It was time for beach-time again! From Bundaberg we drove straight to the outskirts of Agnes Water, to rest in a charming inland campsite. It’s main attractions: a panoramic view on the valley below, right from our site, and a group of resident wallabies who are very much at home there! We especially enjoyed their company at breakfast, coming so close we could stroke their fuzzy coats, without being a nuisance or trying to grab our food.
It was still morning when we arrived in Agnes Water. We made a quick stop at the tourist info and drove from there along the short coastline to the town of 1770. We could already glimpse clear turquoise blue water dotted with small sailing boats and dingys, and sandy creeks lined with bright green mangroves.
On the way, we booked our snorkelling/boat trip for the next day, as well as a surfing lesson for this afternoon. Hopefully we would get to rest at some point too!
We headed to the end of the peninsula where there are a few short walks with lookouts over the bay and rocky beaches on either side. It was a bright sunny day, we walked in the shade of dry trees, colourful butterflies fluttering around us. We passed by a small memorial to the discovery of the area by Captain Cook, in the year – you guessed it – 1770!
We had finished exploring by lunchtime, so headed straight to the only campground in 1770 (Workman’s Beach), in the hopes that it wasn’t too late to find a good spot. We were on a roll: the perfect spot in the corner of the campground closest to the beach, spacious and shaded, opened up before us. We partially set up our tent to show the site was taken, and had a quick lunch while chatting with our German neighbour, Yurgen, who we had already met at a previous rest area, 2 nights before.
The surfing lesson went off without a hitch: the local instructor was a good teacher and easy-going, and the group rather entertaining. The waves were a bit sluggish, as were we from the endless paddling, which may be why we did not feel like we improved our already poor surfing skills, in any way. But the weather was great, we surfed until sunset and did end up catching a few waves. That evening was uneventful, we needed to rest our tired bodies and get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow.
We were both intent on snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef during our time in Australia, knowing that this might be our only chance to see this Natural Wonder in our lifetimes. Scientists agree that it will inevitably disappear within the next 10 years, a tragic consequence of man’s disastrous impact on the planet’s fragile eco-systems. The effects: ocean warming and acidification (due to increased CO2 levels in the water), and more frequent, violent, cyclones like Debbie which hit the Whitsundays just 2 months prior (see next post on Arlie Beach). Our boat tour would take us to Lady Musgrave Island and surrounding reefs, located in the southern GBR, said to still be intact and healthy compared to the reef further north. The tour, being in Australia, was pricey for our budget (almost 150 euros each), so this would be a special treat for us.
We left early, the boat ride was long, but the sea calm.
Just as we arrived close to the island, the looming storm clouds parted, reveiling the bright blue colour of the shallow waters. We were divided in 3 groups, each taking turns to visit the uninhabited island, snorkel, and have lunch.
We accessed the island via glass-bottomed boat, getting a preview of the colourful corals and even spotting a sea turtle. The walk around the island did not take long. Its shores are entirely composed of creamy white ground-up coral, and the interior, of decomposed organic material (plants and especially seabird poop). In fact, for a few months a year the island is closed to visitors, to let the migrating birds stay here in peace for breeding season. They keep the island thriving by providing natural fertilizer that allows for mangroves and indigineous trees to survive, and protect the island from erosion, and in turn provide shade and nourishment for insects and birds. It was a very informative walk, and the scenery spectacular. We had landed on a little piece of paradise.
The snorkelling was the best part though! We stayed almost 2 hours in the water, only getting out because we were getting cold. Our only other time snorkelling on this trip, or ever, was in Mexico. And there we ‘only’ saw sea turtles grazing in the grass, but hardly any coral or fish. So this, to us was another world!
They kept together in schools, their syncronous mouvements picking up the rays of sunshine which filtered through the water, creating an impressive display of light.
The coral was colourful and diverse, starting almost from the surface and dropping into the deep. Sometimes shallow, sandy creeks opened up in the wall, providing a safe haven of warm water for the smaller fish, starfish and sea turtles.
We spotted cuttle-fish, a moray eel, 2 turtles gliding gracefully in the water, long stick-like silver fish, and more varieties of ‘classic’ fish than we could count! Their scales were like art: sometimes an impressionist painting, a geometric pattern, a graphic design, or a strange 3D shape, but always incorporating such a display of colour that land birds and insects are pale in comparison to.
Here are links to some bonus vids:
Needless to say, we had a memorable, but humbling, day, which could only be topped by a beautiful sunset on the boat trip back. We also befriended a family of South African expats who kindly invited us to stay at their place further inland (but as we were nearing the end of our trip, we sadly couldn’t afford the time).
The next, and last, day was rest day! We did absolutely nothing except lounge in the shade of the trees and our open tent, eat, read, sleep and be merry! We ventured away from our campsite briefly, to do (or not do!) more of the same at Workman’s Beach, in the late afternoon. That evening we treated ourselves again: fish for dinner in the only open restaurant in 1770, enjoying a stunning sunset over the bay at low-tide. That would mark the end of our time in 1770, which would prove to be hard to top!