Cruising on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or 5 Star Seabirding!

October 10, 2005 — October 13, 2005

I was fortunate to travel as naturalist / bird guide in October 2005 on MS Orion, now called MV Orion. Operated by Orion Expedition Cruises out of Sydney, Orion offers luxury,  expedition style cruising to The Kimberley, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, New Zealand and Antarctica. All this with luxurious accommodation, outstanding food and wine and above all splendid service.

One of the joys of cruising and in particular on board Orion is the food and wine available. The award winning Sydney chef Serge Dansereau of ‘The Bathers’ Pavilion’ in Mosman is the genius responsible for presenting some of the most magnificent food you will ever encounter at sea: all inspired by local culinary traditions featuring produce and flavours reflecting the regions you are visiting. Special diets are also catered to with apparent ease. The first nights dinner was truly wonderful as was the realisation we had many new friends around us.

 Willis Island  Cruising on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or 5 Star Seabirding!

More cruising the reef south to Creal Reef and then on to Middle Percy Island, a favourite cruising yacht destination. So much so that a loose structure on the island is often used as accommodation, bar and more importantly a living museum with all manner of yacht memorabilia hanging over this edifice. A number of guests joined me for a walk over the island to the Homestead where the caretakers kindly produced tea and cakes: somewhat incongruous given where we were but very welcomed. Birds today included Eastern Reef Egret, Dusky Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher, White-bellied Sea-eagle and Brahminy Kite.

Next stop on our reef odyssey was Lady Elliot Island, one of the few barrier reef islands one can also fly to directly. Some superb snorkelling and scuba was in order here, as was the absolutely mind numbing views of nesting birds such as Red-tailed Tropicbird, Roseate, Bridled, Greater Crested Tern, Black Noddy, Buff-banded Rail, etc. Top this with some splendid tropical fish, stingrays, etc. and you are in heaven.

Our final stop was Kingfisher Resort located at the northern end of World Heritage Listed Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island at around 123 km long and 22 km wide. A half day trip to one of the many lakes on the island was a real highlight, the crystal clear, vivid blue waters of Lake Wabby formed when sand dunes closed off a watercourse.

Fraser, with the second largest concentration of lakes in Australia, also hosts half the world’s total of perched dune lakes with over 40 on the island.

A great final day on Fraser before our overnight voyage and final sumptuous dinner before disembarking in Brisbane.

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 Lizard Island

Arriving overnight and waking early we were soon off the ship for an exploratory walk over Lizard. The only really special bird here is Pale White-eye and two seen near the camp ground meant mission accomplished. Other residents with an appealing nature are the delightful Yellow-bellied Sunbird. Pheasant Coucal and White-breasted Woodswallow were also seen among the more commoner species.

Leaving Lizard late afternoon we headed due east to Willis Islet arriving early afternoon the next day.

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