Howick Group East — past Lizard Island — posted March 2016

Now, try straying just a little east of Ingram Island. Stapleton Island is home to many thousands of marine birds on a well developed grassy cay. It is an amazing sight watching them buzz around their eggs and chicks like swarming bees. You will find Sooty, Crested & Caspian Terns, Noddies, Boobies, and maybe some beautiful Tropical-birds. Frigate-birds are plying their nasty trade of harassment, but it is the common silver gulls that pose the biggest threat. Just a little extra space between a nesting bird and its eggs and…kiss your eggs good bye mum—the gulls pounce so quickly it’s scary. The anchorage here is just passable in 15-20 knots. When the wind gets up, a retreat behind Warden Reef or back to Ingram Islet is your best bet.

Another eight nautical miles east and Sand Bank One cay appears—alone on the reefs outer edge. Brown booby birds nest here along with Green Turtles, whose tracks meander over the sand next to a beach combers delight of assorted fishing buoys, and Pacific bric-a-brac. To the North, Water Witch Passage has an extraordinary deep trench running about 200 meters from the reef. No doubt, it acts like an underground river funnelling through huge amounts of tidal flow and is probably why, when diving along the excellent reefs edge, the current is less than expected.

The SE Passage is much shallower, and during spring tides, the current is too strong for comfortable anchoring or diving. But at neap tides, a world of opportunity arises: the passage becomes a protected anchorage even in strong winds. You’ll find  superb diving out from the entrance where 3 meter Silver tip sharks patrol next to a rich 30-meter drop off.
Diving inside the passage over a sand bottom is also superb. Little coral heads pop up from the sand every 20 meters or so, and the macro life on these is excellent: little Pipefish, Hawkish, Saddled Puffers everywhere, flat worms, nudibranchs and occasional crayfish. Many bigger visitors may drop by as well: schools of sweet lip, trevallies, barracudas, grey sharks, and the odd GT.

*P.S Severe coral bleaching is just now occurring in our far northern reefs and this could affect corals in the places described in this blog post.

A-delicate-Sea-Pen-stands-out-on-the-sandy-floor.-Found-when-diving-around-SE-passage-near-sand-bank-1-

A delicate Sea Pen stands out on the sandy floor. Found when diving around SE passage near sand-bank 1.

anchorage-at-stapleton-island-1

Anchorage at Stapleton Island.

Coral-polyps

Coral-polyps.

Feather-star

Feather-star. The cameras flash strobes were used to direct the light from the sides.

Huge-Spindle-Shell-found-on-Sand-Bank-1-

Huge Spindle Shell found on Sand-Bank 1.

Nudibranch-Kune's-Chromodoris

Nudibranch-Kune’s-Chromodoris. A very colourful species. Found in the Water Witch passage.

Polyclad-Flat-Worm-sand-bank-1

Polyclad-Flat-Worm-sand-bank-1

Red-Hermit-crab-SAND-BANK-1-CAY

Red-Hermit crab at SANDBANK 1

Pink-Anemone-Fish-sand-bank-Water-witch-passage-1-

Pink Anemone Fish sand bank 1,Water-witch-passage.

Sand-bank-1-Water-Witch-passage-bubble-coral-reef-

Sand-bank 1 Water-Witch passage Bubble-coral.

Sand-bank-huge-spindle-shell-1

Sand-bank 1.

Sea-Squirts-SAND-BANK1-DIVING-

SANDBANK1

stapleton-reef-on-the-beach_0155-copy-(1)

Stapleton-reef, on the beach

 

 

Howick-cooktown-130+_0004

Chart shows Sandbank 1 and the Waterwich & SE passages

Rodda (69)

Brittle Star

Waterwich passage

Waterwich passage Pixy Hawkfish

AAAsand bank 1A DIVING_0106

Waterwich Passage

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