Yesterday we arrived on Heron Island after a two hour ride
from Gladstone. The crossing from Gladstone to Heron was extremely rough. The wind was
blowing at about 30 knots and the waves were running three meters high. They were offering
Dramamine at the dock in Gladstone to everyone and I really should have taken them up on
the offer. Because I, the son and brother of tug boat captains, who has spent a large part
of my life on the water, got seasick. About an hour into the ride I knew it was going to
be a long day, so I stocked up on the seasick bags. The launch was rocking from side to
side and the swells were enormous. Thankfully the Captain did a great job of getting us to
Heron in two hours.
Our first impressions of Heron Island are unfortunately not good ones. Our good luck has finally run out. When we arrived on shore it was raining, about 60 degrees, and the wind was howling. The people on the island that were waiting to board the launch back to Gladstone did not look happy. We found out later that the dive boats had been unable to go out to the reefs for the last four days because of the bad weather. Because of the weather our first day was spent taking a walk around the island, which didn't take long as the island is only a kilometer long. We also did some reef walking near the shore, but there wasn't much to see and the water was cold. Other than the reef there really isn't much to do on Heron. The brochures for Heron advertised it as a tropical paradise, but it feels more like Cape Cod in the wintertime.
One of the reasons we chose Heron Island was because it is also a National Park. We had been warned that there were a lot of birds on the island, but we were looking forward to seeing all the different species. It didn't take long to realize that there wasn't much to see. There are exactly four types of birds visible during the day on Heron Island: Silver Gulls; Buff Banded Rails; Eastern Reef Herons; Black Noddys. The Buff Banded Rails are similar to a quail in appearance and are fun to watch especially when they sneak into the dining room. The Silver Gulls look like a slightly prettier version of our sea gulls. The Eastern Reef Herons, for which the island is named, are almost non-existent. In two days on the island we saw four of them and I'm still not sure that it wasn't the same bird all four times. If only there were only four Black Noddys on Heron we might not be leaving a day early. I don't know exactly how many Black Noddys there are on Heron, but the species list I picked up lists it as tens of thousands to hundred of thousands. They are everywhere. They are the noisiest birds you've ever heard and the whole island smells like a large toilet for birds. We were sitting beside the saltwater pool today and one of them crapped on my arm. There is one other species of bird called the Wedgetailed Shearwater on the island that is nocturnal and nests underground. Their call sounds like a cross between a wolf and a train whistle and they keep it up all night. Actually it's kind of soothing and definitely more appealing than the call of the Black Noddy. Last night I was ready to buy up the island's supply of Alka Seltzer and start getting rid of a few of the Black Noddys. For those of you who aren't familiar with the effects of Alka Seltzer on a bird, let's just say it can be extremely messy. For those of you who do know what the effect is, we really wouldn't have done this to the poor birds. Really we wouldn't.
Another problem with Heron has been the level of
service. The staff here are very nice, but extremely disorganized. Tonight it took two
hours for us to get through dinner and we finally gave up and left before our desert
arrived. The food has been pretty good, but we discovered that our all-inclusive package
doesn't include drinks. I'm not talking about alcoholic drinks here, I'm talking about
diet cokes and mineral water. The only free beverages on the island are tap water (which
is nasty), milk, tea, and coffee. For the money we spent to come here, we expected a lot
more. Because of the weather we couldn't snorkel on our first day and although today was
nicer, the water near the outer reef is still cold. You have to go out to the outer reef
to see anything and they charge extra for equipment and the boat ride out there. Plus you
need to rent a wet suit in addition to all your other equipment. The snorkeling inside the
reef is okay, but there is really nothing to see. After talking it over we
decided to leave a day early and spend an extra day in Sydney. We're flying out on the
helicopter tomorrow morning (no more launches for me this week) and should be in Sydney by
about 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. We were lucky enough to get a room at the Ritz Carlton
near Sydney Harbor for two nights at a discounted rate, so we'll spend our final days here
in style. I was hoping to post some spectacular pictures of the reef for everyone, but
unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. These pictures I took today are about the best I can
do. Next time we're going to Bedarra Island which is closer to the Equator and a lot more
luxurious. Oh well by tomorrow we'll be back in Sydney. See ya' then.
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