Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

by Robin Fuller January. 28, 2021 245 views

Heron Island is a coral cay in the southern Great Barrier Reef, 460 km NW of Brisbane. The island is about 800m long and up to 300m wide, giving an area of 16 ha.

Heron Island Resort, featured in BBC series, Great Barrier Reef, occupies the NW corner of the island. The University of Queensland Heron Island Research Station has the SW quarter. The eastern half of the island is protected as part of the Capricornia Cays National Park.

We visited Heron in 2012 to dive, nature watch and generally chill. All three were great. This blog is a brief introduction to Heron Island. A second blog will show the Island's birds.

The Heron Islander - the white one! - arrives after a 72km journey from Gladstone.

The Heron Islander - the white one! - arrives after a 72km journey from Gladstone.

Approaching the quay past the rusted wreck of HMAS Protector which  was towed there damaged in 1945 to form a breakwater.

Approaching the quay past the rusted wreck of HMAS Protector which was towed there damaged in 1945 to form a breakwater.

The jetty provides a deep water berth for arrivals and dive boats.

The jetty provides a deep water berth for arrivals and dive boats.

Blue skies, white sand, and crystal clear water are welcoming sights.

Blue skies, white sand, and crystal clear water are welcoming sights.

Casuarina and Pisonia trees down to the high tide line offer nest sites for birds and shade for humans.

Casuarina and Pisonia trees down to the high tide line offer nest sites for birds and shade for humans.

Sand and coral rubble fringe the entire island making easy walking for a full circuit of the island - a 10 minute job best made to last 1-2 hours.

Sand and coral rubble fringe the entire island making easy walking for a full circuit of the island - a 10 minute job best made to last 1-2 hours.

Huge expanses of sandy beach are protected by the outer reef and exposed at low water.

Huge expanses of sandy beach are protected by the outer reef and exposed at low water.

Tank tracks into the dunes - a sure sign of nesting turtles.

Tank tracks into the dunes - a sure sign of nesting turtles.

Heron Island is a significant nesting site for two threatened turtle species, the Green and the Loggerhead. It seems hard to believe that Heron Island was a cannery for turtle soup in the 1920s.

A Green turtle finishes burying her eggs as the sun rises. Most others were gone before first light.

A Green turtle finishes burying her eggs as the sun rises. Most others were gone before first light.

We went to Heron to dive the Great Barrier Reef. But we didn't have to go far to see some of the locals.

Blacktip reef sharks swim right under the Resort's main buildings. These are about 1.8m long but timidly move away when you snorkel amongst them.

Blacktip reef sharks swim right under the Resort's main buildings. These are about 1.8m long but timidly move away when you snorkel amongst them.

Blacktips come into water so shallow that the fins are forced to break the surface.

Blacktips come into water so shallow that the fins are forced to break the surface.

I cannot show you an amazing collection of diving photos as I have always found photography to be a distraction during onboard preparations and hazardous when trying to concentrate on the skills and safe practices of diving.

Another dive over. They never seem to last long enough.

Another dive over. They never seem to last long enough.

The facilities and organisation of the diving at Heron were good. However, we were disappointed in the poor state of the reefs around Heron with much coral bleaching and a limited abundance and diversity of marine life. It is OK but cannot match our best diving which was in Thailand. The Australians need to wake up to the fact that their environmental policies and practices contribute to the sad and serious decline of one of their greatest resources.

Another day over - they just all went too quickly.

Another day over - they just all went too quickly.

Heron Resort may house 300 guests but, outside the main Queensland holiday season, we found you could could easily feel you had the whole island to yourself.

Heron Resort may house 300 guests but, outside the main Queensland holiday season, we found you could could easily feel you had the whole island to yourself.

A second blog will show some of the bird species which live / nest on Heron Island.

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There are 3 comments , add yours!
Amy Caldwell 6 months ago

Beautiful pictures! Thank you for the informative comments. It's sad the coral is not being preserved.

6 months ago Edited
Benny Law 6 months ago

It is so sad to see the gradual destruction of our beautiful planet by human activities. Looking forward to your next post.

6 months ago Edited
Robin Fuller Replied to Benny Law 6 months ago

The good news at Heron Island is the research lab which is working on heat tolerant strains of corals which can withstand warming and might be transplanted to regrow reefs. Great. But, as an ecologist, I often feel that these concessions to conservation blind us to the real, continuing and worsening plight of the environment.

6 months ago Edited
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