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Heron Island

Heron Island

G’day loves, mums, cheeky monkies, scanky creckas and mates.  Okay, I’m joking, none of you are skanky creckas…or are you?

Heron Island was divine! Colette, oh brilliant friend, you were right on. And we took all of your suggestions with the end result = a magnificent almost five days on this Great Barrier Reef paradise.

Great Barrier Reef from a helicopter
Great Barrier Reef from a helicopter

On November 29, we arrived there from Gladstone, an industrial coalmining town. We spent that previous night (11.28) at the Auckland Hill Bed and Breakfast. Terese, our host there, showed us around the B&B upon our arrival – an interesting place given the nature of this town. She had an ‘honesty’ pad for writing down anything that we took from the fridge. Our room was the Marine room, large and decorated with an array of antique furnture and such. We walked into town that evening and found our way to the Roaring Bull and hung out with some coal miners and an interesting fellow who worked there. We learned a lot about the more down-to-earth Australian culture and were encouraged to get us some Bundeberg Rum before heading off to the island. Without letting on that we had no interest in drinking rum, we simply shook our heads in agreement. Marie, Michelle was from Gladstone! I asked a few people if they recognized the name but to no avail. How cool would it have been to see her? For those of you who don’t know, Michelle is a girl that Marie and I met when we backpacked around Europe in 1991. She hung out with us in part of Spain and much of France.

Heron Island is a coral cay located within the Capricorn and Bunder Groups of islands on the GBR. It’s only 42 acres surrounded by the beeeeautiful Coral Sea. One must take a catamaran or helicopter to and fro the island. It’s a 45 mile cat ride and even though I bought ginger tablets, the rocky boat got the best of me. Within an hour, I eliminated whatever had settled in my guts…along with a two other gals who later became island friends. Coco, so GLAD you suggested we take the helicopter ride BACK from the island. I would’ve been dreading that ride back to Gladstone otherwise!

Upon arrival, we were greeted by our island friends who gave us an orientation and took us to our new homes. We had a Beachside suite that overlooked the sea. New-age oceanic music was playing inside as we wandered to each room finding whatever little delights existed in each nook and cranny.

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We so enjoyed sitting on our outside porch and had ALL kinds of new friends inside and out: little tropical cockroaches, a lizard (he just hung out on the wall) and numerous birds. One little guy, a Gull, came to visit. He only had one leg and did an exceptional job playing on our sympathies by just hanging around by our outdoor chairs cocking his head from one side to the other. Alas, we fed not the sweet creature…strict rules on the island to not feed the animals. He visited nonetheless. In front of us was a Pisonia tree that housed about a dozen Black Noddy Terns and their nests. It is Spring here and lil chicks were hatching and running about – SO SWEET! At night, we heard the cry of some bird, whose name we are not recalling, within the trees. Thousands of them sounding like crying babies yet more eerily. Those who stayed more in the bush didn’t get much sleep because of these guys.

Baby Noddy
Baby Noddy aka Cheeky QT

We poked around the island and found our way to Shark Bay where we saw dozens of little sharks! There were two couples there from Italia (Alissia and Roberto), and we later befriended them. We have exchanged contact information with folks from around the world!

That night from 10:30 – 12:30 we walked on the beach to see the turtles who nest this time of year. We closely followed our turtle watching guidelines and we found ourselves policing other people who weren’t following the guidelines so closely. They are AMAZING….stay tuned for our TURTLE ADVENTURE! Up and down the beach we could hear the swish swish swishing of the turtles digging their holes or the slow, laborious walk up the beach. There was even a turtle trying to nest almost right in front of our porch! We think she found a poor location, because we could hear that she hit some tree roots and wasn’t going to be able to dig much further. Turns out that if they don’t find a good place or if people disturb them, they go back out to sea. They will likely come back another night, but that night could be a loss. Given that each turtle lays nearly 120 eggs during 4-5 nestings, that might not seem so bad. YET, only 1 in 1000 hatching survives, so it’s important she gets to lay all of her eggs.

The next day we went out snorkeling. I placed my Teva flip flops in some rocks thinking they would still be there after my return. The tide was quicker than I, and my favorite flip-flops were lost at sea. Quel bummer and not good for the environment either! Then, my hero, Pepper Hunter found one of my flip flops! I figured that I would find someone elses at some point and have a non-matching pair.

Snorkeling…words cannot describe the vivid colors of both the water and the fish. The water was several shades of Aqua and the fish had every color of the rainbow (not necessarily in that order). Simply wonderful. We met some new kind friends, Kim and Kate from London. They’re divers and told us stories of their diving adventures. Kate was a partner in sea sickness with me. We were able to share some meals with them and hope to see them again one day.

So, we hit the hay right after stealthy turtle watching around 11:00 PM. I say stealthy, because we didn’t want to disturb the Mamas coming onto land to have babies.

Adorable turtle bum
Adorable turtle bum

About 1:30 intermixed with the waves and Scott’s snoring, I heard a familar sound….could it be that slow grinding sound of a turtle moving on sand? I held my breath and felt certain that was, indeed, what I heard. It sounded SO close. I had to double check that I wasn’t dreaming. I got up and peered out of the sliding door. Was that a turtle head I saw at the end of our porch? “Scott! I think there’s a turtle coming onto our porch!” Scott made some acknowledgment of me without acting on his words. He thought I was simply talking in my sleep…not odd at all. I walked to the other door now certain that there was something going on out there. I looked down and by this time, she (the turtle) was right up to our door. I looked down upon this massive, beautiful creature right in front of me. She must’ve been about 4 feet long and 3 feet wide. By now she was caught up in our porch furniture and scrambling about with loud clanging sounds. NOW Scott believed me. I was frantic by this point thinking she was going to hurt herself. I ran to get help and Scott went out to try and help her. By the time I returned, without finding anyone, he had quickly lifted the furniture in which she was caught and then he backed off to give her space. She was disoriented and we tried to guide her (walking very very slowly and quietly on either side of her all the while looking at each other incredulously ‘can you believe this is happening?’) back to the sea. She eventually found her way down the embankment back to the beach.

Wow…it was all so amazing and she didn’t have an easy journey either up to our porch or back to the sea. We were by a very rocky part of the beach (as in she had to climb a few feet of rocks before hitting the sand and then she had to walk up a steep embankment and THEN find her way to our porch. We later discovered that she might have mistaken the porch light above us (the people above us didn’t realize they could turn off their light) for the moon. Another example of mankind getting in the way of nature.

Tire tracks or Turtle tracks? Turtle Tracks!
Tire tracks or Turtle tracks? Turtle Tracks!

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