated to lunch at the local volunteer-run Yacht Club. Many of us enjoyed a fine feed of King George Whiting. Grateful for the refuge of the yacht club due to the cold, wet weather, we spent the rest of the afternoon there.

One by one, our groups were collected for an oyster experience with the team from Experience Coffin Bay. Presenter Scott gave a rapid and thorough rundown on what makes Coffin Bay special for oysters, emphasizing factors such as the bay’s clean environment and seasonal upwellings that circulate the nutrients oysters thrive on. Then it was time to sample the product—freshly shucked just minutes earlier—along with a glass or two of bubbly.

After a long day out, it was back onto the bus for our return to Port Lincoln and a reunion with the Xplorer. The run across the bay to the ship was a real adventure with lively winds and a steep chop. There were plenty of bumps and splashes along the way, but soon enough, we were back with the CG.

South Australia

Day 8: Cape Donington

11 December 2023

Amidst more moody skies, wind, mist, and rain this morning, it was hardly surprising that the Expo Team invited us to pass the time enjoying the ship’s shelter and comfort. The morning highlight was GL Dale’s extended presentation on her beloved Seals and Sea Lions. This deep dive into the world of Australia’s most endearing marine mammals was entertaining and served as an ideal prelude to our planned visit to Seal Bay.

By lunchtime, conditions had improved, and we eagerly looked forward to a stint ashore. Our afternoon excursion took us to a beach landing at the foot of Stamford Hill, in Lincoln National Park. The hill climbers strode up a well-made path, complete with secure steps that led to a lookout presenting an epic panorama of Boston Bay and beyond—with Coral Geographer standing proud in the scene. While the hill had been wreathed in cloud for much of the day, we were blessed with breaks in the cloud for our time up top. A short distance further along the trail, we were atop the summit with the grand obelisk of the Mathew Flinders Memorial. Incredibly, this memorial was first erected here in the early 1840s, though it had to be rebuilt around 30 years later. This is a remarkable early monument for South Australia—one that owed much to the determination of Lady Jane Franklin. Her husband, Sir John Franklin—Tasmania’s then Governor—was not only a renowned Arctic explorer but was Flinders’ nephew by marriage and served as a young midshipman aboard HMS Investigator.

In contrast to the ascent, the track for the downhill run was more rugged with many swarming masses of ants. However, once on flat ground, we could relax into our stride through a dense woodland of mallee and melaleuca. The team doing the shorter coastal walk to Woodcutters Beach had their share of rocky terrain, but generally, the track was straightforward and gently undulating. Along the way, several birds were heard and spied, including Rock Parrots, Striated Pardalotes, and White-browed Scrub Wrens. After so much rain, the woodland looked lush with rich colors, especially in the trunks of the mallee.

Before long, we were all reunited at Woodcutters. Another rain squall descended on us as we waited for the pickup. But in true expedition spirit, we braved the long wade through the shallows back to the Xplorer—many of us grateful for a helping hand from the Expedition Crew and our fellow travelers—a real adventure! During our run back to the ship, the weather suddenly cleared, revealing blue skies and bright sun. After a quick freshen-up, we reconvened on Bridge Deck aft for a drink and a fascinating cooking demo with Chef Chris. As well as sharing his backstory in restaurant kitchens, Chris showcased his take on preparing green and black-lipped abalone kindly supplied by the Woolford family. All the while, we were bathed in brilliant warm sunshine with dolphins frolicking in the bay—a truly miraculous change after nearly three days of storms.

The fun continued after dinner with Harry and Jessie hosting the famous Coral Expeditions Quiz. This lively session of questions provoked much hushed conversation as each team wrestled with the answers.

South Australia

Day 9: Boston Island

12 December 2023

We woke to the now familiar surroundings of Boston Bay. It was a spectacular, eerily calm morning with glass-smooth water and a low bank of mist hugging the wooded shores of Cape Donington. Crested Terns were busy feeding about the ship as we gathered in the dining room for breakfast. For more than 40,000 years, these shores of Eyre Peninsula have been the traditional land and sea country of the Barngala and Nauo peoples. Like so many Australian coastal areas blessed with bays and natural harbors, Galinyala (Boston Bay) has long been a stronghold of Indigenous life and culture.

Our destination was Boston Island in the heart of the bay. Owned by the Davis family since 1954, this 960-hectare island has been extensively grazed since early settlement in the 1840s and was the site for an Anglican Mission for the local Barngala Aborigines in the 1850s. At times, more than 3000 sheep have grazed its pastures, but in recent years the Davis clan has turned to a program of destocking and revegetation—all pointing to a future of nature-based tourism.

Both our walking parties had a chance to chat with Hugh Davis, who shared some of his family history and the efforts to rehabilitate the island’s habitats and conservation status. After breakfast, the Xplorer whisked us across the bay to Squeaky Beach on the island’s northeastern corner. The short walkers enjoyed a leisurely wander across to the island’s western side. We paused to admire the original 1850’s homestead, looking quite smart with its red roof and fresh limewash. Our route then took us past the main homestead with its tanks and windmills and a large expanse of black plastic for catching rainwater—reminders that water is a precious and scarce commodity in these parts. From here, it was a short detour onto the island’s airstrip, which gave us a clear run back to Squeaky Beach with panoramic views across to the mainland.

Meanwhile, those on the longer walk traversed Boston Island’s hinterland. As well as a mix of farm relics and cleared paddocks, there were impressive stands of old-growth mallees and positive signs of regenerating native vegetation, including native spear-grass and wallaby-grass. We took in the expansive views of Boston Bay, including its other islands and many kingfish and tuna pens. It was a glorious day for a walk with vivid skies and some spectacular cloud formations. After so much rain, the bush seemed re-energized. So too were the Cape Barren Geese who were spotted in many locations across the island. Our final destination was Picnic Beach on the isle’s eastern shores where we were collected by the Xplorer for the commute back to the ship. After lunch, it was time to reboard the tenders for a return visit to the peninsula. In contrast to the morning’s bright skies, conditions were somewhat hazy with a steady nor’easter.

From Donington Beach, many of us made a short coastal woodland walk to the modern lighthouse at the tip. This 1970’s hexagonal concrete tower, while functional, lacks the charm of a classic lighthouse. Nevertheless, as Quentin explained, it has played a crucial role in helping vessels make a safe entry to the busy fishing and freight hub of Port Lincoln. Back at Cape Donington Beach, there was time for some beachcombing and a quick swim (for a brave few!) before a cruise out to a small craggy island off the cape. Here, amid hundreds of Black-faced Cormorants, we saw groups of sea lions huddled on the rocks. Dale and Quentin gave detailed commentary on the role of these haul-out sites and the unfolding action. As well as dozing adults, there were several playful ‘juvies’ and one or two bigger males in the water close to our boat. It was a great way to end the day and another glimpse into the pulse of life on SA’s island realms. Once back on board the CG, we joined Wayne in the Bridge Deck Lounge for a presentation outlining some of the other expedition offerings in the future. As we tucked into dinner, the ship was underway, heading back into Spencer Gulf and bound for our return visit to Kangaroo Island.

South Australia

Day 10: American River

13 December 2023

A stunning sunrise beckoned as the CG eased into the Eastern Cove of Nepean Bay just offshore of American River. After a hearty breakfast, we boarded the Xplorers for another day on Australia’s third-largest island, including a visit to the famed Seal Bay. Stepping ashore on the boat ramp pontoons, we were in the heart of American River’s small wharf precinct, with several yachts on moorings nearby. The town sits at the entry to the Pelican Lagoon and is the hub of the local oyster farming operation. The adjacent large shed is home to a replica ‘in progress’ of the Independence, a small 35-ton ship that was built here by American sealers in the winter of 1803.

From the wharf, one group ventured directly to Seal Bay while the rest followed the waterfront waking trail along the shores of the lagoon. This was SA’s first marine sanctuary and remains an important nursery ground for fish, as well as a prime habitat for waterfowl and other birdlife. It was a pleasant, breezy day for a stroll with plenty of coastal vegetation to enjoy, including dryland tea tree and native juniper, not to mention sweeping views across the lagoon with Black Swans, White-faced Herons, and several duck species. Those traveling to Seal Bay traversed the island’s farming heartland before making the run to the South Coast. At the bay itself, there was something for everyone, with an option to observe the Sea Lions from the comfort of the boardwalk and lookout or the steeper trek downhill for a guided tour on the beach. Dale and Quentin each escorted small groups onto the sand to enjoy a close encounter with a throng of seals and learn yet more about their remarkable lives. Thankfully the sun was out for our beach visit, and we were treated to lots of activity from the bulls and juvenile males, all jostling with each other at the start of the breeding season. As well as many youngsters from the previous breeding season in winter 2022, there was also a chance at the lookout to see a few of the latest batch of pups – little brown bundles being cared for by their moms.

Once we had all returned to the CG and the tenders were stowed, it was time to convene with the expedition crew upstairs. The sideshow of images put together by Anita was a chance to revisit the various highlights and activities of the voyage. Despite some stormy weather, we had managed to achieve a remarkable mix of adventures during our 10 days aboard the Geographer. All that remained was to enjoy the canapes and drinks on Captain Mark’s shout before descending to the dining room for another fine feast.

Day 11: Outer Harbour

14 December 2023

The homeward leg was a calm overnight run into Gulf St Vincent. Daylight revealed the beachside. The clouds had eased, and the breakwaters of Outer Harbour were lit with bright sunshine. After so many rugged coastlines, the port structures were a bit of a shock. Following a final hearty breakfast – and with bags on the dock – we said our final farewells from the Coral Geographer and crew. Then, rather reluctantly, it was time to leave the ‘bubble’ of shipboard life and step back into the reality of being landlubbers once more.





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