With all the excitement and joy I had on the island though, there were also moments of fear and sadness. Not fear for what lies beneath the waters or lurking in the coral canyons, but a fear that my future grandchildren, in fact even my 4 year old daughter, may not ever have that same opportunity to see the reef as it is today but rather only as a totally bleached, dying or dead reef.
It sickens me to think that. To have to explain to them we possibly had the chance do something about saving the reef but we left it too late for them. The Great Barrier Reef may well sit on the Australian coast line, but this is not an Australian priority, this is a human priority globally. We all need to take action now, not next year or leave it up to someone else.
Now, I don’t want to paint the rest of this story into all doom and gloom, as there are in fact positive things happening, however I hope this serves as a harsh reality check for those that may not have been aware of how serious the situation is.
There is no denying it, the Great Barrier Reef is severely under threat from not just climate change, but also poor water quality, coastal developments and also illegal fishing. We’ve now had an unprecedented coral bleaching event 2 years in a row, with one before that in 2002 and 1998 before that. That is unsustainable, if it happens again over the next 24 months we could be on the brink of an ecological collapse of the oceans due to other marine life affected by the dead corals. As coral, if not completely dead already, can’t rejuvenate when bleaching events are so close, it takes the fastest growing coral 10 years to recover after a bleaching event
Now of course, if you are making the 2 1/2 hr ferry (or 20min sea plane) journey out to Heron Island, then high on your to do list has to be diving on the reefs. As Heron Island boast some of the world’s most incredible reefs to dive on, along with an absolute abundance of amazing marine life such as turtles, huge manta rays (I saw 4 manta rays on one dive!), black and white tip reef sharks and so many large and small colorful fish, not to mention the migrating humpback whales too. All 20 of the dive spots are just a 5-15 minute boat trip from the Heron Island Jetty. There are huge coral cathedrals, the famous Heron Bommie and more.
It’s a very special place indeed, but don’t just take my word for it though, two of the worlds most respected nature explorers, Jacques Cousteau & Sir David Attenborough rate it as one of their most favourite places on earth. In fact, Sir David Attenborough is so passionate about saving the reef that he has a dedicated site just for it here, with Heron Island featuring prominently.
However you don’t even have to be a qualified diver to experience the spectacular marine life and coral gardens, you can simply snorkel right off the beach near the jetty, out to the wreck or around on North Beach or Shark Bay. The choices are endless. In fact, you will see snorkelers from dawn to well after dusk, depending on tide times. In reality the most dangerous animals you will encounter will be possibly the cone shells, do not pick them up, and of course always wear protective footwear when walking out at low tide.
Aside form the diving and snorkelling there is of course still plenty to do. Make sure you get yourself on a guided reef walk at low tide to learn all about the smaller critters on the reef. Or book into the spa for a little pampering too. For the children there is also a great Junior Rangers program to keep them occupied for a couple hours too. I’d also highly recommend the tour of the Queensland University Research Centre on the island too, they are doing incredible work on the island, in particular studies on protecting the reef, which I will get to shortly.