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#GoBareboating to the Whitsundays' best coral

May 30, 2019

 

A guide to the top 5 snorkelling spots by Daydream Island marine biologist Johnny Gaskell 

 

More often than not these days the eyes of the world are on the Great Barrier Reef.

 

There is much concern about the health of this global natural wonder and how it will survive the various challenges such as Crown of Thorns starfish and climate change. 

 

While the Whitsunday islands and reefs have not been without these challenges, happily we have a good news story to tell, and one that you can be part of when you #GoBareboating with us.  

 

 

Johnny’s mission 

 

To help us tell the true story about “what lies beneath” the surface of our seas, we’ve enlisted the help of local expert Johnny Gaskell. 

 

As the resident marine biologist at Daydream Island, Johnny is passionate about the Great Barrier Reef. 

 

“It’s well known that above water, the 74 islands of the Whitsundays all have their own story, but below the surface, each island has an equally fascinating story that is often overlooked at many of the lesser known Whitsunday Islands,” Johnny says. 

 

Over the past two years, Johnny has made it his mission to attempt to explore the underwater world of every Whitsunday Island; the aim, to document the locations where coral is most abundant and see which sites contribute the most to the ecology of the Marine Park.

 

 

Where to start

 

Being a Daydream Islander, the obvious place for Johnny to start was the Molle group of islands and the nearby northern group. 

 

After a few trips out to some of the protected bays post cyclone Debbie, Johnny was surprised to find undamaged coral cover at a number of spots including on North, Mid and South Molle islands and also at Armit Island. 

 

“We also found a number of healthy coral sites down south in the Lindeman Group with some bays exhibiting great hard coral cover,” Johnny says.  

 

Following the missions to some of these less visited parts of the Whitsundays, exploration of the more famous Whitsunday Group uncovered some amazing sites.

 

“After looking around in some of the more protected areas, the resilience of these islands was soon evident. Some of the protected bays on the east and west sides of these islands were in close to perfect condition,” Johnny says. 

 

Looking at the best options for bareboat charterers, factoring in easy access to moorings and the presence of resilient species, Johnny’s Top 5 spots include: 

 

 

 

Cairn Beach, Whitsunday Island 

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

Here you’ll find a great example of a fringing reef that has, over time, extended out from the edge of the island. 

 

“This long stretch of reef has one of the most densely covered reef edges in the Whitsundays,” Johnny says. 

 

“There is a mix of hard and soft coral cover, which supports an extensive community of damsel fishes and fusiliers. Manta Rays can also sometimes be seen here in the winter months.” 

 

This site can be visited in most weather conditions except when the wind is dominated by a strong southerly.

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

 

Butterfly Bay, Hook Island   

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

Butterfly Bay has a diverse range of soft and hard corals spread over a large patch of fringing reef. 

 

“It’s a good site to see rays, schooling fish and invertebrates such as nudibranchs,” Johnny says. 

 

The site is located on the northern side of Hook Island where it is generally well protected from any wind that is not north dominant.

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

 

Peter Bay, Whitsunday Island 

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

On the western Side of Whitsunday Island, Peter Bay has a well-protected reef network that supports a range of marine animals. 

 

“The coral structures are made up of a mix of large bommies and fringing reef edges,” Johnny says. 

 

“The cracks between some of the bommies here resemble scenes more common out at the Great Barrier Reef.”

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

 

Stonehaven Bay, Hook Island 

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

At Stonehaven bay you can find some of the largest coral bommies in the region. 

 

“Large Boulder corals with soft corals growing on the sides are common tucked away in the shallow parts of both bays near the moorings,” Johnny says. 

 

“Visibility can be limited so the best time to go is during neap tides.”

 

 Photo: Johnny Gaskell

 

 

Chalkie’s Beach, Haslewood Island