Monday, August 03, 2015

A Change of Scene - Lord Howe Island

The intention was to write my next blog about rediscovering Tasmania. However, all those 'good plans of mice and men' were suddenly interrupted by us going to Lord Howe island, a tropical paradise in winter that was cold and stormy, but very worthwhile our attention.
Would love to have seen this ourselves from the air, 
but the weather would not allow that.
Thanks to Tourism NSW for the above photo.                                                 

Lord Howe Island is a World Heritage-listed paradise located 660 km off the north coast of NSW and less than two hours' flight from Sydney. It is stunningly beautiful, even in winter! The crystal clear waters of Lord Howe Island are perfect for snorkeling, fishing and other aquatic activities.

Our plan was to leave Sydney on the Monday and return later that week on Saturday. As it turned out, we received a call from QANTAS at 9 am on the day of our departure to advise us that all flights to Lord Howe were cancelled due to adverse weather condition on the island. There was nothing we could do about that and so cheerfully spent another day with friends in Sydney. When we arrived a day late, Lord Howe Island residents told us that the airport was closed for a couple of days due to bad weather.

Speaking to family and friends, many believed that Lord Howe Island is somewhere off the Queensland coast. It is in fact, part of NSW and about parallel with Port Macquarie on the east coast of NSW. It looks tropical and reminded me in many ways of Papua New Guinea, except for the temperatures. We were told that the permanent population is around 400 and that tourists were restricted to another 400.

We enjoyed excellent accommodation at Earl's Anchorage and felt welcome and comfortable:
The 'Welcome' sign at the entrance of our bungalow!

What did we especially like about LHI?
* Friendly people;
* The stillness and peace;
* Stunning scenery;
* Great walks;
* No mobile telephone!!!! Yeah!
* The Reef viewed from a glass-bottom boat;
* Total relaxation;
* Isolation;
* Good food.

And all that in just four days!

Perhaps the best way to share LHI with you is just to post photos of where we were and what we did with an occasional comment. So, here goes!

Our first encounter with Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird
Stunning indeed!

Our first planned walking excursion was to Malabar Hill via Kim's lookout  and then on to Ned's Beach. Unfortunately, Jan found the going very difficult and was able to go on. Instead, we explored around Settlement's Beach where the first Europeans to Lord Howe Island settled.
 The start looked promising, but sadly was aborted.
Looking back.
  Interesting formations of rock. Very volcanic.

Blinky Beach is a popular destination to introduce oneself to fish in shallow waters and and enjoy hand-feeding them. It seemed that fish was quite used to being fed by visitors and food was available for that purpose in a dispenser.
Blinky Beach where fish happily co-exist with swimmers!
Admiralty Islands from Nedd's Beach

The views around Middle Beach impressed us and we enjoyed spending some time there. Share the views with us:

In the background, Mutton Bird Island.

A walk through the Valley of shadows had its own special surprises, including this delightful tree. It was delightfully quiet and restful:
How creative is this?

Once through the Valley of Shadows, I feasted my eyes on the following great views:
In the distance is Balls Pyramid, which I was lucky to see.

We returned to this place the following day, just as a storm was about to hit:
It took only minutes to get from the above to:
 Admiralty Island in the distance.

A couple of hours on board a glass-bottom boat, exploring the lagoon and the reef turned out to be a wonderful experience. Our captain was well informed and easy to listen to. We felt very safe and very much enjoyed the experience. we chose not to snorkel and instead, were perfectly satisfied to viewing the coral, reef and fish in the comfort of our boat.

On the foreground our glass-bottom boat with Blackbum Isand on the background

Welcome to our world!

We were told that the reef in Lord Howe Island, while not as large as the Great Barrier Reef, was in a much healthier state. While not being experts on this matter, the health and colour and fish we saw suggests that this a a reasonable claim. I have seen the reefs around Green Island near Cairns, and don't remember them looking as healthy as this. The photographs in the section are mostly from Jan.

The magic of it all!

We were entertained by different species of fish that appeared to be waiting for a treat. They were not disappointed when our captain donned his wet suit an dived to find a sea-urchin in order to feed them and provide a wonderful spectacle for us.

But first, he cleaned the glass bottom of our boat for a clearer vision.
Fish of different varieties lunged for the delicacy that was in his hand. 
It was great!
More and more came to enjoy the feast!

Including this beautiful scorpion fish (so we were told)!

By now, the sea was being stirred up by a storm coming in from the north-west accompanied by rain. We made it back in perfect time and it was all clear when we disembarked the Coral Princess.

The following photographs are of more stormy weather. The light was ideal for photography and we both enjoyed taking the following lasting impressions of Lord Howe Island!

We were very glad we went. A marvellous experience - even in the winter!

Our return on a QANTAS Dash 8-200. 
Small, but comfortable!