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Master: Nathan Clark | Expedition Leader: Alistair Kent | Expedition Team: Richard Knight | Guest Lecturers: Mike Sugden & Tom Collis
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After completing our SailSAFE and pre-boarding checks we began boarding Coral Discoverer at 4pm on a cool Tasmanian afternoon. The afternoon was spent enjoying delicious afternoon tea, settling into staterooms, exploring the ship, mustering for a safety drill and making introductions with the crew and fellow guests. We turned right into the calm waters between Bruny Island and the mainland of Tasmania, a channel called d’Entrecasteaux. We headed on into Barnes Bay, past salmon farms and anchored in Quarantine Bay. At 6:15 pm we enjoyed Captains Welcome Drinks, courtesy of Captain Nathan, and learnt the itinerary for tomorrow from our Expedition Leader Alistair. Dinner at 7:15 pm was a delicious seafood feast!
During early hours of the morning we raised the anchor and steamed back through the d’Entrecasteaux Chanel before heading south along the outside of Bruny Island to Adventure Bay. We awoke at 7 am to tuck into breakfast. By 8 am we were onboard the hydraulic lowering Xplorer tender heading out on our first adventure of the trip, to a location with a fitting name – Adventure Bay. The weather was good and our landings were smooth. Alistair and Tom took a group of guests for a walk along the trail to Grass Point while providing insights on the whaling and explorer history of the area. We finished the walk with a short steep climb to the first lookout overlooking the Fluted cape for some amazing views. Mike and Richard took the other guests for a cruise along the Fluted Cape and then to the Bligh Museum. The groups reconvened back aboard for morning tea and enjoyed an interesting and knowledgeable lecture about Tasmania from Mike.
After lunch as we steamed across Storm Bay towards Tasman Island, Tom gave his presentation “The early Mariners of Van Diemen’s Land and the Palawa people”. A group of dolphins joined us as we made our way towards Tasman Island and used our wake for surfing practice. Soon after Tom’s talk we were out on deck or other vantage points for our cruise around spectacular Tasman Island and Cape Pillar to experience this amazing dolerite coastline. The lighthouse, now remotely operated could be seen perched on top of Tasman Island and we heard about the families who used to live on the island maintaining the lighthouse. We then continued northward, admiring the amazing coastline and slowing to take in the amazing arches and caves around Waterfall Bay. We could see the sunlight streaming through Tasman Arch as we made our way past Eaglehawk Neck. We passed inside Maria to anchor in Spring Bay with Maria Island well in view. Again pre-dinner drinks and dinner went down a treat. The BBC documentary Coast Tasmania played afterwards in the lounge.
The Coral Discoverer moved to a new anchorage before breakfast, near the Darlington Historic Settlement on Maria Island. From the ship we could see the famous Painted Cliffs and parts of the historic settlement at Darlington. Soon after breakfast we headed ashore to explore this historic settlement, which was now a national park. Alistair, Tom and Richard took guests who opted for the longer walk, and set off to the Fossil Cliffs, with spectacular views of North Eastern Maria. Stopping along the way at the various ruins, and finishing off with some free time to explore the settlement itself. Mike took those who opted for the shorter walk and remained at the Darlington Settlement, taking their time to explore the different buildings and interpretive materials found there. All had a chance to experience the unique environment of Maria Island. Bennett’s Wallabies, Paddymelons, Grey Kangaroos, Cape Barren Geese, Native Hens, Hooded Plovers, and other wild life were spotted.
After lunch we walked the Reservoir circuit, which was a lovely easy walk through towering Blue Gums, Stringy Bark and Peppermint Gums. Some guests opted to cruise to the Painted Cliffs and then around under the Fossil Cliffs. Later in the afternoon we were treated to close up views of Isle Des Phoques while still on board Coral Discoverer. This remote island is composed of a pink rock called aplite, part of the granite pluton, which so strongly influences the coastline north of here. The island was teaming with wildlife, Australian Fur Seals (Now a large colony moving over the whole island, numerous seabirds (Gannets, Crested Terns, Cormorants, Pacific Gulls and a pair of White Bellied Sea eagles. The island was honey combed with caves, both above the water and below. This was an outstanding way to finish our day of exploration. We then continued north to our anchorage off Hazards Beach on Freycinet Peninsula. At pre-dinner drinks Tom did a recap on isthmuses and after dinner Terrors of Tasmania playing upstairs in the lounge.
We enjoyed breakfast inside Refuge Island off Hazards Beach. Rain was threatening to dampen our plans of exploration, but all were keen to head ashore to explore this beautiful place. After breakfast the first group headed over to the beach to walk across the isthmus, past Hazard Lagoon to Wineglass Bay, and then up to the saddle with great views over Wineglass Bay. The weather was overcast with a little drizzle but that didn’t scare off our intrepid 6. We had an easy landing at Hazards followed by a lovely walk across the isthmus. After some recent rain the wetlands in places were full of water, but we made the most of this as we enjoyed our walk with frogs and birds singing all around us. Once we were over the isthmus we began the hike to the lookout. Luckily by the time we got to the top, the cloud had lifted enough for excellent views of Wineglass. We headed down and met up with the rest of the guests who opted in for the shorter walk, and together we walked to the southern end of the beach for our pick up.
Lunch was then thoroughly enjoyed as we travelled back down the coast to Schouten Passage. We departed for a short walk here and met the current volunteer caretaker at Moreys Hut who was more than happy to have a chat with us. While we did that Mike took another group for a cruise. All guests reconvened back onboard for afternoon tea and Mike’s “A Whale of a Time on Maria Island” presentation. We were now steaming northward towards Flinders Island. After dinner, David Attenborough’s Tasmania was playing upstairs.
During the night we had crossed Banks Strait and cruised around to the South Western side of Flinders Island. Breakfast was enjoyed as we closed in on Settlers Point and we could sea the granite coastline around us. After breakfast we departed for Settlement Point, where we boarded buses headed to Settlement Point. We split into two groups with one group heading around to the Furneaux Museum, which housed an interesting collection material helping us to understand the island and its culture. The other group travelled over to Wybalenna Settlement where they were met by Michael Mansell, the Traditional Custodian of Wybalenna and the Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania. Michael gave an excellent account of the tragic circumstances which led to the loss of 113 Aboriginal lives when they were taken from their home lands and moved to Settlement Point and Wybalenna which in “Black Man’s House” in the language of the Ben Lomond People.
After lunch were back aboard the Xplorer and once again travelling into Settlement Point. The walkers headed off to Castle Rock, with great feedback as they returned. The other group travelled by bus to the lookout for a view of the island before heading into the small town of Whitemark. The other group with Tom, Mike and Richard also went down to Lady Barron for a quick view of the southern parts of Flinders Island. Pre-dinner drinks and dinner was enjoyed and Blue Planet 2 played afterwards.
During the night we had steamed North East to the Kent Group of Islands. By breakfast time we were in sight of Deal Island, our destination for the day. These impressive granite buttresses rise steeply out of the windswept waters of Bass Strait and we were keen to begin our day of exploration on these remote islands. The weather today was good – sunny, with a light breeze and little swell. We landed on the beach at Deal Island and hiked up the switchback path to the cottages where we met the island caretakers, a friendly couple by the names of Shane and Viki who were happy to stop for a chat. From there Mike and Richard took a group of guests to a small museum they have there, and then for an Xplorer cruise around the island. Tom, Eliza and Alistair took those guests eager for a longer walk to the lighthouse. It was a beautiful walk through casuarina forest. Steep for the last half but well worth it for the views. Guests learnt about the history of the lighthouse and the plane crash.
Early in the afternoon we took advantage of the beautiful day by returning to East Cove beach for a swim, a paddle in the kayaks, or to just relax and beach comb. The kayakers enjoyed themselves and when the guests were finished swimming Max took them, a few at a time, for a spin in the zodiac. Only a handful of guests came out to brave the chilly Bass Strait waters. Simon and Andrew held a Bridge tour for those that stayed aboard. For the rest of the afternoon Captain Nathan took us on a circumnavigation of the main islands in the Kent Group. From the comfort of the ship we could enjoy superb views of the spectacular coastline, with some commentary from Mike and Tom about the geography, flora & fauna. We then headed south towards the mainland of Tasmania and our next destination, Launceston. After dinner Wild Tasmania played upstairs in the lounge.
We had reached the sheltered waters of Port Dalrymple on a beautiful sunny morning by the time breakfast was started. This was the start of our voyage up the Tamar River. By 0830 we were heading into the wharf to visit Sea Horse World and Platypus House. In Platypus House we were treated to close encounters with these weird animals and watched them feeding. Similarly with the Echidnas at the same location. Sea Horse World was equally fascinating, providing us with insights into these shy and elusive creatures. We were also able to observe a number of other endemic animals living in the aquarium system.
We returned to ship for lunch and our cruise up the Tamar River to Rosevears. Tom gave a presentation after lunch on Bass and Flinders adventures as they discovered Bass Strait and mapped around Tasmania. In the late afternoon we travelled over to Josef Chromy for a wine tasting, followed by a delicious dinner in this beautiful vineyard. The scenery was gorgeous! We all sat for a tasting first – The two favourites were the chardy and the pino gris. Then came dinner which was amazing. This was a wonderful way to finish our first day in the Tamar River. We then made our way back to the bus and Alistair did a next day brief on the way back to Coral Discoverer.
After an early breakfast, the Xplorer departed for the Rosevears Pontoon to meet the bus taking us into Launceston. First we dropped off the guests who wanted to spend some time shopping in town, then made our way to Cataract Gorge. Once we arrived the guests had the option of going for a wander on their own or following Mike, Tom or Alistair. This group had time to explore this beautiful gorge with its lovely gardens and spectacular scenery. Peacocks welcomed us in all their colourful plumage, and their calls echoed across the basin.
While we enjoyed lunch onboard Coral Discoverer, we cruised back up the Tamar and after lunch we departed for Low Head. Once we landed at the boat ramp we were met by a group of volunteers from the management group looking after the low head museum and historic artefacts from the area. We split into two groups – One going straight to the museum and then to the café next door, while the other group walked to the lighthouse. The walk was perfect, not too long and well paved. Along the way our guide Peter stopped here and there to talk about the history of the area. At the lighthouse, there was another volunteer who also gave a talk. We spent a few minutes here before heading back to the museum. The museum contained a great collection of historic artefacts depicting the importance of the area for shipping passing into the Tamar Estuary. Both the lighthouse and local pilots provided the necessary guidance for ships entering the narrow waterway. These tiny out of the way museums continued to surprised us. A very pleasant afternoon was spent exploring this historic site. We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks once back onboard, as we began our next voyage west through Bass Strait to Stanley. After dinner Eliza hosted games night, many laughs were had.
We awoke this morning anchored near the delightful little village of Stanley. Several small houses could be seen nestled beneath an imposing geological feature called the ‘Nut’. The nut is actually the remnant of an ancient volcano and is featured in many tourist brochures of Tasmania. Tasmanian Aboriginal people call the Nut – ‘pulingina martula’. After breakfast we headed across in the Xplorer to enjoy the charms of this little village. At the tiny seaside village of Stanley, we stepped ashore for some free time exploring the town, and the Nut State Reserve. It was a stunning day with blue skies and a light breeze, perfect conditions for an ascent of the Nut. Most of us went up the top on a chairlift but some of the hardy opted to climb a short steep track to the top joining the others for 2 km circuit track walk around the top. We had lovely views of the village and fishing port below. The barge that services King Island (our destination tomorrow) was in port and the day was so clear we could look east across to Rocky Cape.
After lunch we went ashore to visit Highfield Historic Site, the original base for the Van Diemen’s Land Company that was set up for agriculture in the early 1800’s, an interesting afternoon stop that told the history of the colonization of the north-west of Tasmania. We returned to ship and shortly before pre-dinner drinks and Captain Nathan pulled up the anchor so we could steam across Bass Strait to our next destination, King Island. After dinner, we had a movie night with Bran Nue Dae playing upstairs.
Our sea crossing to King Island overnight was calm by Bass Strait standards and shortly before breakfast we could see the low profile of King Island on the horizon. We went ashore at Naracoopa on the eastern side of the island and were greeted by our guides Mat and Moss from King Island Coach Company. They were both locals and heavily invested in their community and it’s history. Once again the weather was fabulous, clear blue skies with light winds and our first stop was the small town of Currie (population about 500). The guests had a stroll along the main street and most visited the coffee shops.
Then the buses split all visiting the same locations at different times. Mat, Tom and Alistair were on one bus, and Moss, Richard and Mike on the other. We visited several places including the famous King Island Cheese Factory, Cape Wickham Lighthouse and Meat your Beef Farm. We were absolutely impressed by Ana on the beef farm. She was visiting from Portugal but stayed and married a local Tom and now they have two children. Ana told us a little of how she and her husband got started before taking us to meet her cows. Ana then took us into her house and gave us all local veggie soup, as well as preparing some beef delicacies and local Octopus cooked in a traditional Portuguese way.
After that little taste, we got on the bus and went right to the northern point of King Island to see the Cape Wickham Lighthouse. The granite lighthouse is 48 m tall – the highest lighthouse building in Australia. Once there Mat told us about the various ship wrecks that had happed around the island. We then did a quick drive by of the golf course on our way to our final stop, King Island Cheese factory, where we were treated to 6 different cheeses. The favourites were hotly debated before the guests raided the shop – More than a few wheels of cheese ended up aboard today. To finish we were dropped of at Naracoopa and said our goodbyes to our guides. After a late lunch back onboard Mike gave us an informative presentation ‘Kelp Forests and the Changing Marine Environment’. As we wined and dined our way into the evening Captain Nathan steamed south departing King Island and on our voyage down the west coast of Tasmania. After dinner, Blue Planet 2 series played upstairs.
We enjoyed a sleep in this morning with breakfast served at 8:30am. It was a day at sea and once again we were blessed with beautiful weather as we steamed along the West Coast of Tasmania. Clear skies meant that we could see the incredibly rugged and remote coast of South West Tasmania. Seabirds including Albatross and Short-tailed Shearwaters skirted the wave tops as we enjoyed our breakfast. Tom gave us an amusing and informative presentation about the birds of Tasmania both on land and sea as well as ‘twitchers’ – the people who watch birds. Shortly after morning tea Captain Nathan told us some interesting things about navigation of a ship (such as Coral Discoverer) in a presentation called ‘Where are we? A Snapshot of Navigation.’ Nathan definitely has the gift of the gab, and everyone enjoyed his talk. After a delicious lunch, Mike did a very informative and insightful presentation about his time diving in Port Davey. We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon tea and had the Critchley Parker documentary playing upstairs. A northerly wind behind us meant that we arrived in the Port Davey area ahead of schedule, so we gathered on the decks as Captain Nathan steered the ship passed Breaksea Island and into Bramble Cove. From there we steamed along the narrow Bathurst Channel before anchoring in calm water a couple of kilometres in. Before dinner we had a wine tasting session of Tasmanian wines with Mike who has enjoyed Tasmanian wines for many years from his cellar at home in Hobart. Alistair outlined the program for the next day in Port Davey before we headed to the dining room for our evening meal. After dinner Wildness played upstairs.
Overnight the clouds had settled low over Port Davey, so we rescheduled the scenic flights for tomorrow morning when the cloud was forecasted to lift. We enjoyed bridge and engine room tours onboard this morning, and guests all loved the behind the scenes tours that Max and John ran. Tom gave an interesting presentation about the Thylacine – from Vermin to Icon before we had lunch and got ready for our afternoon activities. There is a saying in Tasmania ‘if you don’t like the weather just wait an hour or so’ – and this proved true as the weather greatly improved as the day progressed.
Our afternoon excursion in the Xplorer was to Clayton’s Corner, the location of a small house that was once home to Wyn and Clyde Clayton. We landed at the jetty and gathered around the cottage for some information from Tom, Mike and Alistair before splitting into groups. Mike and Alistair took the more adventurous guests to Lookout Hill where we had magnificent views of Bathurst Harbour. It was great to breathe in some of the cleanest air on the planet. – it’s not hard to see why this area in now wholly protected under world heritage legislation. Tom and Richard stayed with the guests that wanted to have a look around Win and Clyde’s old home. On the way back to the ship Mike and Tom pointed out various features such as Mt. Rugby with its slopes covered in Button Grass plains. The Button Grass is responsible for the tannin-stained waters of this area. We stopped at several spots to take photos of the magnificent scenery that was now in its full glory in the afternoon sun. After a shower we headed upstairs for pre-dinner drinks and were entertained with another great selection of photos of our trip that had been taken by our Expedition team. After dinner “Cray Fishing around Tasmania” played.
We anchored overnight in Bathurst Channel and in the morning were greeted with an absolutely stunning day – barely a cloud in the sky. Around us the rugged scenery of the button-grass covered mountains was revealed at its best. We made the right call changing the flights to this morning, the sun was out and the wind had dropped. After breakfast we boarded the Xplorer for an excursion to Melaleuca where our morning’s activities were organised. As usual despite the sun, the run through the narrows was chilly. We took in the wildlife and the beauty of this landscape as we passed, with Tom, Mike and Alistair providing commentary. Once we arrived at the jetty we headed off to meet our waiting pilots.
We took off from the gravelly quartzite airstrip and flew west over the Coral Discoverer and into Port Davey. The pilot gave an excellent commentary through headphones that we wore during the flight. We turned south over Breaksea Islands to the South West Cape, the most southerly part of mainland Tasmania before the Antarctic. From there we turned east flying over the rugged coastline of Maatsuyker Island where a lighthouse and three remote keepers’ houses are located on a small patch of land on top of the cliffs. An unrelenting sea smashed onto the rocks of the Needles south of the light. The pilot then headed north over Cox Bight before we landed on the airstrip. It was a fantastic flight. When not on flights, we walked along the Needwonnee Boardwalk or spent time in bird hide. Some were lucky enough to see some Orange-bellied Parrots. These parrots that are not much bigger than a ‘budgie’ fly across Bass Strait to breed – they are critically endangered with only 76 birds remaining in the wild.
We returned to the ship for lunch before our afternoon excursions. We had a choice of an energetic walk up Mt. Millner for some great views along the coastline of Port Davey, a paddle in a kayak in Bramble Cove where the ship was anchored or a cruise to the nearby Breaksea Islands. It was a very enjoyable end to our visit to Port Davey. During pre-dinner drinks Captain Nathan weighed anchor and we headed out of Bramble Cove and out into the Southern Ocean for our trip to our next destination – Woodbridge in the d’Entrecasteaux Channel. The Critchley Parker documentary was played again by request.
During the night we steamed around from the Port Davey area and by 4 am were anchored in the d’Entrecasteaux Channel near Woodbridge. It was another bright sunny day and after breakfast we boarded the Xplorer and headed for the shore at Kettering where we transferred to a bus for a short trip to the Grandvewe Cheesery. We were Grandvewe’s first group since March last year and they were eager to put their best foot forward. We were greeted by the whole family Diane, Nicole and Ryan. They gave us a taste of their sheep whey cheese, vodka and gin while telling us their story. The guests loved the experience and many stopped by the shop to organise bottles to be shipped to their homes. After that we had some time to stroll around the farm and meet the residents, many fat happy sheep and some friendly dogs. Next, at Pepperberries we were met by Chris who told us his story. We then split the group into walkers and strollers. The walkers went on the sculpture walk, where Pepperberries holds an annual sculpture competition and some are installed along a track on the farm. It was a lovely walk with plenty of sculptures. The strollers stayed with Chris and visited the garden.
After lunch we raised the anchor and headed south towards the Huon River. Later in the afternoon Tom gave his presentation ‘From France to Freycinet – French Explorers in Tasmania’ – a fascinating story about the French in Tasmania that was never written in the Australia’s history books. After dinner we went up to the top deck of the ship to do some stargazing. Miraculously the cloudy skies from earlier in the evening had parted and we were able to see lots of stars (and a passing satellite) in a clear dark sky.
It was a beautiful morning in Huon Inlet as when we headed for breakfast. However Tasmanian summers can present surprises and it was very cold so we all donned several layers of clothing for our excursion to peaceful coastal village of Franklin. We disembarked at the Franklin Wharf where dozens of older (mainly wooden) vessels were moored and were welcomed by Kelvin (a previous guest on CE cruises, he even still had his name badge!). Kelvin introduced us to other volunteers from the Wooden Boat Building centre and we were taken on a tour and amazed at the quality of construction of the wooden boats. In groups we moved around the display area, workshop and jetty. After the tour had finished we had some spare time and some of the guests headed over the road to Franks Cider for coffee, cider tastings and a warm fireplace. We returned to our ship once more rugged up against the cool winds coming in from the Southern Ocean. During lunch Captain Nathan weighed anchor and he steamed north-east through the d’Entrecasteaux Channel to our next destination in Quarantine Bay on North Bruny Island.
After lunch we went ashore to see the Quarantine Station. After the First World War soldiers returning home had to spend two weeks in quarantine here because of the fear of the spread of a deadly influenza epidemic (Spanish Flu) that was responsible for 50 million deaths worldwide. Some of us went for a longer walk to see where the crew from a German ship that was in port during World War 1 lived when they were held as prisoners of war. We also saw the graves of two soldiers who died from influenza at the Quarantine Station during that period. We returned to the ship and the captain weighed anchor for our crossing of Storm Bay to our next stop at Port Arthur. After dinner we went to the upstairs lounge for the Coral Expeditions Circumnavigation Quiz. Competition was fierce but in the end it was the “Mutineers” team that took home the prizes and bragging rights.
We awoke this morning anchored in Port Arthur. During breakfast Captain Nathan announced that some bad weather was forecast with strong wind and large swells expected later in the day. The decision was made to depart Port Arthur around 1300 to avoid heavy seas. In the meantime we continued with our program and after breakfast we donned our wet weather gear and boarded Xplorer for an excursion around Port Arthur. We cruised around the Isle of the Dead where officers and convicts from the infamous Port Arthur prison were buried. Mike and Tom told us about the prison on Point Puer where convict boys as young as seven years of age where separated from the adult convicts.
We returned to the ship and after a quick cuppa made the short crossing to the Port Arthur jetty where we met our specialist guide, Peter from the Port Arthur Historic Site. We were all back on the ship by midday and shortly after Captain weighed anchor and we headed out from the protection of Port Arthur into the open water. After a couple of hours the seas settled as we entered the calmer waters of the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and into our anchorage of North West Bay. Mike gave his final presentation ‘Sharks and Rays of the World’ – Mike has a lot of experience working with sharks throughout Australia and the Pacific. Captain Nathan hosted ‘Farewell Drinks’ and gave a heartfelt speech before we enjoyed our last dinner by Chefs Steve and Jeevan.
After an early breakfast, Coral Discoverer came alongside and ties up at Macquarie Wharf. We said our farewells and disembarked at 8 am to go our separate ways. Many guests will keep in contact with the new friends we have made along the way on this significant voyage and special moment in time. On behalf of all of the crew and the team at Coral Expeditions, we thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again in the not too distant future.