Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Gannets and Penguins, Caves and Whales: Into The Blue Cave

We were back at Wimbie Beach for another shot at the Blue Cave on north Tollgate Island. Mike had brought his work boat so he was obviously serious about paddling through the narrows and into the cave. I was ready first and set off alone. For once I could paddle with the boyz but not be rushing to keep up. There was very long low swell running and just a slight north wind. I passed a half a dozen Fairy Penguins and got the closest I have ever been, but still not close enough for a photo. There were also a few Gannets floating on the calm sea. Gannets are beautiful birds with a blush of orange around their necks. At this time of year they seem relatively common and we often see them plunging into the water fishing. We once paddled out to Lawrence Rocks off Portland in Victoria where there is a huge Gannet colony. 

In the Blue Cave

When I got to the Tollgate Islands I was surprised to see two sea kayaks coming up from the south and reaching the south end of the islands about the same time as me. I've visited these islands at least half a dozen times and never seen another kayaker. There were also people on the beach and a National Parks boat anchored off the island. The National Parks were doing their annual clean-up of the islands which are a sanctuary for rare sea birds including Fairy Penguins. 

Mike paddling into the Blue Cave

Mike and Doug were right behind me and after a chat with the Ranger we headed north around the islands to the Blue Cave. This was a business trip after all, it was pretty much Blue Cave or bust. Now that I knew to enter the cave, turn left not right it was pretty straightforward but still a bit thrilling. The initial entrance is reasonably narrow so any surge is pushed up higher in the cleft. I paddled right to the back this time without turning round and found the entrance to the cave to my left. I was not prepared for how dark it was in the cave or how loud the sound of the waves and surge were but I turned around and backed in. Washing back and forth with the swell and looking towards the entrance the light filters down into blue water below - hence the name. I paddled out, Doug went in, then Mike. 

 Rocky Cove on North Tollgate Island

On the east side of the islands Mike saw a humpback whale not too far away and we paddled out to sea. But, this time of the year the whales are traveling fairly steadily north so we only saw it for a few minutes before it disappeared. On the south side of the islands we found the horizontal shower which was performing quite well even though the swell was not that big. We had a look in the big arch, but you can only paddle in not through and then turned west and returned to Wimbie Beach.

Mike and the horizontal shower

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