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Commencing from Cairns, Coral Expeditions home base, Coral Adventurer spends 60 days (59 nights) exploring history, culture, nature and maritime history of Australia’s coast on a full circumnavigation of Australia.
Expedition Leader Cara Cavanagh, along with expedition crew and knowledgeable guest lecturers, are onboard keeping us up-to-date with a daily trip report. Follow their exciting shore excursions with the trip highlights refreshed daily on this page.
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This voyage was to be the product of many years of accumulated Australian coastal history going back to the early Australian navigators like Cook, Matthew Flinders, Phillip Parker King & John Lort Stokes, combined with modern science & the experience of Coral Expeditions over the last thirty odd years of coastal expeditions. The bi-centenary celebration of Captain Parker King’s detailed charting of the complete Australian coastline, starting in 1820, was the inspiration for this special circumnavigation event.
This was a significant location in Cook’s 1770 examination of our east coast and his damaged vessel and subsequent weeks (42 days) of repair gave him and his men a chance to look around in detail and also learn some ethnographic details from the Aboriginal residents. This was the only place in mainland Australia where he had the time to explore the land as such. His men hunted turtles and some kangaroos for food, now thought to be pretty-faced wallabies, & today a brass kangaroo monument stands on Grassy Hill modeled on the first known ‘western’ kangaroo painting by Joseph Banks’ young artist, Sydney Parkinson. The name ‘kangaroo’ also came from this encounter when the locals tried to say ‘gangurru’. Parkinson also painted the beautiful Golden Guinea Flower for Banks, which we saw in flowers in the park. A cross-cultural dispute broke out about Cook’s crew not wanting to share the marine turtles they had stored on board for the long journey back to England, but a wonderful old man with a broken spear showed a delighted Cook that ‘all was forgiven’ and the crew was reunited with the locals.
Once on the shore at the boat ramp, only meters from where Cook’s gang came ashore, we divided into several groups. Some of us took a bus tour while the rest walked to the numerous town interest points, which included the highly educational Cooktown Museum and the spectacular view of the region from the Grassy Hill Lookout. This town is immensely proud of Captain Cook! The Museum told Cook’s story in detail and highlighted many of Sir Joseph Bank’s young artists, Sydney Parkinson’s plant and animal paintings. Around the walls of the museum were stories of Cook’s natural and cultural experiences during his time here. We read of the disputes which arose from cultural misunderstandings, but by the time he sailed the repaired Endeavor out of Cooktown, they had resolved their differences. Later some of us walked across town to the historic Cooktown Cemetery to see the grave of Mary Watson, then down to the Restitution Rocks memorial to learn more about this fascinating story of Cook’s interactions with the locals.
From the museum, some of us took the early ride back to the wharf and onto the Calorie Ship. Others checked out the new Bush Artists Gallery and the Kuku Bulkaway Indigenous Art Gallery. By eleven thirty we had all made it back to the wharf where we were promptly collected by the Xplorer. Some of us got more than a little ‘refreshed’ in the Xplorer from the lively ocean conditions on the way back to the ship.
Our afternoon journey took us to Lizard Island in time to enjoy Captain Matthew’s complimentary welcome drinks as we anchored in the sunset at the tranquil Watson’s Bay anchorage.
This morning we had the choice of a few activities on beautiful Lizard Island. For those keen or crazy enough to climb up to Cook’s Lookout on Lizard Island it was a 6:00am start. Richard led the group setting a steady climb up the track. A fresh wind kept everyone cool as they clambered up this substantial granite mountain. After an hour and a half of climbing, they arrived at the top, 345 meters above the sea below. The view from on top over the island and surrounding reef were breathtaking. After several photos and snacks, we signed the visitor’s book and returned to Watson’s Bay.
Another group went for a circuit walk with Ian through the wetland system on the western side of the island. Our pathway took us through both freshwater paperbark forest, then parallel to a tidal creek. Many bird species were seen and heard. From the footbridge across the tidal creek, we saw many types of fish and rays.
To complete the circuit, we viewed the scene of part of the drama at the ruins of Mrs. Watson’s cottage. A dispute with the mainland Dingaal people back in 1881 over a sacred area violation resulted in the death of the Chinese gardener and the wounding of another Chinese servant. Mary, her baby Ferrier, and the wounded man took to sea in an iron beche-de-mer boiling tank to escape the Dingaal. Mary kept a diary to the last which showed they died of thirst on a distant island after nine days. Some of us were able to visit Mary Watson’s grave in Cooktown Cemetery yesterday.
Back to the natural history of the island, the attractive seed pods of the Kapok Bush were a feature, along with Bush Apple flowers, and the noisy little yellow sunbirds, milkfish, mullet, and herring were seen feeding from the bridge over the little tidal creek, to the background sound of a noisy colony of black flying foxes camped further back in the mangroves. We kept our eyes out for the creature that Captain James Cook named the island after, namely the yellow-spotted monitor (Varanus panoptes), but it was a hot day and although there were plenty of tracks, no goannas were spotted. These handsome reptiles are in serious trouble on the Australian mainland, as a result of the toxic Cane Toads. Toads have been strenuously prevented from colonising this island in an effort to save the unique ecology and in particular, the goanna population.
Once the adventurous group had set off for the eastern beach at Blue Lagoon, the rest of the day was spent snorkelling and kayaking in the clear turquoise waters of the Watson’s Bay Reef. All sorts of fish could be seen such as butterfly fish, surgeon fish, clown fish, parrot fish, coral trout, and damsel fish, as well as blue-spotted lagoon rays and very docile juvenile green turtles.
Our final activity was to enjoy sunset drinks at high tide on Watsons Bay Beach – a very relaxing way to finish the day!
A jewel of the Coral Sea Marine Park and one of the destinations we all really wanted to see was Osprey Reef. This giant reef is a seamount at the edge of our continental shelf and rises about 2000m to the current sea level from the sea floor. It has a very large area and we understood some incredible fish life. As it said in our notes “Coral Expeditions is one of the few tour operators that have the facilities to allow us to explore this breathtaking coral reef system.”
The weather was a bit blowy for our visit and after breakfast, we made our way to two sites Round the Bend and Admiralty Anchor. We had to separate the Xplorers as the dropping tide made tying up together awkward. We were in deep waters, but the visibility was outstanding. We found out very quickly that fish life was massive. Divers enjoyed the walls and the rest enjoyed the reef flats. We whet our appetites in the morning and were promised a better snorkel/dive in the afternoon. After an early lunch, we boarded one Xplorer and journeyed north towards the tip of Osprey Reef. Sea conditions were now much better with the ebbing tide and so we were given an opportunity to drift snorkel and dive the North Horn wall. This turned out to be a magnificent wall drift snorkel/dive. Fish life was extraordinary with sharks, giant coral trout, huge bump-headed Maori Wrasse, Giant Trevally, and many other pelagics.
Overnight, we made our way west across the bottom of the huge Princess Charlotte Bay to the Flinders Island Group. During breakfast, at a distance, we passed a giant angular rock in the ocean called Ngurromo, or Clack Island’s modern navigators. Phillip was later to give us the fine details of this place. In summary, it is a ‘man’s only’ sacred site, only for initiated Yiithuwarra men from the nearby mainland and islands. We anchored off a long beach on Stanley Island (Yindayin) and took the Xplorer across to a beach landing in front of a towering conglomerate formation called Stingray Rock. We walked from there to the mangrove community surrounding a little beach behind Stingray Rock. There we saw the camouflaged nest of a beach stone-curlew with one egg. The nervous parent stood at a distance and watched us. Down at the water’s edge, we were able to observe reef sharks and rays foraging in the shallow waters of the bay.
We then followed the track to the high rock shelters where the Yindayin art galleries displayed some of the human histories of this remote part of the Australian coastline. We saw illustrations of marine creatures such as crocodiles, stingrays, and turtles, as well as depictions of some of the early European navigator’s vessels, which probably included people like James Cook, Matthew Flinders, and Phillip Parker King – all of whom recorded passing visits to these islands in their journals.
Last night, Phillip showed us a documentary, narrated by Noel Pearson, which explained the recent pressures on the Yiithuwarra people, who are the traditional owners of Yindayin (Stanley Is.), and why it is no longer easy for them to manage Stanley Island. Community rangers from Laura, on the mainland, in conjunction with the Qld. National Parks & Wildlife Service, regularly visit this island to maintain the tracks and facilities
After lunch, we headed off across the wide Princess Charlotte Bay, past Clack Island, later dropping anchor near a small build-up of reef sand and beach rock which had been given the name of Davie Cay. It looked quite insignificant on arrival, but by the time the Xplorer got us in towards the sand cay, things began to get interesting. Divers and snorkelers went over first to check out the colourful coral reef. For the remainder, the objective was to circumnavigate the rather elongated sand cay on foot and observe the rather abundant birdlife there, which consisted mainly of breeding brown boobies. The birds seemed quite comfortable with us visitors and enabled us to get many good images. Silver gulls were also present in small numbers, ever watchful for unprotected eggs of the breeding boobies. We kept to the shoreline but got lots of good photos of boobies and their fluffy white chicks. Once we had completed the circuit, we had the option of returning to the CD or swimming off the beach or from the back of the Xplorer. The corals were in good condition & many colourful images were taken.
After a very calm night at sea, followed by a beautiful morning, we visited an island nearer to the cape mainland and not far from the Aboriginal community of Lockhart River, near Cape Weymouth. Historic Restoration Island was the home of David Glasheen and his friendly dingo, Polly. David welcomed us to his ‘reclusive paradise’ and gave us the opportunity to wander through his rather unique settlement, or to simply sit in the shade and discuss with him his reclusive lifestyle – to say the least! Many of us asked ourselves the question “Could we live in these conditions?” – not an easy question to answer! Captain William Bligh (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) landed on this same island in 1789 after an epic ocean crossing in an open boat with 18 men. He named it Restoration Island in “gratitude to God” for their deliverance from the sea. When we arrived on the island, a well-tanned old gentleman with flowing white hair & beard, who has lived there for over twenty years, welcomed us. This former millionaire has since produced a popular book, written here on the island called “The Millionaire Castaway”.
Some of us wandered around his little tropical estate while the rest were able to relax in the shade and enjoy David’s experience and philosophies on world issues, etc.
For our afternoon exercise, we anchored in the Piper Island Group for an excursion to nearby Farmer Island.
The dominant species of bird on the island was the big white Torresian Imperial pigeon. Hundreds of these birds were nesting in the dry rainforest of the little sandy island and their soft cooing made a pleasant background noise as we walked along the shoreline. These powerful-flying birds were feeding in the mainland forests of Cape York and carrying the fruits in their crops back to the island to feed their brooding partners and chicks. These birds are primarily responsible, through seed transport from the mainland, for the maintenance of the forest on these islands.
Other species of birds seen on the island today included nesting black-naped terns, sooty terns, varied honeyeaters, intermediate egrets, eastern reef egrets, lesser frigatebirds, pied and sooty oystercatchers, white-breasted wood-swallows, beach stone-curlew, and the widespread silver gull. Tracks of both nesting turtles and small saltwater crocodiles were also seen.
A stunning morning at the mouth of the Escape River. The famous Rusty and his beautiful wife Bronwyn were there to welcome us with open arms as we landed the Xplorer on Torres Pearl Farm. Our guests were able to explore this remote pearl farm and the layers of history on its grounds.
Rusty then welcomed us all into his outdoor display center and gave our guests an amazing insight into the growing, seeding, harvesting, and production of his beautiful saltwater pearls.
After many yarns and a few sneaky pearl purchases, it was time to wave goodbye to our old friends.
We then went for a cruise up the Escape River amongst the mangrove systems.
Whimbrels were scattering from their mangrove perches letting out their distinct high pitch calls. A Torresian kingfisher was perched high on a tree top looking on intently for its next meal. Ian explained the intricacies of the mangrove habitats and their inhabitants.
Back on board, Goyma gave a presentation on “Bush Foods of Northern Australia”. Afterward, it was time for afternoon tea and the reef pilot had organised a special transit through Albany passage, so while we were transiting through this narrow gap between the historical settlement of Sommerset and Albany Island Ian gave some interesting interpretation from the bridge deck aft.
This evening we made it to the northernmost tip of Australia. We landed the Explorers just next to the sign and we were able to enjoy champagne on the shore and celebrate this milestone on our epic lap around Australia.
This morning we anchored just off the main jetty of beautiful Thursday Island also known as Waiben in the Kawrareg dialect. Our excursions this morning were a chance to experience the melting pot of cultures that make up this centerpiece of the Islands of the Torres Strait.
We split into two groups with one heading off on a guided bus tour, with stops that included Green Hill Fort with its panoramic views and its museum and tunnels. The final stop on the bus tour was the Gab Titui Cultural Centre with its displays of artwork, sculptures, and jewellery all made from local materials by local artists. As the second group landed we were met by Samual and Nathan, two dancers from the Island Stars Cultural Experience. The young boys were in ceremonial dress and as they guided us up the street they played their giant conch shells to announce our arrival.
Our guests were given a Welcome to Country and the young boys danced expressing their connection to their island culture.
A little sleep-in for our guests today with them coming for their buffet breakfast at 0800. I think everyone was ready for a bit of a rest day onboard after a solid first week of excursions. After breakfast, Ian gave a presentation on saltwater crocodiles.
Next up Lead Chef, Dylan gave a cooking demonstration on steak tartar along with a take-home recipe for our guests.
After lunch, Derek gave a presentation on the failed Victoria Settlement.
Afternoon tea was served on the bridge deck aft which was a delicious freshly baked banana bread followed by Goyma’s presentation on Indigenous Kinship.
Our anchorage this morning was the Gove Peninsula in North East Arnhem Land. We boarded the Xplorers and headed for the Gove Boat Club, where the buses were waiting for us to transfer to the Yirrkala Art Centre.
Our guests were greeted by the art center curator and we were shown around the gallery and its different sections which included the history of the center and a detailed explanation of Indigenous Kinship. We were also taken for a look at the workshop with an explanation of how the materials are collected including the harvesting of the Wollybutt bark (Eucalyptus longifolia). The center had a magnificent collection of art using many different types of mediums textures and designs.
After the guided tour our guests were able to browse the center and a few purchases were made before we boarded the buses to head back to the ship for lunch.
After lunch, we moved 10 nautical miles further North to the beautiful Bremmer Island. The owners of the BanuBanu Beach Resort welcomed us to their little slice of paradise and we were able to spend the afternoon relaxing around the resort and swimming in the ocean.
We witnessed a visually stunning morning on the Arafura Sea as we make our way toward the Tiwi Islands. After a relaxing breakfast, Ian Morris and Goyma gave two presentations. The first was on “The Wessel Islands” Goyma’s ancestral country.
Ian and Goyma then gave a combined presentation on “Education in the Top End”. This lecture had been developed on board at the request of several guests looking for more understanding on this subject.
After lunch, Derek gave a presentation on First Settlement: Fort Dundas and Fort Wellington 1824-29.
After steaming all morning land appeared on the horizon on the starboard side of the ship. We could see the southern end of Melville Island, a part of the Tiwi Island group.
After Breakfast Ian gave a presentation on “Strangers on the Shore”, a look at the Maccassan history of the north end of Australia.
After an early lunch, it was time to launch the Xplorers and we cruised for 15 minutes up the channel to Bathurst Island and the township of Wurrumiyanga. John the manager of Tiwi Experience met us at the jetty and we started our guided walk around the island. The first stop was the Tiwi Museum, its walls layered with history telling the stories of the people of this proud island group. Next, we walked over to Tiwi Design, a working art shop with carvings, paintings and tapestry’s showcasing the unique culture of the Tiwis. It was then time to visit Tiwi Tours HQ, where our guests were given a smoking ceremony and totem dancing and we finished off a wonderful afternoon in Wurrumiyanga with damper and billy tea.
Tonight, we moved to the vista deck for our famous BBQ night. A beautiful sunset played out in the background as we toasted a successful day at the Tiwi Islands.
This morning we brought the Coral Adventurer into the Fort Hill Wharf in sunny Darwin. We started with a beautiful brunch prepared by our amazing hospitality team on the vista deck. It was then time for us to depart for our charted flight to the Red Centre of Australia our destination the iconic Uluru. Our Pilot gave us a fly-by of this incredible land formation and the nearby Kata Tjuta National Park. Storm clouds in the area gave a dramatic backdrop and set the scene for the incredible afternoon that was to come.
We boarded our buses and set off for an interpretive tour of the base of this ancient sandstone formation.
Our local guides connected us to the Anangu stories handed down by the traditional owners who inhabited this land. We stopped for a walk at the Mutitjulu waterhole, which was alive with the chorus of Mains frogs singing after the rains earlier in the day. Honey eaters were calling all around us and a spotted bowerbird was observed hopping amongst the spinifex grasses.
As we left Uluru electrical storms were rolling in from the east lighting up the evening sky.
We arrived at Sails In The Desert where champagne and canapes greeted us and an amazing didgeridoo performance.
Our banquet dinner was then served in the ballroom with a real buzz in the air the expedition team joined our guests for dinner.
We enjoyed a lovely sleep-in after our late-night flight from Uluru and most guests were in bed as the ship pulled away from the Darwin Wharf around 8am. Our next destination was Ashmore Reef, a remote platform reef on the edge of the Australian continental shelf. Ashmore Reef is 850 kilometres west of Darwin and the voyage across the Timor Sea takes two days. After brunch, we were introduced to another guest lecturer, Tom who had joined the ship in Darwin. Tom prepared us for the next part of our voyage with an informative presentation about the remote reefs we would be visiting over the next few days. The sea conditions were calm as we steamed across the Timor Sea toward Ashmore Reef.
Later in the day, our expedition team challenged us with quiz about the first part of our voyage from Cairns to Darwin. Georgina was the Quiz Master and competition between teams was fierce but ultimately it was the “Deadly Fifthers” (from level 5) team that won the honours. They proudly sported the Australian Geographic caps they won for the rest of the afternoon (with labels still attached!). A magnificent tropical sunset completed the day and it was soon time to head down to the dining room for another delicious dinner prepared by our chefs. Some of us stayed up to watch a BBC documentary “Ocean Giants” as we continued our crossing of the Timor Sea.
The sea conditions continued to be calm and our overnight steam was very smooth. Just before breakfast a research vessel, RV Solander passed by. The Australian Institute of Marine Science vessel is named for Daniel Solander, a naturalist on Cook’s Endeavour. After breakfast, Cara started our day’s activities with a short presentation about the next leg of the circumnavigation from Darwin and along the west coast to Fremantle.
Guest Lecturer Tom followed shortly afterward with a presentation ‘Seabirds – Survival at Sea’. He explained how they thrive in some of the most challenging environments on the planet. Tom told us how they navigate across hundreds of kilometres of ocean to find food and they are completely at home, far from shore without land to rest on, or fresh water to drink. The presentation was timely given that we are likely to encounter many different species of seabirds both in the tropics and southern seas over the next few weeks.
Another on-board activity on offer during the day was a treasure hunt checking out some of the beautiful artwork on the ship. Guests who entered the treasure hunt had to find eighteen artworks and answer questions about them. Entries had to be submitted later in the day. It was a great opportunity to see some of the artwork and check out different areas on the ship.
Guest Lecturer Ian gave us an insight into the ways Aboriginal people of northern Australia understand annual climate cycles with his presentation ‘Seasons of the North”. Ian explained that Aboriginal people have at least six seasons in a year unlike the European seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Spring. The seasons are closely connected to events in the natural world. Ian gave us numerous examples of seasonal indicators of change such as the flowering of the red Kurrajong flower which indicates it is time to hunt sharks and rays.
We continued our voyage across the Timor Sea still in the relatively shallow waters of the Sahul Shelf (depths around 100m). A slight swell of 1 – 1.5m and accompanying wind of 10 -15 knots reminded us that we were at sea but fortunate to continue having great weather.
During the night the Coral Adventurer continued steaming across the Timor Sea and just after dawn some of the sand cays and breakers on Ashmore Reef could be seen on the horizon. Captain Matthew navigated the ship into a sheltered area on the north-western end of the reef. He didn’t drop the anchor and the ship remained ‘live’ (engines on) all day at the site. Ashmore Reef is an Australian Marine Park located only 110 km south of the island of the Indonesian island of Roti. To ensure that illegal fishing or other prohibited activities don’t occur here, the Australian Government has an Australian Border Force vessel based here permanently.
Our first activity for the day was a snorkelling trip to the reef. Cara selected a site called Manta Alley and both groups had an hour or so snorkelling (and some scuba diving) around a large flat coral platform. The corals appeared in good condition with many species including staghorn, plate, brain, and vase corals. Some snorkellers noticed small mushroom-like corals aptly named Fungi Coral. Snorkellers also saw trepang, blue sea stars, and numerous fish. As well as fish we were joined by some very inquisitive juvenile brown booby birds that flew over the top of snorkellers and in several cases landed in the water nearby.
We couldn’t let the first Tuesday in November pass without listening to the Melbourne Cup so after lunch the expedition team organised a live broadcast of the big race day.
After lunch, a guided bird-watching cruise to West Island was on offer for those interested. West Island is one of three vegetated cays on Ashmore Reef and has a large seabird breeding colony. We saw twelve different bird species. Lesser frigatebirds were the most common and could be seen both in the air and sitting on the shrubs on the cay. The tide was high so our Xplorer driver was able to get the vessel close to West Island Cay for better views. The other birds seen were white-tailed tropicbirds, red-tailed tropicbirds, brown booby, sooty terns, roseate terns, common noddy terns, juvenile red-footed booby, masked booby, ruddy turnstone, buff-breasted rail and reef egret (white and grey morphs). As well as birds we also saw a couple of large green sea turtles and a shark. On the beach, there were several tracks made by turtles nesting on the island.
Shortly after the day’s water activities, Captain Matthew weighed anchor and we continued our voyage south to Scott Reef. He advised us to take any sea sickness medication as he was expecting some movement of the ship in a southerly swell.
Scott Reef is very remote being located nearly 300 kilometres from the Australian mainland. It consists of two large atoll-type reefs (North Reef and South Reef) that rise from depths of 800 metres. Our ship, Coral Adventurer steamed into the deep lagoon of the South Reef shortly before breakfast. After breakfast, we boarded the Xplorers for a snorkel or dive in the clear waters behind the reef edge. It was quite an adventure with many snorkellers (and crew) having their first encounter with sea snakes. Cara had mentioned that they were common here on the reef and although they are quite poisonous, they are very calm around swimmers. The visibility in the water was wonderful and many other marine creatures were seen such as colourful nudibranchs, pin cushion starfish, feather stars, clam shells, and anemone fish. As we headed back to the ship for lunch there were many exciting stories about individual encounters with the very docile sea snakes.
We steamed out of the deep lagoon through a passage near Sandy Islet, a small cay on the western side of the reef. An automatic weather station could be seen on the cay as well as a shipwreck nearby. Tom informed us that the wreck was the Yarra, a sailing ship carrying guano that ran aground here in 1884. There were also two other wrecks on West Hook, the main part of the reef.
During the cruise, many people have been taking photographs of marine life and in the remote places we visit, some species of marine life may be rarely recorded. So, Ian gave a presentation about his life journey with nature photography. Later in the afternoon, Bob, our fellow guest gave a short but interesting presentation on “Flying Fish”, a group of poorly studied fish and it was fascinating to learn how many different species exist. Another magical sunset closed the day as Captain Matthew charted a course southeast to the Lacepede Islands.
During the night we steamed from Scott Reef taking a course that brought us closer to the Australian mainland and at dawn, the Lacepede Islands came into view on the horizon. The islands are part of the traditional sea country of the Bardi people from the nearby Dampier Peninsula and for generations, they visited the islands to hunt turtles and collect seabird and turtle eggs. The Lacepede Islands were named by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin in 1801. He was impressed by the profusion of wildlife on the islands and named them for a famous French naturalist, Bernard de Lacepede. The islands consist of four coral cays called West, Middle, Sandy, and East and as we approached West Island we could see dozens of inquisitive brown booby flying around the Coral Adventurer, some swooping low over the bridge.
We boarded the Xplorers for a closer look at the thousands of nesting birds that live here. On the way to the beach on West Lacepede Island, we came across several large Green Turtles. A large female turtle was resting on the beach after having laid her eggs overnight. Dozens of other turtles had laid eggs on the island as evidenced by the numerous turtle tracks on the beach. Meanwhile, in the water, several male turtles were taking the opportunity to mate with the females. Also resting on the beach were huge flocks (in the 100s) of common noddy terns. Wow! What a display of wildlife – David Attenborough would be in his element here!
We entered the lagoon through a channel between West and Middle Lacepede Island where we saw more birds, turtles, stingrays, and sharks. All morning seabirds flew around us including brown booby, noddy terns, bridled terns, and roseate terns. On the beach, we saw pelicans, pied cormorants, reef egrets, and sooty oystercatchers. Huge flocks of lesser frigatebirds swirled around in thermals above the West Island and Tom reported several shorebird species on the exposed sandbanks including the endangered eastern curlew. It was an awesome display of nature at work.
We returned to the ship and after lunch Guest Lecturer Tom gave an interesting presentation about the early European naturalists and their discoveries on the Western Australian coast. These passionate often eccentric characters were meticulous in collecting thousands of new species of plants and animals for science. They sketched and labeled specimens, pressed plants, and maintained huge collections that took up valuable space in the cramped conditions on the ships. Many new species were discovered including black swans, banded hare-wallaby, and Sturt’s desert pea.
This was followed by a movie afternoon complete with movie snacks such as ice cream. After dinner, we settled back into our cabins for the long crossing to Rowley Shoals.
Rowley shoals are a group of three coral atolls that lie outside the continental shelf 300 kilometres west of Broome. The Australian explorer Phillip Parker King sailed through this region in 1819 and named the reefs after Captain Rowley who first reported the atolls several years earlier. It was an overnight steam in the Coral Adventurer to reach the middle atoll called Clerke Reef. Just after dawn, we arrived at the northwest end of the reef close to Bedwell Island, an unvegetated coral cay on the reef. The waters that surround Clerke Reef are far too deep (about 300 metres) for the Coral Adventurer to anchor so the ship remained ‘live’ for the duration of our visit. There are three narrow channels that allow access to the lagoon for smaller vessels such as the Xplorers and after breakfast, we headed into the lagoon for some snorkelling activities. The water was very clear but wind and current made snorkelling a bit difficult. The reef was in good condition with spectacular giant clams with different coloured mantles. Schools of brilliant blue fish (Chromis spp.) hung at the edge of the drop-off. Some of the corals were spectacular, especially the blue staghorn corals in the deeper water. Some guests also saw a large moray eel.
We returned to the ship and very soon were underway to our next destination the Dampier Archipelago. We steamed along the inner edge of Clerke Reef, a large atoll around 15 kilometres long before continuing south. Later in the afternoon, Ian gave us an interesting presentation about Alfred Russel Wallace, the famous naturalist in the era of Darwin.
During pre-dinner drinks, a seabird was noticed following the ship. ‘Birders’ struggled for a while to identify the species and eventually Naomi nailed it! It was an Abbott’s booby, a rare and endangered species from Christmas Island. The total world population of this species is less than 3000 birds. As well as being a great sighting it was a lifer* for several ‘birders’ on board including guest lecturers Tom and Ian.
*A lifer is a bird species seen for the first time in one’s life.
Today we changed our clocks to Western Australian time. This meant that we were able to have a sleep-in with the extra hour and half time-saving. We cruised along the west coast a long way offshore and the low-lying coast was not visible. For several hours we steamed through long streaks of brown-coloured material suspended in the sea. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by blue-green algae ( cyanobacteria) called Trichodesmium. It is sometimes called ‘sea sawdust’ and it is found in tropical and sub-tropical ocean waters.
Our Assistant Expedition Leader Emily gave a fascinating presentation on ‘Sea Turtles’. Emily is a marine biologist and has a lot of practical experience working with turtles. Her talk generated lots of questions about turtles at the end of her presentation. The hot scones were very popular during morning tea shortly after Emily’s presentation. Guest Lecturer Ian followed with a presentation ‘Sea Level Rise’ – Ian discussed some interesting ideas about how Indigenous people from Arnhem Land adapted to the rapid sea level rises that occurred in the last few thousand years.
As we approached the coast we saw dozens of LNG tankers and bulk ore carriers at anchor queueing to load ore or gas at the port of Dampier. We continued on towards the Dampier Archipelago a group of 42 islands within a 45 km radius of Dampier. This area has very low rainfall and most of the plants are arid zone species. About half of the islands are nature reserves. William Dampier explored this area in 1699 and was the first European to collect specimens of Sturt’s desert pea. We went ashore at West Lewis Island and in the second Xplorer guests saw a large manta ray swim beside the boat. Once ashore we did guided walks with Tom and Ian while the crew set up the bar for sunset drinks. On the beach, Tom pointed out various shells, corals, sponges, seaweeds, a Painted Crayfish, and a dead sea snake. Other guests reported seeing a flock of budgerigars, crested pigeons, and black-faced woodswallow. An osprey and several pied oystercatchers also made an appearance on the beach. It was a delightful afternoon sharing drinks on the deserted beach with our fellow travellers.
The Montebello Islands lie over 100 kilometres from the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. The islands are low-lying and formed from limestone. They were named by the French explorer Baudin when he sailed through this area in 1801. Baudin was a staunch republican so he named the islands after one of the battles of the Napoleanic Wars ‘The Battle of Montebello’. There are about 170 islands in the group and our first excursion was to Trimouille Island, the site of nuclear bomb tests by the UK Government in the 1950’s. We visited two sites during the day. One was ground zero on Trimouille Island where atomic blasts were conducted in 1956. The bombs exploded on top of towers on the island and the second blast was the largest nuclear test conducted in Australia. It was described as a ‘dirty bomb’ and the 60-kiloton blast spread a radioactive cloud across Australia as far as Rockhampton in Queensland.
There is little evidence of an atomic blast today except for signs warning of elevated radiation levels at the site. Visitors are advised to restrict visits to one hour and not handle or remove any objects from the island. There were numerous turtle tracks on the beaches and several large female green sea turtles were seen.
The vegetation on the island is the arid type with spinifex and other grasses being the main species. Rainfall in the area is very low at about 300mm per year (12 inches in old measurements). Despite this, there were lots of beautiful wildflowers including Mulla Mulla, beach morning glory, scaveola, hibbertia and several acacia species.
A large white-bellied eagle flew overhead while walkers were heading up to the Elephant Hill Lighthouse. There were also a couple of sightings of rufous hare-wallaby, a species that has been re-introduced to the island. Other birds seen included white-breasted woodswallow, crested pigeon, and tiny fairy terns.
It was a delightful day and many guests were happy to go ashore and go for walks. After lunch, Ian gave a short presentation about the North West Cape National Park at Exmouth, our next destination.
Coral Adventurer anchored offshore from the Exmouth and after an early breakfast, we went ashore to the Exmouth Marina. Exmouth is a small coastal town of 3000 residents that mainly rely on tourism and fishing so it was not surprising to see prawn trawlers, big game fishing boats, and dive boats moored in the marina. We boarded buses for a scenic tour of the North West Cape. Lots of new houses along the canal estate indicated that a lot of money was been spent in the town mainly by people from Perth. Other employers in the town are the RAAF from the nearby Learmonth Base and US military involved in maintaining the high-tech communication equipment on the Cape.
We drove to a beach where a ship the Mildura lies wrecked passing 13 high communication towers on the way. The masts are over 350 metres high and are the tallest structures in Western Australia. We drove up to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse where we had views of the beautiful clear blue waters of the Ningaloo Reef, a World Heritage Site.
Our next stop was Turquoise Bay part of the long fringing reef system along the western side of North West Cape. We had the opportunity for a drift snorkel along the beach. Due to the relatively high visitation to this site, the colourful reef fish are quite tame and easily approached. Highlights were parrot fish, angel fish, sweetlips, and triggerfish.
After drying off, we continued on in the bus to Yardie Creek National Park where we had lunch under several casuarina trees occupied by many screeching Little Corellas. Tom, Ian, and our new guest lecturer Howard Gray accompanied us on a walk along Yardie Creek to a gorge a few hundred metres inland. Along the way, we saw a pair of ospreys, more corellas, and a colony of black flying fox in the mangroves as well as several arid zone plants.
We returned to ‘downtown’ Exmouth where we had an hour’s free time. The local chemist, IGA, newsagent, and bakery were kept busy the whole time. We returned to the ship and said goodbye to guest lecturer Ian Morris who is leaving us today. Shortly after the captain weighed anchor and we steamed out of Exmouth Gulf.
A windy morning on the WA coast as we made our way toward Batemans Bay. We had spent extra time in Exmouth Gulf the evening before participating in the search for the missing fisherman. Good news came out this morning that he had been found alive and well at sea. We altered our morning excursions until the afternoon and so after breakfast, Tom gave his lecture entitled ” Almost French” a look at the early French navigators of Australia. Next up Howard gave a presentation entitled “A History Through Names” a look at the history of Shark Bay. Lunch was served as we tucked into the southern channel to a place called Stanley Pools. Beautiful views of the dark blue water as it met the aqua blue line of the sand bar running just inside the outer reef. Some guests went with Emily and Georgina in zodiacs to snorkel the Ningaloo Reef while the two Xplorers went for a cruise to spot marine life. We were able to view two large turtles in the sandy shallows and a pair of eagle rays in the turquoise water.
This afternoon Howard gave an account of the bloody story of the Batavia, setting the scene for our visit to Beacon Island in the Abrolhos in a few days time.
We landed on the northern tip of Cape Peron this morning, at the start of the scenic Wanamalu Trail. The stunning red dunes against the white sandy beach and the blue waters made it very picturesque. Some guests chose to tackle the climb up the dunes for the 3.5km return walk along the cliffs, while others choose to take a scenic cruise along the base of the cliffs.
We saw plenty of bird life on the shoreline with a large colony of pied cormorants coming in and out of the water spreading their wings to dry off in the morning sun. We were also lucky enough to come across a pair of dugongs grazing in the seagrass meadows.
Back on board after lunch as we cruised past Cape Inscription, Howard gave commentary at the landing point of Dutchman Dirkhartog the first European recorded landing in Australia in 1616.
Howard then gave a presentation on “Houtman Abrolhos, The Big Picture”.
This morning after breakfast we screened “The Batavia, Wreck, Mutiny and Murder” as we steamed closer to Houtman Abrolhos Islands. Sailing between these low-laying islands situated approx 200nm off the coast of Freemantle, Howard gave some commentary on the vista deck.
Our first visit was to Rat Island and Howard showed our guests the local Crayfish Camps with their colourful exteriors.
After lunch, it was time to visit Little Sandy Island and its colony of sea lions. This beautiful little sand island no more than 500metres in length is covered in wildflowers this time of year and the Sea Lions seemed to enjoy hauling themselves up onto the beach to lay in amongst them. The island is also home to many species of birds including, caspian terns, pacific gulls, pied cormorants, and ruddy turnstones.
There is also a beautiful fringing reef that surrounds the island and our guests were able to spend the afternoon floating over the layers of plate and staghorn corals.
We finished off our first afternoon at the Abrolhos with Champagne and sea lions as the sun went down.
An early start for us this morning at the Abrolhos Islands, our destination Beacon Island the scene of the massacre of the ill-fated Batavia. Strong winds and a disturbed sea brought the right atmosphere to describe the horrible conditions faced by all those onboard when she hit the reef in 1629 just off the Islands of Angry Ghosts. Howard walked us around the island pointing out leftover structures made out of washed-up plate corals. This island was also home to thousands of nesting sooty turns that were calling with their very distinct almost bark-like call. After a group photo at the Batavia site memorial, it was time to head back for brunch.
This morning Captain Matthew led a minute silence to honour Remembrance Day followed by Howard and his presentation on “When WW2 came to WA”. Later, Maureen gave a question and answer session on life in the Torress Straights and Tom gave a presentation on “Shore Birds”.
Tom hosted a quiz, and Craig screened the video recap of the trip so far followed by a photo slide show.
Coral Adventurer was late getting into Fremantle, but when the ship did get in around 1400 the guests were let loose for free time in town! Howard accompanied any guests who were interested in the shipwreck museum.
Following breakfast, guests were introduced to new crew members joining the ship and given an overview of this coming leg of the trip. Expedition Leader Alastair gave a presentation about the Dutch exploration of the west coast before the Xplorers departed for Busselton where the guests enjoyed some free time to explore. A few of them took advantage of the jazz festival at the head of the jetty.
In the afternoon transfer buses took us to Leeuwin Estate winery in Margarete River for dinner. Once there we were greeted by Chantelle and treated to canapes and bubbles on the grounds of this beautiful estate. Afterward, we were ushered inside and seated. Tim the Chief Winemaker gave an impassioned speech about his wines before the Head Chef was introduced, and dinner commenced. It was a lovely evening enjoyed by all.
We departed for Hamelin Bay and spent time on the beach initially hunting for the rays that patrol the coastline. We spotted one in particular that the guests enjoyed some great views of. From there, we split into groups and three transfer buses.
Two groups went to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and one group departed for guided tours in the Jewel Caves. At the caves, we descended into the earth and wandered through beautiful stalagmites and stalactites of this Margaret River wonder. The guide was very passionate and had a wealth of information. Guests waiting their turn to go on the tour enjoyed a short bush walk at the top and or looked around the gift shop and cafe. The groups at the lighthouse spent time walking through the Interpretive Centre and grounds, some opted to go into Augusta for a wander around the town.
Any guests wanting a less energetic day were taken for a surprise mystery tour through the karri forest stopping at lookouts along the way and finishing with a short stroll.
This morning after breakfast, Dale gave her presentation “Beacons of Hope” talking about the history of lighthouses. Early in the afternoon we cruised into King George Sound, the coastline here is very beautiful and guests enjoyed the views from the outer decks. In time, we departed for our Albany excursions – one group was dropped in the town for free time to explore which is a very popular option. They also had the opportunity to visit the Museum of the Great Southern, Brig Amity, and the Old Gaol. Another group went to the Historic Whaling Station where they were guided around to see whale skeletons and a replica of a whaling boat from the 1970s. They then had some time to explore the wildflower garden. The last group went up the hill to the ANZAC Centre where they were greeted by staff before wandering around this extensive centre. The highlight of this option is the spectacular view from the lookout back over King George Sound where friends and family would have watched as the ANZACs depart Australia.
Guests enjoyed a relaxed morning on the ship this morning. Dale gave her presentation “Beacons of Hope”, the second installment of her lighthouse talk. and Naomi organised some puzzles for the guests in the bridge deck lounge. After lunch, we departed for Woody Island. With the northeast wind and the height of the jetty, the landing was initially tricky, but we managed to get the guests ashore safely. Once ashore we met our guides from the eco-lodge and were off for our walks. Woody Island is a beautiful destination with lots of wildlife that were very comfortable with us. Those that didn’t want to walk went for a cruise along the sheltered side of the island. To finish off the day guests enjoyed tea, coffee and cakes provided.
After a rainy morning reconnaissance of landing sites at Lucky Bay, we chose the western end, sheltered from swell. By the time we were ashore, the sun had come out and it turned into a beautiful day. Once on the beach, we split into two groups. Some guests stayed on the beach for beach combing, swimming, and kayaking while the rest ventured off for the walk to Thistle Cove. We had a lovely walk through the wind-swept vegetation with stunning views over Lucky Bay, Thistle Cove, and Coral Adventurer. Along the way, we discussed Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation and some of the local wildlife that we spotted. To finish off the morning the hospitality team had mimosas waiting for us back at Lucky Bay.
Later in the afternoon, back on board, Dale gave her presentation on Bremer Canyon. Emily and the rest of the team ran a dance class upstairs where the guests that came along enjoyed a good boogie.
This morning’s activities started with Dale giving her presentation “Island Wildlife and Biogeography” talking about the role islands play in maintaining biodiversity and how they drive evolution. Nearing lunch we ran bridge and engine room tours taking guests for a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of a cruise ship. Later in the afternoon, Luke gave a presentation called “Dive In! Sea Snakes of Australia”. Guests all enjoyed it and had many questions for him. George and Naomi ran a games afternoon which included two truths and a lie about various crew members.
We started the day with a sunrise over the Bunda Cliffs. Some guests got out of bed to watch it while others were content to see the cliffs when they got up for breakfast. We spent the morning cruising three nautical miles offshore before adjusting the course for Flinders Island. The weather was pretty good for the morning but over the day got steadily lumpier. Mid-morning Dale gave her second lighthouse presentation “Beacons of Hope” followed by Emily’s sing-along of Aussie classics and feel-good songs. One of our guests Michael gave a presentation “German Family History Research” and William ran a trivia afternoon. We had a movie afternoon watching “About Time” and the galley put together an ice cream sundae bar to accompany it.
Dale gave her presentation “Flinders and Baudin” this morning, talking about the history of circumnavigating Australia. After lunch, the first group departed for Flinders Island. We were experiencing a bit of a surge on the beach but nothing too bad so we took a little more care getting guests off than normal. On the beach, they were met by the Woolford clan and treated to an abalone tasting. Tobin talked about the abalone industry and the history of Flinders Island. Not long after the second group arrived for their tasting while the first group went for a walk to the old shearing shed to learn some more about the history of the area. The second group then followed. We had Xplorer transfers back to Coral Adventurer for those that wanted to head back early. Unfortunately, the surge on the beach became steadily worse as the afternoon went on, and we had to cancel beach drinks and get the few remaining guests back to the ship via zodiacs. As an alternative, Zac organised pre-dinner drinks aboard.
Our day excursion to Experience Coffin Bay was restructured as we had to cancel the boat tours of their farm due to the weather. Instead, we picked them up from Farm Beach while the guests were at breakfast. Once onboard they set up in the bridge deck lounge to give their presentation. We helped them shuck oysters and the guests all got to try fresh Coffin Bay oysters in comfort rather than out in the choppy weather. Once they finished, we dropped them back at Farm beach and headed off for Point Sir Isaac.
We departed from the ship for a landing at The Pools with guests willing to brave the wind and cold. Once we landed, we went for a short walk to a lookout with good views over Seasick Bay, The Pools, and the Coral Adventurer. Another group went for some beach combing.
In the afternoon Luke gave a presentation “Depth of Field” where he talked about photography, in particular how to make the most of the camera you have. This evening’s activities included a photo slideshow of this leg of the trip, drinks downstairs due to the weather, and after dinner, we played Ford vs Ferrari.
Today is the start of a new leg of the Australian circumnavigation, so to begin the morning activity Naomi hosted the end-of-leg quiz. Later in the morning we ran a drill and invited guests to participate. Guests who took part enjoyed it and the crew benefited from having them join in. Prior to lunch, Dale gave her last presentation “Out of the Ashes – Kangaroo Island Post Bushfire Recovery.”
At 1330 we came into Adelaide Outer Harbour with the gangway down at 1400 and the guests were off on buses to the Adelaide Maritime Museum or into the heart of town to spend the rest of the day as they pleased.
Back on board during evening drinks, we introduced new faces joining us.
Unpredictable swell patterns for landing at Antechamber bay led us to cruise along the Kangaroo Island coast, running the day through Penneshaw instead. Upon disembarking at the jetty one group went to Cape Willoughby Lighthouse with Dale and Quentin who took them for a short walk and up into the lighthouse itself. The second group came for the sculpture trail walk in Penneshaw before enjoying some free time exploring this quaint little town. The sculpture trail was well enjoyed by the guests as they strolled by the installations of local artists and community members. After lunch, we departed again for Penneshaw where the groups swapped over for the afternoon.
We departed for Robe and on arrival at the marina, we were met by Camille from the local council who welcomed our guests and gave them tips on where they should go and see. Many local businesses were very excited to see us and went out of their way to look after our guests. The local RSL van did shuttle runs for us throughout our stay and even took some guests on a short tour of the town. The museum opened early for us and guests cycled through there throughout the day. The guests enjoyed spending the better part of the day wandering around the shops and the walking trails along the coast. We ran regular transfers to and from the ship.
With everyone back aboard after lunch, we set off for our run to Port Fairy. Before drinks and dinner Quentin gave his presentation “Shaping our Shores – Australia’s evolving southern coastlines”.
We departed for Port Fairy where we were met by Maten Symes and his team took our guests for a walking tour of Port Fairy, which included a trip to the lifeboat house, the old gun emplacements, and a walk into the town pointing out the historic buildings along the way. The guests enjoyed learning about the history of this lovely little town. Once the tour finished guests enjoyed some free time to wander in the nice weather.
After lunch, Shane gave his presentation Maritime Discovery of Tasmania and Luke gave a workshop teaching guests to better utilize the cameras on their phones as that’s the camera they have with them most often. It was very well received.
This morning after breakfast Quentin gave his presentation “Close Encounters Flinders & Baudin on the unknown south coast”. Around midday, we departed with the guests who wanted to have another look around in Stanley. One group of guests went to Highfield house where they learned about the History of the Van Dieman’s Land Company and enjoyed exploring the grounds and buildings of this old well-to-do family’s home. Some chose to visit The Nut Chairlift for a ride or to walk to the top for some incredible views of the Stanley peninsular. Others went and enjoyed some time at the Circular Heads Show. The organiser Sue arranged for our guests to get a little discount at entry. They enjoyed working dog demonstrations, woodchopping competitions, and local goodies. We had transfers back to the ship throughout the afternoon. The wind did pick up as the day went on and the transfers back did take longer because of this. The boat drivers did a great job in very challenging conditions.
To start the day Mat took the ship in as close as comfortable to the lighthouse at Cape Sorell near Hells Gate into Macquarie Harbour. This gave the guests their first view of the rugged southwest. Brunch preceded a presentation by Shane about “Convict Escapes of Van Dieman’s Land”. By midday, we ran a round of bridge and engine room tours followed by high tea.
In the afternoon Mat and AJ hosted a Q&A in the bridge deck lounge answering questions about logistics, legalities, and the maritime industry in general. This was an opportunity for guests to ask any technical questions that they had had throughout the trip. It was well received by the guests.
At approximately 8:00pm we passed Maatsuyker Island where the guests got some great views of Australia’s southernmost lighthouse.
Shortly after breakfast, guests were able to disembark for their day in Hobart. Shane and Quentin took a small group of guests to the Tasmanian Maritime Museum, and others chose to go to the museum throughout the day. Some guests visited MONA and others took a bus up to Mt Wellington or simply wandered through this beautiful capital city. Lunch was at 1230 but most guests stayed ashore to take advantage of the many restaurants of Hobart.
0730 we departed for Bruny Island and landed at the Alonnah boat ramp to meet our transfer buses. From there we headed off to Adventure Bay where we gathered for the Pennicott briefing and were given heavy-duty ponchos for our cruise along the rugged and beautiful Bruny Island coast. We stopped along the way at several sea caves, the Breathing Rock, and the Fluted cliffs. It was great to see this coastline up close and at sea level. The weather did prevent us from getting all the way down to the Friars, but the drivers handled the boats beautifully in challenging conditions.
Once we returned from the cruise, we waited for the guests who wanted to stay aboard for the morning as well as our packed lunches. We handed them out and from there split into many groups. Some guests went back to the ship, some went for a bus ride to Cape Bruny Lighthouse. The rest broke into different walking groups. The walkers broke into long and short walk groups. Shane and Quentin took the short walk group to Grass Point walk. The rest of us took the long Fluted Cape walk in smaller groups to keep to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service regulations. Along the way, we talked about Adventurer Bay’s European explorer history and the local Palawa people and how they adapted to this ever-changing environment. The views from the top of the Fluted Cape over Storm Bay were beautiful, especially with the nicer weather we had in the afternoon.
0830 we departed for Maria Island. We offered the Fossil Cliffs, Painted Cliffs, Reservoir walks, and a short walk to Darlington settlement to explore the old buildings. After lunch onboard we departed again for Maria Island where the guests had the opportunity to go for another of the walks on offer. The guests all enjoyed the day, they all saw lots of wildlife including baby pademelons, wombats, and many different birds. Along the way, they learned about the history of Maria Island from the convict period to the industrial period and into its life as an ark for Tasmanian species.
We departed for Flinders Island in the morning. Once we all landed we split into three groups spread over six different buses. One group opted for the Castle Rock walk – a lovely walk surrounded by magnificent scenery. Along the way, we talked about hooded plovers and the history of Flinders Island. Another group went to the Furneaux Museum which is a fantastic little museum that holds an incredible amount for such a remote location. After that, they passed Wyballena to talk about the internment of the Palawa after the Black Line incident. To finish off they went to a lookout for some fantastic views. Group three split into two further groups. One went to Unavale Vineyard for a wine tasting and a tour of the vineyard. The other group went for a bus tour of Flinders Island before they swapped over. In the afternoon onboard the ship, Shane gave his presentation “Was Bass Strait”.
Our morning activities started when Quentin gave his presentation “Guiding Lights – Australia’s southern lighthouses”. We played another segment of Craig’s footage that covered Exmouth to Adelaide, and then we departed for Eden. At the boat ramp, we were met by members of the local council and even a town crier. From there, guests went off to explore this beautiful little NSW town. Some headed off for a walking tour of Eden with local guides and others went to the killer whale museum. The guests had a great afternoon ashore learning about the whaling history of the town and being shown around by locals.
Upon arrival in Bateman’s Bay we were met by the mayor and many other members of the community including past guests. From there we split into groups – one group went on a bus to the local botanic gardens, and another went for a kayak tour to an oyster farm for a tasting. The rest came for a cruise along the Clyde River with local guides. After these various activities, the guests enjoyed their free time in town. The swell picked up during the morning which made picking up the Xplorers difficult, but we found a safe spot to retrieve the boats. An extended lunch started at 1300 and in the evening Shane gave his presentation ‘Wildlife Migration’ before drinks and dinner.
By 0745 we had the gangway down and guests were free to explore Sydney at their leisure. All guests who wanted to go on the tall ships departed for Campbell Cove jetty. Once the ships arrived, we boarded and were off. It was a lovely afternoon. The crew on the tall ships were very friendly and kept the guests entertained. The Corral Trekker won the race against the Southern Swan. Drinks began on the ship as we left Sydney.
We’re enjoying a restful day onboard today. Breakfast was followed by Terry giving his first presentation “Exploring the Great Barrier Reef, from Aba Yalgayi to Zheng He, from Cook to Denham”. We filled the day with bridge and engine room tours, plus discussions with the guests about tomorrow’s activities to finalise the plan. After lunch, Hugh gave his first presentation “Gallipoli”. Dylan ran a cooking demo in the bridge deck lounge teaching guests how to make a nutmeg cheesecake. After our routine drinks and dinner, we played “The Talented Mr. Ripley”.
We arrived in Trial Bay in the morning, landing on the beach where we were met by the Mayor, many community members, and Traditional Owners. We were given a traditional Welcome to the Country including a smoking ceremony. It was one of the best Welcome to Country we’ve seen. From there, we split into different groups. Everyone had the opportunity to visit Trial Bay Gaol, Smokey Cape Lighthouse, and South West Rocks. The community was very welcoming and helpful to us today. Each group had its own large bus and at least one local tour guide for each group. They set up a mobile office at the beach to facilitate shuttle runs between the beach and the town and happily adjusted plans at the last minute to accommodate guests. They really pulled out all the stops and stayed flexible the whole day. The guests were also given $10 vouchers to be used in town. The guests all loved their time in Trial Bay. Some guests came back onboard for lunch but most stayed in town.
It was a special occasion tonight as all the guests upgraded to either Platinum or Lifetime members of our Explorer Club. To celebrate Zac put on complimentary drinks and canapes.
Guests enjoyed a rest day at sea today with onboard activities on offer. Mid-morning, Terry gave his presentation “The Great Barrier Reef before and after the coming of people” and from midday, we delivered our last round of bridge and engine room tours for this circumnavigation voyage. At 1330 we had high tea in the dining room and later Hugh gave his presentation “Australian Submarines – Alpha Echo 2”. Amber hosted a games afternoon, playing Scattergories, followed by a social evening with drinks and dinner.
We departed for Moreton Island where the first group out met the boat “Get Wet” on the beach and were transferred to “Spirit of Migaloo” for an eco-cruise. The second group boarded Get Wet and headed to the Tangalooma wrecks for snorkeling and fish feeding, and then swapped over activities. The commentary on the eco-cruise was interesting, explaining the history and ecology of Moreton Island. The guests spotted some turtles on their cruise. The snorkeling around the wrecks was very good with lots of different fish spotted even though the visibility wasn’t great. And the fish feeding kept the guests who weren’t snorkeling entertained.
Back onboard in the afternoon, Terry gave his presentation “Saving the Great Barrier Reef: the ecological bottom line”. Later Syd – one of our guests, hosted a trivia afternoon with the quote “the odd joke and heaps and heaps of age-relevant trivia”. The guests all really enjoyed the change of pace.
We began our onboard activities mid-morning with a fire and abandon drill. We invited guests to participate which gave them the opportunity to get into the lifeboats. After that, we took them down to the back deck and showed them some of our emergency equipment. Mat talked about the BA (Breathing Apparatus) gear, EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), SART (Search and Rescue Transponder), and flares. At the end, we timed how long it took Jeff and then Mat to get fully kitted up in the BA gear. The guests all enjoyed the morning and had many questions.
After lunch, Hugh gave his presentation “The Krait” talking about the Z force raid on Singapore harbour in 1943. Afterward, we ran a MOB (Man Over Board) drill. Ellen suited up in an emersion suit and she and Jason jumped off the back deck. The guests helped us keep sight of them until we got a zodiac in to pick them up. The guests all had fun with it.
At 0730 group one set off for their 4WD bus tour of Fraser Island. We stopped at the old central station and went for a lovely walk through the rainforest along a very pretty sandy creek. Along the way, our guides talked about the history of Fraser Island and its ecology. We saw a small python on the boardwalk. From there we went to Lake McKenzie where we had morning tea and went for a swim in this beautiful lake before returning.
Group 2 went ashore for their walks with local guides. One group went for a wander through the mangroves being shown the many different organisms that call mangrove systems home. The other group went for a walk around the resort to be shown the local bush tucker. Once they finished walking they were treated to a tasting of some of these bush foods paired with wallaby, crocodile, and emu. One of the resort’s chefs was on hand to recommend ways of using bush foods in day-to-day cooking.
We returned to the ship for lunch, and then the groups set off for Fraser Island again, swapping tours. It was a good day with many happy guests.
We spent the morning on board, Terry gave his presentation “The Changing Shape of Australia: the rock cycle, sea-level, fossils and plate tectonics”. After lunch, we began our transfers to Great Keppel Island. Some guests decided to go to Fisherman’s beach for either walks or glass bottom boat tours run by Freedom Fast Cats company. Other guests were transferred to Shelving beach for snorkelling and diving. We had guests transferring around all afternoon for various activities. All were back aboard by 1700 in time for drinks and dinner.
Following breakfast, Hugh gave his presentation “The Glen Rowan Siege” and Amber hosted our last quiz. We enjoyed lunch on board and then we set off for Scawfell Island. The Xplorers tied up to moorings for the snorkellers and divers and we had transfers to the beach for those that wanted to swim, beach comb, or kayak. It was a lovely afternoon, we had good weather and the guests enjoyed themselves. The water visibility wasn’t great but the coral was good to view. We ran transfers to and from the beach and back to the ship throughout the afternoon.
Guests started their morning with Crissy, who ran a yoga class for our early risers. Succeeding breakfast, Terry gave his presentation on “Tasmania’s Kelp Forests and Milestones in Coral Reef Ecology”. We also ran a Bridge and Engine Room tour for the few remaining guests who hadn’t attended one yet. At 1300 we departed for Magnetic Island. We were met by volunteers who gave the guests local information. From there we made our way to the transfer bus which made regular shuttle runs from one side of the island to the other and to the start of the Forts Walk. It was a lovely afternoon for the guests. This evening Zac and his crew put on a special gala dinner for the guests.
At 0800 we departed for our cruise through Hinchinbrook Channel. Once we were about halfway through, we started our transfers into zodiacs for a closer look at the extensive mangrove system. We talked about the importance of these ecosystems to fisheries, Traditional Owners, and as protection against natural disasters. From there we cruised right through the channel and met Coral Adventurer on the other side. We boarded the ship for lunch and afterward viewed a photo slideshow and the last installment of Craig’s footage.
Those interested in walks on Dunk Island departed mid-afternoon. Most stayed on the beach for beachcombing, and some chose a walk to the top of Mt Kootaloo. It was very hot and humid, but it was a lovely walk through the thick rainforest. At the top, we were rewarded with stunning views over Dunk Island. In the afternoon everyone else came over to the beach where the hospitality team had a bar set up. This rolled into our beach BBQ as we watched the sunset over the mainland. Once the sun set the guest transferred back to the ship for cheese plates.
0630 we picked up the pilot on our way into Cairns. Many guests made their way to the bridge at this time to watch the completion of their Circumnavigation of Australia. We enjoyed our last breakfast, and at 0800 we came alongside Trinity Wharf. By 0830 we had the gangway down and we said our farewells to all our guests as they departed.