Flinders Reefs Coral Sea — posted April 2016

                     Flinders Reefs

Flinders reefs  may be in the Coral Sea but are still easily reached by most cruising vessels.

Seventy nautical miles North East of Townsville gets you to a protected anchorage tucked away within Myrmidon Reef.  Then you leave the protection of the GBR and cruise another 68 nautical miles, and you have arrived.

Anchored behind Flinders Reefs Main Sand Cay

        Anchored behind Flinders Reefs Main Sand Cay. The BOM automated weather station sits on top of the sand Cay.

Back in 2008, I spent two weeks there with some good friends.The coral had been severely bleached ten years prior and hadn’t recovered very much, so at that time, we found the diving very disappointing.  However the fishing and fellowship were excellent, and we had a fun time.My next visit was in 2014 with Syl, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the coral had improved.  Here’s our story from the spring of 2014.

Our 2014 Coral Sea cruise

        Our 2014 Coral Sea cruise

 

Excellent anchoring over sand and well protected from the SE trade winds.

Excellent anchoring over sand and well protected from the SE trade winds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Flinders Reefs anchorage

What a joy it was when we arrived at the crystal clear waters that front the Main Sand Cay. We could make out our anchor as we let out the chain 30m away. Incredible! An automated weather station stands guard over a busy patch of sand, with a contingent of marine birds, including our favorite dainty Black-naped Terns.  In the evenings, hundreds more flew in from the surrounding ocean and rested on the freshly washed sand spit.

Flinders Reefs main sand cay

                               Flinders Reefs main sand cay at low tide.

Flinders Reefs Main Cay sand spit

                         Marine birds enjoying a rest on the sand cay at low tide.

Photo fun on remote sand cays is always fun.

                             Portraiture on remote sand cay is always fun.

Flinders Reefs Tiger Tales.

Tracks criss-crossing the sand, punctuated by big craters are evidence that a number of  Green Turtles nest here. One day, a big old girl crawled up onto the spit to die. After three days, the carcass had swelled with gasses and floated off, becoming food for the Tiger Sharks that migrate to these areas for just that purpose each spring.  Nature’s food chain in action…

 

Shot taken from atop the Weather Station.

  Shot showing turtle tracks taken from atop the Weather Station.

 Dead Green Turtle

Dead Green Turtle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front row seat to the Flinders Reefs shark show.

Somehow the deceased found its way to the back of our boat, and we waited excitedly for our expected night visitors to arrive. Wearily, at around  4.30am we gave up our watch — six Tawny Sharks were enthusiastic, but not making much impression on penetrating the hard shell. But awaking after sunrise it was clear we had missed the main event. What remained of Mrs. Turtle was now lying on the bottom: a completely hollowed out shell.  The Tawnies were still there–also in attendance was a big Tigershark that seemed to be eyeing me off.  Several smaller three-metre examples lurked close by. Their body language suggested they were now well fed, so I felt confident that they were no threat to my ageing bones.  I rushed to prepare my scuba equipment and underwater camera…tripping over my tongue as I salivated at the thought of an amazing close-up photo opportunity with one of the world’s great predatory fish. As I sat on the back step to gather my composure and suit up,  one swam by my dangling fins. But, when I  dropped into the water the Tigers nonchalantly dispersed into the blue! What an anticlimax! One little Tawny kissed my lens and then all the Tawny Sharks swam off as well— bellies full. Initially, I felt cheated, but I hung around and sure enough after five minutes one Tiger returned, although it still refused to come close enough for a good shot. Nevertheless, it was an impressive sight as it slowly cruised over the sand. It’s thickly striped body emanating a sense of controlled power. I thought how amazing it would have been to have seen them tear through the turtles shell in their early morning feeding frenzy. Later in the day, several Tiger’s occasionally dropped by and  I jumped in with them each time. Eventually, one did tentatively swim over to me. But, in my excitement, I managed to crop its head out of my perfect shot! When the camera’s strobe fired a big Trevally raced in; the Tiger was startled and accelerated away–my epic photographic opportunity never returned.

 

This was my best Tiger shot. The next shot was right next to me and I cropped his head out of the shot , AHHH!

      This was my best Tiger shot. The next shot was right next to me, and I cropped his head out of the shot, AHHH!

 

The hollowed out Turtle shell after the Tiger Sharks had torn through the outer shell.

The hollowed out Turtle shell after the Tiger Sharks had torn through the outer shell.

 

A Tawney Shark kissed my lens before he departed.

A Tawney Shark kissed my lens before he departed.

 TheTigers were shy.

  TheTigers were shy.

                     Whose kayak – rubbish at Flinders Reefs

 Our oceans are filling with rubbish

Our oceans are filling with rubbish

Later, the doldrums settled in, and the sea turned to glass. It was both fascinating and alarming Flinders reefs Whose rubbish-kyak from NZ with bung missing and a comunity 50 fish living insideobserving civilisations’ junk drift by. We recovered a big buoy complete with rope and fishing line — a deadly trap for turtles — and even a Sea Kat kayak from NZ. It had become a nomadic home for what seemed like countless fish, so we left it to continue its Pacific journey.

           

Diving around Flinder’s Reefs.

Despite being bleached 16 years ago and since been smashed with several cyclones the calm conditions made for outstanding visibility. A dive along the South West reef wall was sensational. Our boat was only 20m from a bommie that rose to the surface, and our depth sounder showed 152m! Small scattered corals clung to the first 40m of the drop-off, then a ledge of large Gorgonian fans signalled the start of a sheer wall that plunged into the abyss. A hilite of this dive was finding an extensive coral cave that wormed it way about 30m under the wall. It finished where a magical beam of light shone down from a small opening in the roof. Surreal!
Another memorable dive was within the lagoon. A strong current rushes toward the western opening, pushing nutrients through a group of bommies that rise 45m from the lagoon floor. A multicoloured gully covered with feather stars, fans, whips and sea squirts of every conceivable shape is spectacular.

Fans at Mid Reef.

                                                  Fans at Mid Reef.

Diving along the South West Walls.

                          Diving along the South West Walls.

 

Tiny sea slugs make for interesting macro photography.

                          Tiny sea slugs make for interesting macro photography.

Flinders reefs North Reef- soft coral with Feather Star's

 Tuna top-up at Flinders reefs.

After 12 days, it was time to stock up with fresh fish before we moved to the protected habitat of the Herald Cays. Trolling lures close to where the birds were active along the northern drop-offs produced one and a half excellent Yellow-Fin Tuna and a small dog tooth. The master chef ordered, “Just one more fish.” The rod bucked obediently to her request. As the reel screamed out a high pitched call to arms, the line just kept on peeling off. For the first 10 minutes I was having a thrilling battle with a monster from the deep, but after 20 minutes my back was broken, and a huge Yellow Fin tuna and I came to a stalemate. It was swimming in circles just three meters under the boat, and I was incapable of getting it any closer. I put the rod back into its holder and tightened the drag to maximum expecting it would soon be as exhausted as I was. Big mistake—the hooks straightened and our omega three prospect was gone.

Clinton 2008 -- Robin 2014 Nothing much has changed, the sharks still want their share of the Tuna we hook up :)

          Clinton 2008 — Robin 2014  Nothing much has changed, the Sharks still want their share of the Tuna we hook up 🙂

 

These are the best locations we found around Nth Flinders. There was also had fishing along the SW of South Flinders.

     These are the best locations we found around Nth Flinders. There was also good fishing along the SW of South Flinders.

Moving past Flinders Reefs.

We cruise another 60 nautical miles further out into the  Coral Sea, and we are at the beautiful Herald Cays with well-protected anchorages and a Cay with incredible dense vegetation. But that’s another story.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

  Robin, Colby, Geof, Matty, and Clinton

 

 

 

I could not sign of on the post with out showing one of my favourite silhouette pics. I shot the image of Syl at sunset on Flinders main cay .

I could not sign off on this post without showing one of my favourite silhouette pics. I shot the image of Syl at sunset on Flinders main cay.

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2 Comments

  1. Wendy on April 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    These shark pics are amazing. I love the tiger sharks. I have never noticed the stripes on them before. You are brave getting so close!

    • Robin Jeffries on April 30, 2016 at 10:51 pm

      Their bellies were full, the water very clear and I was able to kneel safely on the botton so felt safe. thx for your comment:)

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