The weather forecast looked good, so on the 3rd of October we pulled up Manatee's anchor and headed out to the Low Isles. The seas were supposed to be 1m but of course they were 2m+ and on our beam. Luckily the trip was only 90 minutes, we were all very relieved to pick up a mooring and relax.
Low Isles is a 4 acre coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The corals are very close to the island, so the snorkeling is great. The two small islands are separate with one common reef. The larger of the two, Woody Island, is uninhabited except for a large bird population and is closed to the public from October for breeding season. The island has a caretaker who monitors everything closely and the island is off limits between sunset and sunrise so sun-downers started very early! There is also a historic, heritage listed lighthouse on Low which was built in 1878.
|Dusk at Low|
|lighthouse on Low (thanks Quicksilver for photo)|
|Aerial view of Low Isles (thanks again Quicksilver)|
The snorkeling was as good as I'd seen to date - lots of colourful fishes (which apparently like to be hand fed), and amazing corals .... little purple cauliflower trees, orange tufts of wool swaying in the current, huge splotchy toadstools and massive brains- all scientific names of course! Manatee became a temporary home to some decent size reef sharks.
Our stay here was limited to a few days as Ruby was boat bound, so on the 5th we headed out to Snapper Island (part of the Hope Island group) which is 4km east of the Daintree River mouth. This is also a National Park, very popular with sea kayakers who camp on the island. Ruby had a very restrained exploration of the island and we had a relaxing night at anchor.
The next morning we were off early for the other Hope Islands. We passed Cape Tribulation in 2.5 hours so we were making good time and passing the Cape felt like a special event for us.
|passing Cape Tribulation|
It was exciting but scary to be passing this coast - there is no coverage of any sort so we really did feel that we were in the wilderness. Again, there was little marine life although a huge turtle made an appearance. We arrived in East Hope Island anchorage at 1500hrs. East Hope Island is a sand cay with a forest of coastal trees in the middle. West Hope Island is a shingle cay formed from piles of coral debris on which only the most hardy plants such as mangroves survive. These islands are among the most important bird-nesting sites in the northern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Thousands of pied imperial-pigeons visit the islands to breed each summer and they make a racket! The reef is extensive around these islands with only the brave sailing between the two for the anchorage. We took the slower, safer route and went west of the islands to enter the anchorage from the north. There are lots of coral bommies in the anchorage so it was a relief to make the anchor secure.
|reef around East Hope|
|and the other side of east Hope-more reef|
|anchorage at East Hope|
|West Hope in the distance|
|sunset over East Hope|
The snorkeling here surpassed Low! Just amazing. East Hope quickly became our favourite place.