Bring on the Snorkeling
Orpheus Island is located within the Palm Island Group on the Great Barrier Reef, situated 120 km north of Townsville and 220 km south of Cairns. Located 23 km (16 nautical miles) east of the mainland coast from Lucinda, North Queensland, Australia, Orpheus Island is in the northern end of the Palm Island group.
I volunteered for 6 hours yesterday so I could have the day to snorkel, explore, and snorkel some more. I do not have an underwater camera, and the pictures wouldn’t do justice to the amazing sights I experienced. Yesterday I got a chance to snorkel for about an hour but the tide was coming in and the visibility wasn’t very good. This morning I have about 2 hours before the tide is too low to make it back to the station over the coral reef, but the snorkeling should be extremely good. It was amazing! If you would like to browse some of the things I saw here is a link to a photo gallery from the JCU website.
JCU Photo Gallery
After a morning snorkel, I packed a lunch and went on a hike over the ‘hill’ through thick terrain to rocky beach for a picnic lunch. I was given a 15 min safety briefing on how to use my marine radio. I was hiker 1, and if I got in trouble I would say, “Orpheus Research, Orpheus Research, Orpheus Research, this is Hiker 1, Hiker 1, Hiker 1 over. Pan, Pan, Pan, if I have a small problem, or Mayday, Mayday, Mayday if my life is in danger. This would only work if I was on the west side of the island. Because of the steep topography the marine radio didn’t work once I crested the hill. I was given a beacon that I could activate if I was seriously injured and it would notify all surrounding emergency support. From the briefing, I realized that this was not your everyday day hike.
Actually this was the only spider we saw and it wasn’t alive. The trail was dense, and steep. The views on rocky beech were totally worth the 1 hour hike. As we left we even saw wild goats.
After we hiked back with no incidences, and returned our marine radio, and first aid kit we dawned our cold wet suits and snorkels once more and went on an evening snorkel around the giant clams. It was awesome getting to see them from another perspective, having witnessed them spewing water at low tide yesterday, and now getting to view them at high tide today from above.
“Orpheus Island is a true Great Barrier Reef island and its coral and marine life are considered some of the most spectacular in the world. In 1960, the entire island of 1,368 hectares (11 kilometres in length, 1 kilometre in the widest area) was declared a National Park and a little later the surrounding waters were declared part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The crystal blue waters off Orpheus Island showcase 1100 species of fish, and 340 of the 350 known species of reef coral. Located at Orpheus Island is a rare cluster of 100-150 Giant Clams. This is the largest grouping in the Southern Hemisphere and include some of the oldest known specimens in the world. The island has a wide variety of vegetation including rainforest, eucalypts and wild orchids. Granite cliffs and boulders cascade down to the Coral Sea on the more exposed easterly side of the island, while gallery rainforest occupy the seasonal water courses that run through the island during the wet season. The fauna is as diverse with echidnas, bandicoots, green tree frogs and various species of butterflies found on the island. The birdlife is equally impressive and includes orange-footed scrub fowl, yellow-bellied sunbirds, spangled drongos, ospreys and brahminy kites.”
The day came to an end with a delicious dinner and a glass of wine, and watching the sun set with Kites swooping around the cliffs. As the evening transformed to night, the black tipped reef sharks and rays moved back into the bay to hunt for food around the Mangroves. I sat and watched them swim by, the tip of their fin or shadow just visible under the moon lit shallow water. Fruit bats swooped above my head and I took in a starry southern sky that I have never seen before. Tomorrow morning bright and early when the tide is high, I will load my bags on the Challenger III and sail back to civilization. (hopefully I will see a pod of humpback wales)