Port Douglas

The mouth of a giant clam on the Great Barrier Reef

Two months ago we couldn’t get accommodation in Port Douglas, but perhaps with the border closures we managed to get one of the last caravan sites available. Glengarry Holiday Park in Port Douglas is fabulous. It’s a large park with lush rainforest gardens, very well maintained and beautiful.

We booked a snorkel tour to the Outer Great Barrier Reef with Wavelength Reef Cruises . This is the third time we have toured with them, once in 2015 then in 2019 and now. The company is owned by marine biologists, John and Jenny Edmondson. They are part of the Coral Nurture Program in partnership with University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Wavelength also runs additional conservation, sustainability, research, education, and community engagement activities of their own. Wavelength are also co-founders of the Eye on the Reef program, one of the largest reef monitoring programs in the world. 

There are always marine biologists on board that give talks about the reef and also snorkel with us to point things out and take photos. While we are in the water one person stays on the top deck as look out, another on the bottom and one to take the rubber dingy to rescue anyone, plus one in the water snorkelling. So, we always feel safe going with them. All snorkelling equipment is provided including wet suits, although we always take our own.

The Great Barrier Reef system is made up of 2,900 individual reefs. Wavelength have a choice of 17 reef sites to use for snorkelling and depending on wind and tides they go to 3 of the most suitable. From Port Douglas it takes 90 minutes by boat to get to the outer reef. This time we went to Opal Reef, a large reef on the edge of the continental shelf. The sites we stopped at were Rayban, Mojo and Blue Lagoon.

These two fish were hiding and although I waited quite a while, they didn’t come out. One brown speckled with large eyes , possibly a coral reef cod, and one with black and white stripes, possibly a sweet lip.

Kate, one of the Marine Biologists on board, showed us a Pineapple Sea Cucumber. Sea cucumbers are ugly looking things but play a very important role in keeping coral reefs clean. Known as the ‘vacuum cleaners’ of a reef, they clean the sand, play a role in keeping the reef at the correct acidity and recycle nutrients so the reef can grow.

This beautiful black and red creature is actually a star fish, not coral. It’s called a Spinose Feather Star (Colobometra perspinosa)

The owners of Wavelength, John and Jenny Edmondson, were on board the day we went. They were planting coral as part of the Coral Nurture Program.

Wavelength Reef Cruises in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) has established the first multi-species coral nursery on the GBR at two of Wavelength Reef Cruises sites at Opal Reef. “A core objective of this program is to introduce coral planting into localised stewardship and adaptation. This is to help ensure sustainable reef ecotourism and promote education on the major threats to coral reefs and possible solutions, which involve the whole community.” Coral Nurture Program.

In these photos you can see them working, and also see the planted coral growing. They find a suitable dead coral and attach cuttings of multiple different species. If you look closely you can see the various small pieces of coral on the dead bolder corals below and the pins they hammer in to hold down the pieces of coral.

On our way back to port we saw a humpback whale and her calf. They were just lovely to see. The baby was playing, doing lots of tail slapping while mum calmly lay beside.

Kate, the wonderful Marine Biologist, took some photos on the reef. These are hers.

Cheers til next time. Helen and Tim.