Friday, August 23, 2013

Whale Song: Flying Fish Point to Cairns by Sea Kayak

If you look at a map of Queensland, the stretch of coast from Innisfail to Cairns looks appealingly green – the green of national parks and reserves. With the exception of Bramston Beach, and a few small aboriginal settlements on the Yarrabah Peninsula there is no development, and, about 10 km off-shore, lie the Frankland Islands, a cluster of small continental islands surrounded by fringing reefs. Perfect in fact for a sea kayak trip up the coast with a detour to the Frankland Islands.

On our earlier trip to the Barnard Islands, we were lucky enough to meet up with a couple of sea kayakers from Cairns – Dee and Kev – who happened to know another avid Cairns kayaker – Tim – who had paddled Bramston Beach to Cairns six times. Tim and his wife Mary Francis were incredibly helpful as we pulled this trip together. Tim's intimate knowledge of the coast, plus logistical support in the form of car storage for our vehicle in Cairns, drop-off at the Greyhound bus terminal, and a pick up at the end of the trip, made everything much easier.

The first thing you have to work out on a one way journey like this is how to get back to your vehicle at the end of the trip. Usually we try to start and finish at a location with bus service. At the end of the trip, one person takes public transit back to our vehicle, while one of us waits with the gear. This works well, but inevitably makes for a tiring final day as we are up at first light to paddle in to the mainland, and then spend hours recovering our vehicle.

We elected to start paddling from Flying Fish Point as we could get a Greyhound Bus from Cairns to Innisfail and then take a local bus out to Flying Fish Point from Innisfail. However, to get all the connections to line up, we had to take the 7.30 am Greyhound Bus from Cairns which meant getting on the road from Deeral (where we were storing our caravan) at 4.00 am. Again, without the help of Tim and Mary Francis this would have been impossible.

Day 1: Flying Fish Point to Cooper Point

It was hard to find a good place to launch the kayaks at Flying Fish Point when we drove into town at 5.00 am in the dark, and, after fruitlessly driving around for a while, we returned to the first bit of beach we had arrived at from Innisfail, a small park with picnic tables and toilets opposite a café. The beach was barricaded off with some orange plastic fencing for some minor instability in the bank, but we hefted the sea kayaks over and then hastily threw the rest of the gear out onto the grass and Doug drove off heading for Cairns.

There was a slight wind blowing off the ocean and it felt damp with dew. I was bleary and thick headed with lack of sleep and felt cold, so I threw our wetsuits out onto a picnic bench and crawled into a sleeping bag until the sun came up. The owner of the Flying Fish Cafe, who inexplicably arrived at his café a full 3 hours before it opened for (sluggish) business was eyeing me warily thinking I was some new kind of beach bum who travelled with masses of gear.

Meanwhile, the shortcut that Doug took out of Flying Fish Point turned out to be a windy, dirt road dense with fog. When he arrived at Tim's house in Cairns – to be greeted with a travel mug of coffee! - there was not much time to get down to the Greyhound bus station.

Back at Flying Fish Point, the sun pulled up over the horizon and suddenly it felt warm. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and shuttled all our gear over the plastic fence, pulled the boats down to the water, and packed them both with all our gear. Then I waited a couple of hours for Doug to arrive, trying to avoid the allure of a big breakfast (at I suspect a big price tag) at the café as I was no starving. Instead, I chewed on a tomato.

Doug arrived about 10.45 am with some breakfast eggs which I wolfed down, and we were soon in the kayaks and paddling north. We had perhaps a 30 to 40 cm swell and calm winds, so the paddling was as easy as it gets. There was a small point break at Heath Point and in Ella Bay a pod of dolphins were swimming in the shallows.

Immediately north of Cooper Point, accompanied by another pod of dolphins, we pulled into the beach for a break after three hours of paddling. We had a swim, some lunch and dunked ourselves into a fresh water creek that runs out onto the beach here. The next campsite that Tim had told us about was, we thought, another three hours away, and, after our early morning start and a few busy days in a row, we suddenly started feeling tired enough to make camp.

The moon was becoming full so tides were pretty high and we had to search around a bit to find a camp site that would get us above the high tide expected that evening. We found a good flat spot with the creek to one side and the ocean out front and set up camp. I went for a walk along the beach, while Doug hung out at camp. By the time I got back, the water was almost up to our tent and still rising. We watched it nervously for an hour or two, and, although the water came close, it never flooded up over our piece of real estate.

Day 2: Cooper Point to Russel Island

I fell asleep at 8.30 pm and slept soundly until 6.00 am when we got up and packed up the kayaks. The swell had dropped over night and the tide was much lower so the breaking shore dump of the night before had all but disappeared and launching the kayaks was easy. An hour or so of easy paddling brought us in to Bramston Beach and we pulled in for breakfast. The only development we could see at Bramston Beach, apart from a boat ramp, was a small caravan park at the far south end of the beach.

The water was almost glassy calm after breakfast, so, on a whim, we decided to paddle straight out to Russel Island, a crossing of 16 km, instead of paddling north to Bramston Point and a 12 km crossing. It took us 2.5 hours to paddle out to Russel Island where a cluster of boats were hanging off the beach. At low tide, especially the big tides we were having, a rocky reef is exposed all the way around Russel Island, and we were only just able to paddle cautiously into the beach before the tide made landing impossible.

Russel Island is another idyllic Queensland tropical island with a rough coral beach and thick vegetation. At low tide, the small island to the northeast is accessible over a sandspit which floods at high tide. An unusual lagoon filled with sea cucumbers lies along the east side of the island and floods at high tide. We unpacked the boats and secured a campsite (with picnic table!) and then went out snorkelling on the reef surrounding the island.

There are some nice coral bombies and fringing coral reef off the north end of the island. We saw a number of turtles, a banded sea snake, some huge clams, and, of course, a wonderful collection of spectacularly coloured fish and corals. After snorkelling, we tried to find the trail that is rumoured to exist to the light station (automatic) on the island, but, in the dense tropical vegetation we could find no trace of any trail. We did find a huge fig tree spreading out over a 10 metre arc.

By 6.00 pm, all the boats (with the exception of one yacht) had left and the island became peaceful and tranquil. Except, of course, for the crash of waves against the shore as the tide crept higher.

Day 3: Normandy and High Islands

It would have been nice to spend a day on Russel Island but we had both favourable weather and a long way yet to travel so in the morning we continued on. Leaving Russel Island, we surprised a dugong, who quickly disappeared into the green water. We paddled past Round Island and Grange Rock, and along the east side of Normandy Island to pull up on a small coral beach on the north side. The yatchies from Russel Island were now anchored off Normandy Island and were walking on the beach so we chatted with them for a while. We walked the short beach and along a trail over to the south side of the island. There is no camping on Normandy Island but there is a large picnic area with many tables as cruise ship travels out daily from Deeral Landing. They have a coral viewing boat anchored off shore.

From Normandy Island it is another 8 km crossing to the wonderful High Island. Paddling along the west side of the island to the camping area on the northern tip, we glided over a wonderful coral reef that dropped away into deep water. Tim had told us there was good snorkelling on High Island and there is, in fact, wonderful snorkelling on High Island. At the north end of the island is a wonderful coral sand spit with deep water for swimming just off-shore. Paddling the final 200 metres to the campsite, I saw at least a half dozen turtles cruising off the beach.

We unpacked the boats and then kitted up for a 2.5 hour snorkelling session along the fringing western reef. At High Island, the fringing reef drops away quite suddenly into deeper water and the snorkelling along this drop-off was simply amazing. We passed rays, turtles, a small black tip reef shark, countless schools of fish, and coral of every shape, size and colour. In one section, we encountered a school of fish so large that I could not see Doug who was only a couple of metres distant from me. Swimming back through this school of fish later I surprised a big pelagic fish cruising by.

Most of the boats around High Island come out of Deeral Landing which is only accessible at higher tides, so the island was quiet all day, and, of course, by evening the surrounding waters were deserted and we spent yet another night on a private tropical island.

Day 4: Oombunghi Beach

We regretfully left High Island and paddled back to the mainland and continued north. This section of the trip follows the Malbon Thompson Range along a series of long beaches separated by infrequent small rocky headlands. Tim had told us of a campsite by a creek identified by locating some large paper bark trees and we had a brief stop here. A delightful place with coconut trees, large paperbarks, a creek, but, sadly also a mound of garbage. We passed by as it was too early to yet to make camp.

South of Oombunghi Beach near Gunjarra Island there is a small aboriginal settlement and we stopped for lunch at the mouth of a Buddabadoo Creek. After lunch, we paddled on until we were about 2 km south of Deception Point where we wearily pulled into camp. We had covered about 30 km, much of it against the prevailing current. We arrived at low tide and had a long carry up the flat beach to higher ground, as, another high tide was expected. Fitzroy Island now seemed very close, while Russel Island was far in the distance and barely visible even with binoculars. It is amazing how much distance you can travel just by paddling steadily forward.

I was really tired and crawled into bed early and was again asleep before 9 pm.

Day 5: Fitzroy Island

Another calm sunny morning dawned and two hours after leaving camp we arrived at the campsite on Fitzroy Island. This campsite is in a lovely location set among giant trees on smooth green grass, but, the camp management (Fitzroy Island Resort, I presume) is very poor. The amenities block verges on disgusting. It is poorly cleaned and serviced and smells of effluent, which is quite an achievement considering there are flush toilets. There are cold showers, not hot as advertised, and, at $32 for a campsite, we felt a bit ripped off. Doug walked down to reception at the nearby resort to pay for our overpriced site, and I set up camp.

There are four national park trails on Fitzroy Island. One goes up to a disused lighthouse with a fabulous view, and an optional return track continues over a rocky summit back to the campground. This trail passes through some interestingly dry and open vegetation much different to what we are used to seeing on these small tropical islands. The old lightstation has been replaced by an automated station on Little Fitzroy Island off the northeast tip of the island, but there is a fine view out to the reef and south to the far away Frankland Islands from the old lightstation. We hiked both these trails before returning to the campground and spending a couple of hours snorkelling off the beach.

There are lots of turtles feeding on the colourful reef off Welcome Bay on the west side of the island and, in addition to the usual, but still amazing corals and reef fish, are beds of soft corals of all colours spreading out over the reef.

Day 6: Turtle Bay

In the morning, we walked out to Nudey's Beach and along the interpretive trail to Secret Gardens. Pigeons that migrate from Papua New Guinea were cooing in the forest along the Secret Garden track. After breakfast, we lazily packed up our boats and paddled them down the beach to deeper water as the reef dries at low tide and we risked getting stuck inshore near the campground.

Before leaving Fitzroy Island, we spent another couple of hours snorkelling off the south end of Welcome Beach accompanied by the incredible sound of whale song! We had an easy paddle in calm winds back to the mainland and passed the pretty Little Turtle Bay before rounding a small headland and paddling into Turtle Bay. This is a delightful little bay with a couple of fresh water creeks that make swimming pools behind the beach, and, at low tide a good expanse of beach backed by huge granite boulders. We found a grassy campsite under she-oak trees and unloaded the boats.
As we sat having some afternoon tea, a pod of humpback whales swam down the beach and came close inshore, diving and splashing. It was a magnificent sight and an amazing end to this wonderful trip.

Day 7: Holloways Beach

We had a bit of rain in the night, but, luckily, everything was dry in the morning. We had a very quick breakfast and then got on the water at 7.10 am as we had about 25 km to cover. The weather was changing and big grey clouds were hanging over the peaks and rain squalls were off-shore. We started with a light tail wind as we NW along the rocky coast line to Cape Grafton, and then crossed the 7 km due west to False Cape with an increasing side wind. At Sunny Bay, there is a small pretty beach and we pulled in and cooked the last of our eggs for breakfast, as the wind steadily increased.

From Sunny Bay, we paddled WNW across to Machans Beach. This was a bit of a bumpy crossing with a brisk (15 knot) tail wind kicking the water up. About half way across, a narrow shipping channel runs out from Cairns Harbour and we had the poor luck to encounter three large cruise ships one after another as we approached the channel. I was fairly convinced I was going to become a hood ornament on the “Raging Thunder” Fitzroy Island ferry at one point. Two of these fast and massive ferries came out one after another, and, defying all logic, left the shipping channel and headed straight for us. Only some aggressive paddle waving by both Doug and myself alerted them to our presence and they altered course, missing us, by what seemed to us, too narrow a margin.

After that encounter, we sprinted across the shipping channel and didn't relax until it was a kilometre or so behind us. We landed at Machans Beach, not exactly sure where we were, and called Tim who had stored our car outside his house for the week and had kindly offered to drive down and meet us when we got to Cairns. Tim works near Holloways Beach so we paddled north to this small beach, surfed into land, and met our new friend on the beach. The 140 km long paddle from Flying Fish Point to Cairns was over.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Balmy Days In The Barnard Group

Incredibly, after our Family Group sea kayak trip, the weather continued to look good for sea kayaking – fine weather and calm winds were still in the forecast. After a one day turn-around in Ingham (staying again at Palm Trees Caravan Park) we drove north to Cowley Beach – a very pretty small village on a gorgeous white sand beach and packed our kayaks for a five day trip to the South and North Barnard Islands.

Stephens and Sisters Islands

From Cowley Beach it is seven kilometres southeast to Stephens Island where there is a small Queensland National Park campsite. We had incredible paddling conditions on glassy water with only a 20 centimetre swell. Schooling fish kept pace with us as we paddled out.

After unpacking our kayaks and setting up camp, we set off to explore the island. Stephens Island is only half a kilometre wide and has a rough coral beach on the west side, a bit of scattered mangrove on the south side and an incredible rock shelf the entire way around the island. You can walk right the way around the island on this rock shelf which is undercut into big caves all the way around. The water was so clear we could see big wrasse swimming on the rock reefs off-shore and also watch schooling fish and turtles swimming by. A couple of pawpaw trees are loaded with pawpaws and there are coconut palms as well.

Back at our camping beach, we spent some time working on those cursed eskimo rolls, and swam in the warm water before sitting on the beach and watching the sunset.

We planned to stay a day at Stephens Island and I woke up at 6.15 am the next morning and walked around the island again on the rock shelf. A dead pelican, one of about five we saw, had washed up on the rocks overnight. After breakfast, we paddled around the island and over to Sisters Island where we spent an hour snorkelling on shallow rock and coral reefs on the east side. Many sea birds, including pelicans live on Sisters Island.

We paddled back to Stephens Island for lunch, and spent the afternoon rolling the kayaks again and walking around the island.

Kent, Jessie, Hutchinson, and Bresnahan Islands

I was up at 6.15 am again and, as the wind was light, we packed up and paddled 7 km north to Kent Island. The winds were relatively light, but, in the channel between Jessie and Kent Islands a fast current runs and the water was a bit bumpy. Just as we entered the channel we saw a big dorsal fin slicing through the water and a 4 metre tiger shark swam past our kayaks. We had met an aboriginal fellow on Stephens Island who told us that the tiger sharks cruise around the waters of Kent Island as the fast currents attract spanish mackeral.

Kent Island is Commonweath land and the small beach on the west side is very steep and made up of broken up coral. There is good snorkelling on scattered coral bombies on the north side of the island if the cruising tiger sharks don't bother you. There were a couple of other kayakers at camp and we had a good talk with them getting some local paddling and weather information.

We had breakfast, set up camp at a nice site with a picnic table, and then walked up a steep trail (recently brushed out thanks to the sea kayak group) to a light station on top of the island. Unfortunately, the surrounding forest is too high to see over so there are really no views at all.

The wind had increased somewhat, but was still only about 10 or 15 knots from the east. We paddled around Kent Island encountering some interesting paddling conditions around the east and south sides where deep water runs up to the island. On Jessie Island, we landed and checked out some sea caves and rock arches, eroded into the island, and then paddled over to Hutchinson and Bresnahan Islands, both delightful little islands with steep coral beaches on the west side ringed by clear water and reefs.

I went snorkelling off Kent Island in the afternoon before we did our eskimo rolling practice, but Doug did not like the idea of snorkelling with a patrolling tiger shark in the area. We had a lovely quiet evening sitting out watching the sunset in the warm tropical night.

Lindquist Island, Browns Beach

We had a bit of rain overnight, but it was clear in the morning and the sky was a dazzling mixture of pinks and oranges as the sun came up. The weather was perfect for paddling with light winds again, and we idled our along the south side of Hutchinson Island past a big sea cave that ran right through a bluff on the island and over to Bresnahan Island.

It is less than 1.5 km northwest to Lindquist Island and we watched spanish mackeral jumping clear of the water as we paddled across. Lindquist Island is rocky all around, but we managed to find a tiny bit of sand to pull the kayaks up onto. There is brilliant snorkelling off the northeast side of the island where big boulders drop into the water and form coral covered vertical walls. This was the healthiest coral we had seen – many varieties and lots of reef fish swimming around – and the water was nice and clear.

The weather was really too nice to go back, so we paddled across to Double Point on the mainland and north to Browns Beach where we camped for the night. A Jabiru was on the beach as we paddled in and we saw fresh cassowary tracks in the sand. This beautiful beach has a small island near the southern end. The sheltered waters of the bay were good for yet more kayak rolling practice that afternoon. After the coarse coral beaches of the Barnard Group, the fine soft sand of Browns Beach made a nice tent site.

Browns Beach to Cowley Beach

The sun came up in a blaze of colour over the little island off Browns Beach. We walked north to the end of the beach before returning and packing up camp. Then, an easy 1.5 hour paddle south around Double Point and down Cowley Beach with fish jumping beside us and sharks and rays visible in the clear water along the beach.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Paddling Through Paradise: Cardwell to Wongaling Beach Through The Family Group Islands

A week after our Hinchinbrook Island trip the weather forecast started looking very stable for an extended sea kayaking trip with light winds and clear skies forecast for the next week. It didn't take us long to settle on a destination for the trip - Cardwell to Wongaling Beach via the Family Group Islands. In truth, we had planned our next sea kayaking trip while paddling back to the mainland from our Hinchinbrook Island trip. Sea kayaking is a lot like mountaineering: each trip while satisfying in itself, leaves you with a dozen more trips you want to do.

Paddling from Cardwell to Wongaling Beach we would have the wind behind us and getting back to Cardwell from Wongaling Beach to retrieve a vehicle is easy as the Greyhound Bus has multiple departures from Wongaling Beach heading south through Cardwell.

Before I launch into the report of our latest sea kayaking adventure, I want to insert a shameless commercial plug for Palm Trees Caravan Park in Ingham. The owners – Craig and xx are about the most helpful people who could meet. The rates to stay at the park are very reasonable, as is the storage rate for a caravan, the park is clean and well run, and, Craig has been putting our caravan into storage for a week and then pulling it back out onto a site when we return without any extra charge. Incredible service.

Cardwell to Gould Island

We left Ingham at 5.20 am to catch slack tide crossing Hinchinbrook Channel from Cardwell. Launching at Cardwell anywhere off the beach north of the jetty is easy, but, best at high tide as the water goes quite a way out at low tide and reveals mud flats which would make packing and launching a kayak difficult. Packing up was relatively quick and easy and we got away about 7.20 am and paddled easily across to the north end of Hinchinbrook Island. We found a little spot on the north end of Hinchinbrook Island where a tiny bit of sand beach allowed us to get out of the kayak for a few minutes before we crossed to Gould Island.

Paddling north to Gould Island the water was almost glassy until we hit a stream of tidal current that ran east to west about a kilometre off Garden Island. Of course, there are no tidal currents marked on the map in this area! This provided a kilometre or so of bumpy but easy paddling and we arrived about an hour after leaving Hinchinbrook Island at a sand spit on Garden Island. A couple of fishermen were off-shore in small boats. We went ashore and found a very nice and unknown to us, Council Campground behind the sand spit. There are four sites spaced apart and each has a picnic bench. There is also a bore water pump (standard admonishment to treat water first) and an outhouse. Apparently, you can book through Cardwell Library.

After looking around we continued onto Gould Island and the most popular west side campground near a spit of sand. This was actually pretty over-run with a school group so we ended camping up the beach a short distance where it was quiet and deserted. There is water, picnic tables and an outhouse at the spit. Before making camp we paddled north to Hayman Point and around to the east side of the island. A reasonable swell 1 to 1.5 metres was running but the winds were fairly light so it wasn't too rough on the east side.

After paddling back to the west side camping area we made camp, had lunch and pottered around on the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Gould Island seems to be fairly popular and is not as nice, probably because of its popularity as the east side of Hinchinbrook Island. The water off the west side beach is pretty shallow when the tide goes out and we didn't see any promising looking areas to snorkle.

Gould Island to Coombe Island

We got a fair bit of rain overnight which somehow leaked up through the floor of the tent. When I awoke at 6.15 am it was still raining and I could barely see across to Coombe Island when I crawled out of tent so we stayed in for another half an hour when Doug crawled out and reported a clearing trend. No sooner had we pulled the wet fly off the tent than a heavy shower came over and soaked everything. But, we could see Coombe Island 15 kilometres away so we packed up and were on the water shortly after 8.15 am.

The crossing to the Family Group is about 15 km (12 km from the Hayman Point on the north end of Gould Island but you would be hard pressed to land a kayak there) and the longest open ocean crossing either of us had done for a long time, if not ever. Accordingly, I had some trepidation about the paddle but mentally settled myself for a three hour paddle to the next land fall. With light winds, we had an easy time of it. There was a small swell (maybe 70 cm) beam on from the east, and some small seas (perhaps 40 to 50 cm) coming from the southwest, but, overall, conditions were very benign. Occasionally, sea and swell would combine and we'd ride quickly up, but the paddling was easy.

As we got within a couple of kilometres of Coombe Island we hit tidal currents (not marked on the map) running east, and ended up having to paddle steadily west for the last half hour so as not to miss the island. Coombe Island, like all of the Family Group is a rocky granite island with a sandspit on the western side. The sand is coarsely ground up, and not so ground up, coral and there is deep water and ocean currents running between Coombe Island and Wheeler Island to the north.

I really liked the Coombe Island campsite on the west side of the island between big granite boulder headlands with a picnic bench and a half dozen pawpaw trees overladen with fruit tucked up in the trees. Doug, however, wanted to see what the Wheeler Island campsite was like, so we paddled over there before stopping. There are about three picnic tables on Wheeler Island and an outhouse, and the campsites are on the north and south sides of a sand spit. I didn't like this one quite as much so we came back over to Coombe Island to camp.

It was noon by then and we had no breakfast so we quickly unpacked and made some bacon, eggs, and most importantly, coffee. It had taken us two hours for the 15 km paddle from Gould Island so we must have had favourable currents for most of that distance. Doug hung our tow-line up as a clothes line and we got all our wet gear dry.

We spent the afternoon snorkelling off-shore and wandering around on the big granite boulders and slabs. Unfortunately, the water was a bit murky for snorkelling, probably from the wave action due to the currents around the islands.

Smith, Budg-Joo, and Hudson Islands

On this trip we had planned two days – one from Coombe Island and one from Dunk Island - when we didn't have to move camp. These “free” days, as I think of them, always remind me of that feeling you have when you wake up on Saturday morning knowing that you have two whole work free days ahead full of endless possibilities. I always drift off to sleep happily planning my “free day,” and, my free day usually starts with a more leisurely morning than the usual race around and pack up to get on the water.

Accordingly, although I was up at my usual 6.15 am, I had time for a couple of cups of coffee before we left for a day trip around “the triplet” as the three islands clustered together about 1.5 kms east of Coombe Island are known.

We paddled over to Smith Island, and circumnavigated it, enjoying the amazingly calm paddling on the east side by big granite boulders that drop steeply into the clear green water. We continued past the east side of Budg-Joo Island and onto Hudson Island where we pulled up on to a steep coral sand beach. We spent a couple of hours snorkelling off the reefs on the western and southern side of Hudson Island. The best snorkelling was off a tiny palm fringed beach on the south side of the island where there were lots of shallow coral bombies with brightly coloured worm tubes, clams and tropical fish.

After lunch on Hudson Island we continued around the south side in somewhat bouncy seas and then cruised by the west side of Budg-Joo Island on our way back to Coombe Island. Doug continued straight back to Coombe Island but I paddled north and circumnavigated tiny Wheeler Island as turtles swam by my boat.

Richards, Thorpe and Dunk Islands

A light southwest wind was blowing in the morning so we paddled to Richards (also known as Bedarra) Island via the east side of Wheeler Island. We pulled into a tiny sheltered cove on the south side of Richards Island and just had time to duck behind a few big boulders and take a leak before a “handler” came down the beach to “advise” us that we were on private property. The island is home to two expensive resorts ($900 to $1,500/night) although only one is currently operating. Happy that we had pissed on a $1,500 beach, we continued on skirting Thorpe Island on the east side. Thorpe Island is also private property but has no development.

From Thorpe Island, it is only 2.5 km north to Kumboola Island on the southwest side of Dunk Island. We had another brief leg stretch on Kumboola before paddling north passing many turtles and rays to the sand spit on the northwest end of Dunk Island. There is a campground on this spit with hot showers(!), picnic tables, and barbeques. The individual sites are lovely and lie on either side of the sand spit with good access to either the south or north beach. We chose a site on the south side so we had a bit of breeze blowing through camp.

Cyclone Yasi in 2011 (responsible for the closure of four resorts in a 50 km stretch of coast-line between Cardwell and Mission Beach) did extensive damage to the resort on Dunk Island and it is still closed. This gives the island a wonderful deserted feel as only day visitors come across and the campground is very quiet. There was only one other camp site occupied during our stay and the day visitors leave early.

The afternoon passed quickly (as usual). I walked along the beach and checked out the cyclone damage to the resort (roofs ripped off, windows smashed, balconies torn apart), then continued on to tiny Muggy Muggy Beach. I also spent an hour or so practising eskimo rolls in my kayak. Some were successful, some less so. Whenever I roll my big wide sea kayak I think about how easy it would feel to roll a small whitewater boat. Doug walked up to the look-out on Mount Kootaloo.

Dunk Island

Another free day! In the morning, I paddled on calm clear waters southeast down Pallon Beach to Coconut Beach. I saw many turtles and a half dozen big black sting rays swimming by in the clear water. From Coconut Beach I paddled out to Kumboola Island and circumnavigated it. Continuing north I rounded the spit and paddled out to and around tiny Purtaboi Island before ambling back to camp. After a cooling swim, I walked up to the look-out on Mount Kootaloo where there are wonderful views west and south, and continued down the trail to Coconut Beach. The tide was out at Coconut Beach and the rocky reef was fully exposed so I wandered around watching the fish trapped in pools by the falling tide before continuing on the trail back to the campground. Doug had spent the morning on the same walk and then gone out and done some eskimo rolls in his boat. I spent a half an hour rolling the kayak before coming in and warming up with a hot shower!

Around Dunk Island to Wongaling Beach

We got up early, packed up the kayaks and paddled around Dunk Island in a counter-clockwise direction. This took us about three hours and was a wonderful paddle. At Poie-Koo-Kee Point we paddled on the west side of rocky Woln-Garin Island. I am pretty sure I saw a whale breach off Woln-Garin Island, the second I saw on this trip. Humpbacks migrate down this coastline in winter. The east side of Dunk Island is all rocky granite headlands and bays. Just before Toogan Toogan Point there are huge granite boulders in the water that you can paddle between.

Back at the spit on Dunk Island we had breakfast and then launched on the final one hour paddle across to Wongaling Beach.