North West Island Delights

We have had the good fortune to spend a week on the Southern Great Barrier Reef with our friend Sue on board, and catamaran cruising friends Amanda & Neville on Bossa Nova, and now we are back on the mainland as you would have gathered with the publication of this post.

Every stop you make along the Reef offers an incredible variety in seascapes and marine life. No two cays or lagoons are the same. For this reason we have put five posts together about our reef hopping activities and we will share these with you over the next 10 days. The first in this series focuses on North West Island.


Dolphins jumping high in the air to get rid of remoras (they have a suction pad on the top of the head to attach themselves to larger fishes), a manta ray flying through the air as we arrived, dozens of stingrays congregating in the shallows, hundreds of beautiful noddies and brown boobies flying around us, turtles and their tracks in the sand from the previous night’s egg laying session, these are just a few of the delights of our stay at North West Island.

This coral cay is one of the northern most reefs in the chain of the Capricorn and Bunker Group, part of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Although 50nm offshore of the Keppels, you are not isolated here, North West Island being a favourite camping spot with fishermen, especially on weekends. You can only get in and out of the pisonia tree-covered cay at high tide. At other times the reef forms a barrier and it is too shallow to motor over it.

North West Island

It is quite amazing to walk right around the cay as you get to see lots of bird life, turtle tracks and a huge number of Cowtail Stingrays congregating in the shallows!

But at low tide it is time for entrancing snorkeling through the gutters on the edge of the extensive reef surrounding the cay. Having arrived at low tide we suited up and were in the water straight away. There were so many beautiful species big and small, a mix of those we are familiar with and new ones we had not observed before. Many of them being very shy and speedy, we could not photograph them all, but here is a small selection.

We spent a day and night there, then left the next morning for our second stop along the reef: Wistari Reef.

13 thoughts on “North West Island Delights

      • No way! Frankly, this is the only way I will ever see these creatures as I am way too fearful of what is down there. The crazy colours, patterns and fishes are so beautiful. ❤️

      • Oh you will like the next couple of posts, then: sharks, stingrays…! Even I had to back pedal to get away from inquisitive rays!

  1. love the stingray photos..how did you coax them to line up? 🙂 We didn’t get to North West this time (although we were originally going to make it an overnight stop). North West is the first place that Border Force tried to call us. We were on shore at the time and just waved to them overhead as they did a fly by. They did the fly by to read our boat names…..the call was picked up by friends on Mast Head Island. (The next time we were hailed by Border Force we were at Cape York!)

    • That happened to us as we were sailing to Lady Elliot!. The stingrays were amazing : lots of them hanging around in the shallows in the southern side of the island! Where are you now?

  2. We are anchored north of Jacob’s Well (at the end of the boats). We will sit here for the next two nights (we hope to catch up with a boat today we haven’t seen for 2.5 years!) and tomorrow night is looking a little nasty. On Tuesday we will saunter down to the Coomera River for an early morning lift into the slipway on Wednesday….

  3. This sounds wonderful! Manta ray jumping?! So cool! For some reason, WordPress unsubscribed me from lots of the blogs I was following – including yours – so I haven’t been seeing your posts – so annoying! Be fun to catch up 🙂 Looks like you are enjoying some tropical cruising now!

    • Hi Ellen, nice to hear from you! Yes sometimes WP does odd things… you’ll just have to follow again!

      We have been having fun. Si nice to be in the warmth and going for snorkels every day.

  4. Thanks for the updates and photos – they are so beautiful. Coffee with Sue this afternoon.

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