DM and MM's Lord Howe Island Trip Diary

Day 5 - Lagoon, Coral Reef, Snorkeling

Wednesday, 15 January, 2003

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07:40

Rose at 07:00 today, with fine-looking weather in the sky. Had breakfast, then I went out into the gardens around our cabin to take some photos of the many different coloured and variegated hibiscus flowers all around.

A fair breeze is blowing among the palm tops, and the sky is mostly cloudy again, but it doesn't threaten rain just yet.

09:45

We took a walk over to Joy's Shop to buy some snacks and milk. The sun is beating down out of a sky partially covered with white cumulus clouds. It looks like being at least as fine a day as yesterday.

On the way back we passed the small community hall and looked again at the noticeboard. It is a blackboard on which people can chalk messages - we noticed yesterday that someone had written:

MISSING: 1 ctn x full cream milk from GFD. Please contact A_____.
Clearly this is the sort of crime for which the entire island community must be mobilised.

14:00

At 10:30 we walked down to the Coral Princess shed on Lagoon Beach for our glass-bottomed boat trip. Leaving our shoes behind, we joined a group of about 20 people walking down the sand to the waterline, where the boat waited. A few steps into the shallow water and we boarded the boat, sitting around a large glass window set into the bottom, showing gently rippled sand only a few centimetres below.

Once all aboard, we set out, skippered by a weatherbeaten old man who looked like osmething out of a 1970's wildlife special. He cast the boat off and set us motoring across the lagoon towards the southern end.

We reached Comet's Hole - a 12 metre deep hole in the shallow lagoon, kept open by the tidal and current action on the sand. Immediately the boat was stopped we saw a collection of large fish appear right under the glass. They were apparently used to these visits - and the food they bring - for they raced to the side of the boat as the skipper tossed some bread overboard. The boat drifted in the breeze, passing over the sloping wall of the hole, where many different types of coral could be seen, as well as multiple types of fish in all sorts of patterns and colouration. Striped, spotted, and dappled fish in black and white, yellow, blue, green, brown. The skipper talked about the fish we were seeing, giving them names, but there were too many to remember at once - except for "stinker", a nickname given to the first species we'd seen, bestowed because of the poor eating they provide if caught.

After drifting the length of the coral reef in this area, we headed further out into the lagoon to another site resplendent with a hug outcrop of iridescent mauve-tipped coral. A clam the size of a dinner plate showed near an area where waves had broken off a chunk of this coral.

Another short trip in the boat led us to a spot where we attached to a morring buoy and most of us donned masks, snorkels, and flippers for a dip in the water and a close up look at the reef and its fish.

Slipping off the back of the boat, the water was cool but comfortable. We were moored by a sloping wall of coral, next to a deep channel floored with sand. Hundreds of fish were all around, a swarming multitude of different species in sizes from a little finger up to about a metre long. Some of the most impressive were brightly striped in primary hues of red, blue, green, and purple - an amazing variety. There were clown fish, striped zebra fish, colourful surge wrasses, and others with vibrant arrays of spots and stripes.

I swam slowly away from the boat, along the sand channel with the wall of coral to the left. I spotted at the sandy bottom about six metres down a beautiful black and white striped lionfish, resplendent in its many wispy fins and spines. I swam down for a closer look, marvelling at the ight of such an astoundingly arrayed creature, which sat still and did not move as I approached. I kept a respectable distance though, not wanting to sample its venomous spines.

Further along the channel were more spectacular examples of coral in many shapes and colours, as well as more fish. I saw several large sea urchins, black and dull red, with spines spanning up to half a metre. There were also fat starfish, with banana yellow arms as thick as sausages splayed amongst the coral.

Back at the boat, the skipper was in the water and feeding the fish for the benefit of the people who had stayed aboard. He broke open a sea urchin and fed the insides to the fish swarming under the glass window.

After 20 minutes or so of exploring the area and its wonders, I returned to the boat and towelled off the salty water of the lagoon as the other swimmers did likewise. Settled once more, the skipper headed us back ot the beach where we disembarked and reclaimed our shoes. All in all, a very well spent two hours.

We walked back to our cabin in blazing warm sunshine and had some lunch. The weather now is hot, very sunny, and with only a few wisps of cloud in the sky.

18:34

Worn out, we spent the rest of the afternoon just relaxing until 18:00, when we started up a barbecue to cook ourselves some dinner. This time we also had large flat mushrooms and I hade a barbecued banana for dessert.

Now, as the sun goes down on a gorgeous day, we're just settling in for a relaxing evening of reading and watching the Australia versus Sri Lanka game from Brisbane on the TV.

Mid-afternoon I phoned the local bowling club to ask what we needed to do to book a game of bowls.

"Hello, bowls club."

"Hi, I'm just calling to find out if island visitors need to book for a game."

"No, just show up any time."

"Okay, what times are you open?"

"Oh, we're always open. And the bar opens at 4:30."

So I wonder what will happen if we show up at 07:00 tomorrow...

19:40

We've just returned from Signal Point, where we walked to look at tonight's sunset. Not quite as good as last night, but not bad at all. On the way back we checked the community noticeboard for the latest weather forecast. Finally it's changed from showers and windy to fine. Yay!


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