Written by Mr CPR Kids - Paul Hunstead
We weren’t too sure what to expect as we departed the dock at Gladstone (Queensland) heading for the island. The ferry took just over 2 hours, most of which the girls spent dazed and confused from their hit of Kwells sea sickness tablets. They awoke from their slumber confronted with a spectacular coral cay. The reef surrounding the island is relatively shallow, some of which can only be explored during a high tide.
When we first stepped onto the island we were met with the distinct smell of bird life. They were everywhere with a staggering number of bird species including noddy terns, shearwaters, rails, seagulls and egrets to name but a few that call Heron home.
"I was fortunate enough to be shat on each and every day we were on the island"
With flocks of birds comes with it bird poo and lots of it…I was fortunate enough to be shat on each and every day we were on the island and was told that I was lucky. I politely disagreed with the concept of being shat on and its correlation with luck.
For the bird lovers, it truly is a place to behold. The one bird we did not find however were herons, we later found out that the person who discovered the island made a rookie mistake - they thought the resident egrets were herons. A heron has never touched down on the island as far as anyone is aware!
The marine life on Heron is mind blowing. Just off the reef in just a few metres of water we saw sharks, turtles, rays and a vast array of fish species. There were patches of spectacular shades of coral, and we were able to get a sense of what the bleached areas were once like. The girls were a little anxious about snorkelling with the sharks however after attending a number of Heron Island junior ranger education sessions to learn about the local wildlife they seemed to be a little more comfortable. One evening at dinner they informed us that the sharks on the reef were vegan!
We all took a trip to the outer reef for a snorkel which the girls loved and was a great opportunity for them to develop their confidence. This new found confidence had grown to the point of swimming down toward the sharks on a wreck snorkel we did the morning of our last day.
I remember feeling anxious myself, when I watched Izzy swim down close to a black tip that was much larger than her wondering if she truly believed that the shark was vegan. The wreck was next to the harbour area where the boats come in and out and early in the morning it’s safe to snorkel there.
"I remember feeling anxious myself, when I watched Izzy swim down close to a black tip that was much larger than her wondering if she truly believed that the shark was vegan."
It was far better than the dive I had done the previous day and honestly felt like swimming in Sydney aquarium. within a small area near the wreck we saw schools of GT’s, massive potato cods, dozens of black and white tip reef sharks, leopard rays, shovel nose rays and at least 6 turtles. It was a special note to finish our heron island experience on.
The real highlight of the stay on the island however would have had to be watching hundreds of freshly hatched Logger Head and Green Sea turtles making the deadly 6 metre journey from their nest to the waters edge. We first noticed seagulls with the turtles in their beaks squawking to inform their mates that brunch had begun.
"We first noticed seagulls with the turtles in their beaks squawking to inform their mates that brunch had begun."
The Hunstead family quickly swung into action and we each had a role in ensuring as many of the turtles made it to the outer reef safely without becoming seagull snacks. Izzy and Sarah would escort the turtles to the waters edge while Eva and I would walk closely behind the turtles in the water waving sticks as they made the 300m dash to the outer reef where they were out of the seagulls reach and most likely prone to more ferocious predators (at least they weren’t bloody seagulls)! The stats say that only one out of every thousand turtles make it to adulthood. Either way it was an adrenaline filled hour for a bunch of novice wildlife warriors.