Take a 2 hour boat trip from Gladstone towards the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef and Heron Island, a coral cay 89kms off the coast of Queensland, appears in the distance surrounded by white sand and turquoise sea. Feel the stress of life just melt away as the island turns from picture postcode image to real life paradise.
The mantra is observation not intervention which is tricky at times since we feel the need to help out when helpless creatures find themselves in difficulty but the island is a research Centre for the University of Queensland with many experienced rangers on hand to offer advice. The island is home to Noddy birds, Mutton birds and of course Herons to name a few, it really feels like you are a privileged guest of the natural world.
Walking around the island takes around 20 minutes and there’s always something incredible to see - Reef Sharks, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays - putting on a show.
Enormous sea turtles find their way up on to the beach, having been born on the island some 30-40 years earlier. They always return to their place of birth to lay their eggs.
Working with the high tides, you’ll need to set your alarm between 3am and 6am to see these amazing creatures. They pop up out of the ocean, slowly climb into the sand dunes and start to dig a nest. It’s magical to walk along in the moonlight and listen for the dull sound of sand swishing up into the air and find a turtle making a home for her precious cargo.
The slow haul back down to the sea takes a while but as soon as they reach the ocean the speed and grace with which they swim off into the sunrise is hard to fathom.
This island is truly magical and the wildlife really does feed the souls of world weary humans allowing us to live along side them for a brief, enchanting, life affirming moment in time.
Some tips to make enhance your adventure;
- The crossing can be very choppy, be prepared if you don't travel well on water
- Take a snorkel, flippers and a mask, there's miles of reef to explore even in the shallow waters it's amazing
- Book on to a boat trip and see the marine life up close, it's so beautiful yet incredibly fragile
- Hands-free is a must, whether it's taking pictures, videos or carrying stuff around, your hands will always have something better to do!