As an animal lover and ‘bunny hugger’, I like to combine a relaxing vacation with some form of animal interaction to add interest to our memoirs. For me, Heron Island has it all – fabulous nature experiences and a relaxing stay at Heron Island Resort.
A CORAL CAY
Heron Island is 72km from mainland Australia but it is not actually an island. It is a coral cay built from coral over hundreds of years.
It is surrounded by a shallow coral reef exposed at low tide which extends for 100m to where it drops off into deep ocean.
A channel and jetty were created years ago to allow access by ferry from Gladstone (about two hours). Or you can arrive in style by seaplane (honeymooners usually!)
Heron Island is a National Park and a Marine Park. As such everything on the island and in the water is protected.
This means as humans, we are very much secondary to life on the land or in the water. We are merely voyeurs of nature, so sit back, indulge and enjoy the view.
SEASONAL LIFE ON HERON
Every season is different on Heron Island.
In December we enjoyed thousands of White Capped Noddy Terns nesting and chicks hatching. Remember Hitchcock’s “The Birds”?
Every tree and bush was full of little black and white noddies. Their chattering call could be heard through the night.
And watch out when they fly around during the day.
They will fly straight at you, disconcerting in the least and which requires a good awareness of your environment and well honed ‘duck and weave’ skills.
Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters had just started to arrive and burrow, often right next to our room or under our deck.
Their distinctive call is very much like a human baby crying, and can be very hard to distinguish.
If you travel with a small baby you may end up constantly looking for your child until you realise the crying is just a nesting shearwater outside your room.
Also, be very careful if wandering off the main paths as the ground can collapse. You could be accidentally standing on a burrow up to two metres long.
A pair of White Crested Sea Eagles nest regularly on the island but we were not lucky enough to spot them on this visit.
But we did find a group of Bridled Terns who all seemed to be defending one mum and her single nest egg, hidden under a bush right next to the heli pad.
Thank god there were very few helicopter visits to the island, if only for the sake of that one egg to survive.
LIFE ABOUNDS ON HERON REEF
The water was full of marine life. It was not uncommon to hear a child in the shallows crying “Its chasing me!”, only to view a baby White or Blacktip Reef Shark cruising the ankle deep water, curious around the humans paddling in their territory.
In fact, it was amazing to see. At times, we counted a dozen or so metre-long sharks and rays in the shallow aqua and crystal clear water along the shore line or near the jetty.
Snorkelling here is a dream. The waters are shallow and being a no-take zone, fish are plentiful and grow to large sizes. There are colourful clams are everywhere.
Rays are in large numbers, including the Spotted Eagle Ray and Cowtail String Ray. But I adored the Giant Shovel-Nosed Rays, which I have rarely seen anywhere else.
I love the fact they rest on the sandy sea floor trying to camouflage themselves under the sand, only to have their three Christmas tree-like dorsal fins sticking up like beacons!
There were too many Black and Whitetip Reef Sharks to count. We even saw a few large Lemon Sharks in the shallows, again a personal first.
TURTLE AT HERON ISLAND RESORT
And let’s not forget the Green and rarer Loggerhead Turtles nesting at night, laying their eggs.
After attending a formal turtle information talk about the rules of engagement, you are allowed to experience turtles coming onto the beaches at night and during high tides.
If you are still awake after all that fresh air and day time activities and you have never seen it before, I would encourage you to do this just once during your stay.
Never use a white light torch at night. A red, faint yellow or better still no torch at all, are best for fear of disturbing them from laying.
So, is Heron Island worth a visit? You bet it is!
And I haven’t even mentioned the no phone, no television and no internet distraction. Or the great food and lovely, helpful and obliging young staff at Heron Island Resort.
Or the complimentary reef, island and bird walks. Or the tour of the largest Research Station in the Southern hemisphere. Or the most amazing sunsets?
Need I go on?
Irene Isaacson ducked, weaved and swam at her own safety and expense.
If you’re visiting central Queensland, check out the Capricorn Caves.