As we neared the bit where we would have to start weaving our way through more closely spaced reefs, my peripheral vision caught a spout about five boat widths to starboard. It was such a short glimpse that I was only half sure that I had even seen it at all. There was a little cloud of mist hanging over the spot, though, and it seemed too big to have been from a dolphin. There were a lot of breaking waves around, so maybe it was from that.
Then it happened again. “WHALE!! Maryanne, Whale!”
Oh, joy! We haven't seen whales for a while. We knew that both Humpbacks and Minkes were supposed to be in the area this time of year, but so far, we had only seen birds and a few flying fish. When this guy finished spouting, he pitched over for a dive. That's when we saw the little dorsal fin atop a big hump. Humpback whale!
Whales keep us company
in the second picture you can just make out the white belly presented to us on every pass-by
Then I spotted another spout too far away to have been from the same animal. Two humpback whales!!
As Maryanne went forward on the deck to get a better look at them, we heard “Pfff!...Pfff, pfff!” Dolphins! Dolphins AND whales at the same time!! Oh, and mustn't forget to navigate. There are reefs everywhere.
The dolphins behaved as dolphins do. They came racing up from behind, passed just out of reach, and then spent most of their time cavorting at the bows, leaping across our path in a crisscrossing pattern. The whales were different. They would start way back, maybe ¼ mile. They didn't surface to breathe nearly as often as the dolphins, so we would usually first detect them as a whale-shaped discoloration in the wave face two or three swells behind, matching its speed. About one wavelength away they would accelerate to what was at least double Begonia's speed. Then they would slowly roll upside down, exposing their white bellies before descending in a half-loop into the depths below. In aerobatics, this maneuver is known as a split-S. Usually, they would peel away when they were just to one side of us, although at least twice one of them went right between the hulls, probably three or four meters down. It made it easy to compare their size to ours. Eleven and a half meter boat, ten meter whale. Cool! Once they dove, we would lose sight of them until a couple minutes later, when they would reappear in the faces of the waves astern.
They and the dolphins followed us for ten miles as we gybed our way along in the deep water between the reefs to each side. They didn't leave us until we were abeam Lizard Island. The water there was only fifteen meters deep, which isn't enough room for whale split-Ses.
We rounded the corner into the main anchorage at Mrs. Watson's Bay. There, for the first time since leaving the Low Islands, we anchored with other boats. Most were in the left-hand side of the bay, where there is good holding in sand. The right-hand side is mostly protected coral beds and a landing spot for the resort that occupies that side.
The resort at Lizard is not merely an island resort, but may very well be the most exclusive in all of Australia. Room rates are all in the “If you have to ask....” range. (Their nicest private villa goes for well over $10,000 per day) This pretty much ensures that the clientele is mostly bazillionaires and movie stars. Apparently, it's one of Russel Crowe's favorite getaways. He was not in attendance, as the resort is technically closed for Covid, although a skeleton staff remains for upkeep.
Lizard is a beautiful and interesting island. It is the largest in the area. The part of the island not owned by the resort is National Park land, which has a campground (currently closed) and a few trails. One which we really wanted to do went up to the top, where a frustrated Captain Cook himself climbed in an attempt to find a safe route through for the newly repaired Endeavour.
Alas, the letter we had from the Shire Council to go with our transit permit had clearly stated that we were not to go ashore at inhabited islands. It even went so far as to name Lizard Island specifically as an example. Word was that most of the other boats in the anchorage were not locals either. We only recognized two of them. One had just arrived at the Low Islands from the outer reefs when we were leaving to enter the Cook Shire and the other was a chartered mega-yacht from Cairns whose AIS target we saw leaving there two days after that. Both were regularly shuttling people to and from shore.
We don't know about the first boat, but the mega-yacht had apparently already been in trouble a couple of times for this. When we were there, an Australian Border Force airplane tried repeatedly to call them on the radio to no avail. It's possible they weren't monitoring it, but it seems improbable that a boat that size doesn't have somebody carrying a portable marine radio on their belt. I suppose that way, they can pocket the 2% “Remote Community Fee” on the bill that is added on for all of the relevant fines to be paid.
As entertaining as all of this was, we decided to stay out of it and content ourselves with a day of snorkeling around the coral gardens in the bay. The resort's website boasted that they had lots of giant clams, some of which were two meters across.
Since we couldn't go ashore, we were determined to snorkel
We found more giant clams, but the big one eluded us
We swam a lot, but failed to find any two meter clams. There seems to have been some favorable rounding done in the marketing department. The large ones we did find were on the order of what we had seen at Ribbon and other places, maybe just under a meter and a half. There was plenty of good coral and swooping schools of fish to see as well. If we were resort guests, we would be quite impressed by having such good snorkeling right off the beach below our room. We could then get rid of the chill of the swim with a hot mud bath at the spa.
The health of the system may have to do with being in a cold patch of water that has welled up from somewhere. We wore our full wet suits and still exited the water shivering. The funny thing was that we found the biggest clamilies (what I have decided a group of clams just HAS to be called) on the northern wall of the bay, rather than in the buoyed-off area mentioned by the resort.
We didn't quite have enough mud on the boat for a spa bath, so we had to content ourselves with tea and biscuits to warm ourselves back up after our swim. Maryanne always seems most British to me when she says, “hot bath”. Since we couldn't have that, handing out tea and biscuits seems like a close second.