Exploring Far North Queensland Australia
Purtaboi Island Adventure
Exploring a tiny paradise just off the Cassowary Coast, Australia.
If you’ve never heard of Purtaboi Island, you’re not alone. If you’ve never stepped foot on the shore, you’re in an even bigger group. Yesterday, my family and I stepped out of both of these groups to explore this tiny island of rock, sand and coral. In a week, this small island that is one of the Family Island group off the coast of North Queensland will be closed to human visitors for six months.
Purtaboi Island is 4.5 kilometres from the closest town Mission Beach and much closer to its more famous neighbour Dunk Island. Dunk Island has a resort that was internationally famous, but it’s been closed since Cyclone Yasi destroyed it in 2011. Now, Dunk Island is visited by private boats and tours, but it’s hardly the bustling hive of activity that it used to be.
That suited us just fine yesterday when we anchored just off the spit and had a swim. As we enjoyed the sun and sea air we decided it was lunchtime. We wanted to picnic away from others and the little island across the way beckoned us with its empty beach.
Earlier in the day, I had read about the little island being closed for six months of the year, so it was probably the only chance we would have to visit it this year. The decision was made and we hopped back in the boat and made our way to its coral-strewn shores.
Every year, on October 1st Australia’s National Park Service, places a six-month restriction on human visitors to allow nesting seabirds a peaceful place to breed on the sand. Terns and Noddies both breed on the sand and enjoy the bountiful harvest of the surrounding sea and reef.
As we explored we discovered an island that yielded wonderful encounters with creatures unused to human contact. It was magical!
My first encounter was a surprise! A Giant Grasshopper! It was not what I was expecting. On the mainland, these solitary giants are not bothered by photographers or anyone else. They simply get on with their business. This guy was extremely reluctant to be anywhere near us and I missed several shots before he decided he was camouflaged in the coral.
The second encounter was impossible to capture. As we sat eating lunch, a large wasp came and hovered right in front of me, seemingly examining my face before doing the same to the children. Then, in a flash it was gone, but I can still see that keen waspish gaze staring at me if I close my eyes.
After lunch, I headed off, camera in hand, to explore. I meant to try to find the birds that I heard calling but as I wandered I was drawn instead to the rock pools.
My first sighting was a crab shell. I wondered whether one of those protected seabirds had devoured the soft flesh before discarding the shell.
I marvelled at the shapes and patterns of the oyster shells that covered the lower sections of the rocks.
I wandered over to a pool to look for hermit crabs, but instead saw tiny fish and the frilly tentacles of an octopus withdrawing into a hole. It was probably the highly venomous Blue-ringed Octopus.
After alerting the rest of my family, my daughter came over running. She delighted in the tiny tentacles and then pointed out the Sea Slug that I had missed.
I took her over the rocks and showed her a crab resting in a pool, relaxed and oblivious to our presence.
My partner and son joined us and soon had us clambering to see a school of fish trapped in a large pool with more Sea Slugs.
We tentatively braved the oyster-covered rocks to see more crabs running from us over vertical rock faces.
As the sun moved towards the coastal horizon we realised that it was time to head home. I stopped for a moment to breathe in the salty warm air and gratitude at being able to enjoy this special island.
We left footprints behind which likely have already been erased by wind and tide. We took memories which we can treasure.
This is the kind of adventure that feeds the soul and enriches the mind. It’s the slightest glimpse of a wild world that needs to be nurtured for future generations of humans and sea birds alike.
This story was originally published on Medium.com.
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