Pelican Island island is in the centre of a beautiful cruising area stretching between Morris island down past the Hedge reef sandbank. There is a well-developed sand spit here affording a good anchorage. On our second day, a nature show came to us with a little crocodile and hundreds of marine birds perched on it close to our boat. Then when first mate and boson did a catwalk stroll as the competing waves washed over it I was in photographic heaven. Exploring around the shoreline each morning was also a delight with a multitude of marine birds, turtles, sharks and the odd little croc. Did we swim…just a little, very carefully 🙂

High tide on the sandspit. The little croc would have liked to make friends with our little dog 🙂
Around the edges of Pelican island

After replenishing fuel at Portland Roads and food at Lockhart River our story starts at Morris Island where we awoke to a glorious morning. The introduced sisal plants here made for a superb daybreak image.

Mud map of this rich area —-Morris island at dawn

Nesbit River 2012- 2020

  • Just eight mile away, hiding behind rows of sand bars and a long sandbank, is the Nesbit River. I knew It would be tough to enter from experience, and once inside, it wouldn’t get much better. The river keeps changing course depending on where it breaks through the long sandbank, so it’s always a challenge. This time it had moved 300m south, and our survey revealed a tricky zig-zag trench flowing seaward several hundred meters till it met deeper water. We painfully plotted a track onto our iPad using a portable depth sounder from our dinghy and then followed it in at high tide. We touched the bottom a few times & the possibility of getting hopelessly stuck did occur to me. A grounded boat would eventually break up after strong wind and waves batted it against the not too soft sandy shallows. How could I explain that to my insurance company? Fortunately, the moment soon passed, and we found a hole behind the bank deep enough to anchor. A three-meter croc that had been laying behind a log sunning itself wandered down to the water. I remember it so vividly; an oversized goanna that we never saw during the daytime again, but most nights, its shiny eyes returned to the water’s edge at the same place.
Anchored inside on the shallow Nesbit River
A huge croc slid into the water as we approached…keep the dinghy moving 🙂 This scrub bull soon turned tail

Crocs and pictures

This place is inaccessible from the land, so it’s been the promise of exploring an untamed river wilderness that has drawn us in. But in reality, we have never seen much more than tracks, the odd pigs, disappearing crocs, and a few nervous scrub bulls. Plenty of small fish in the river, but the large crocs here don’t make fishing from our small dinghy a very safe experience. The best fun here was around the sandy river mouth where the changing sands made for beautiful scenes. In some places, little enclosed pools in the sand appear as the tide receded, ideal for a swim away from the possibility of a croc attack.

Inside the entrance Rehydrating as we explored the upper reachers by dinghy

Fife, Stainer, & Pelican Islands 2012-2021

Pelican Island is the pick of them. Apart from its beauty, it’s now only a short hop to some amazing Sandbanks that at low tide snake their way to the Horizon. Magpie reef sandbank is the best known, but we love Hedge reef sandbank.

Pelican island 2021

Every visit is a new experience, this time it was late December, the island was bright green, summer storms skipped all around us with light NE winds most of the daytime and bursts of angry gusts from the SW early each morning, just to prevent complacency setting in. Worst was the swarms of small biting insects which left us itching for the next week. Someone had camped here since we were here last year and left a table, chair and tent frame. They must have spooked the crocs, it looked like only two were now living on the island and they packed up and left as we arrived, last seen heading west toward the peace and quiet of Burkitt island.

This rainstorm was coming from the Nth, quite civilized.

Hedge Reef sandbank. 2018 -2020

Not only does it extend for many miles at low tide, but a substantial sand area also remains above at high water. A huge colony of crested terns have made their home here. The quantity and variety of birdlife is a sight to behold. While waiting for the tide to recede, thousands of birds stand shoulder to shoulder. When the huge tidal flats start to become exposed, they quickly fan out, totally preoccupied with their picking. We have a window of about 2-3 hours on each side of high tide to take our vessel within 300m from the exposed sandbank. It’s such a thrill being there.

A big colony of crested terns… superb 🙂

Hedge Sand Bank 2021

Always a thrill watching the thousands of wading birds. Sadly missing this time around was the huge colony of Crested Terns. Storms had recently shaved a metre of their breeding location and they had now shifted camp. I hope they were able to save their chicks. It was interesting to wade thru the shallows with a multitude of Shovel nosed rays and Tawney sharks around my feet, they got quite a shock when they looked up 🙂

Kestrel Reef 2021

Just 4nm east of Pelican Island next to Hedge reef is the small Kestrel reef. It looks like a good anchorage in most winds but we were here for the muck diving. Vis was only 5-8m even in ideal conditions. I was hoping to find a few sea snakes but never noticed any, there was a smattering of interesting macro subjects anyhow.

Diving Reef 13-122 , 2020-2021

We left-hand turned around the south end of Hedge Reef and came to an unlikely dive location. In just 6-12m depth, we located a large area of rich marine life hiding amongst murky water. Craggy coral heads were dispersed across the sandy bottom. It could almost be called an excellent muck diving location with; thick corals, anemones, slugs & snakes. The many whips and gorgonians showed there were lots of nutrients flowing through here.

This is the first time I have been able to capture an image of a single polyp, it must have been adventurous or at least very hungry 🙂
Syls favourite Nudibranch (scientific name Glossodoris atromarginata) was captured with a gorgonian in the background. She found many of this particular species, including 4 bunched together.
I followed this Olive sea snake as it slithered in and out of cracks and crevices, searching for food. It was never bothered by my presence, but after 5 minutes, it had still had not made a conquest, so I left it in peace.

Reef 13-120

Just 13nm east took us back to the outer edge of our magic 100 miles. We were keen to check out a little sand cay that we had never visited before. We just made it before it sunk! The weather was still calm, so we all enjoyed a swim, although pug was very happy in his own little vessel 🙂

Thanks for visiting, below are some other links to our posts relating to this magic 100-mile area. Cheers, Rob and crew.

Ham reef – and our 100 magic miles click Here

On the sand in the blue-Lockhart River to Cape Melville click HERE

Lockhart River for cruising Boaties click HERE

Tydeman Reef and nearby sand cays click HERE

North Brocken Passage and Pipon reef. Click HERE

To see all our pics from Cruising the edge click HERE

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  1. Dave Morgan on 31 May 2021 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Rob,
    So happy to see someone enjoying themselves during these past 18 month’s of lockdown and dreadful pandemic.
    We have not seen water now for two years and your pic’s are not helping.
    Your getting pretty snappy with that camera, some great shots you have there.
    Keep up the good work, keep posting the great stories.
    Take care Rob.
    DaveM at home in the UK.

    • Robin Jeffries on 1 June 2021 at 9:26 am

      Hi Dave, wonderful to hear from you. Sorry to read how tough it is in the UK. I hope things improve soon as the vacs kick in. Cheers Rob and Syl

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