Fring­ing coral reef one of Dain­tree se­crets

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - TOURISM TALK -

RIGHT on our doorstep we have a very rare and spe­cial type of reef - the fring­ing coral reef.

It’s spongy look­ing, but ra­zor sharp. Drab brown and dead on top, yet awash with life and just won­der­ful from un­der­neath.

It sits right along­side the coast­line, where the rain­for­est meets the reef. And it only ex­ists in a few spe­cial places on the main­land of Australia - north of the Dain­tree River and at Nin­ga­loo Reef in Western Australia.

Fring­ing reefs can’t sur­vive where the big mon­soonal rains wash muddy water into the sea from the ma­jor river sys­tems, which is why most peo­ple never get to see them.

How­ever, along the Dain­tree Coast and up past the Bloom­field River, where the moun­tains are close to the sea, the water is much cleaner, al­low­ing the fring­ing reef to grow and sur­vive.

Bryn Jones, a zo­ol­o­gist with Cape Trib Ocean Sa­fari, elab­o­rates on the work­ings of the reef.

“A large num­ber of coral species not found any­where else in the Great Bar­rier Reef have been dis­cov­ered liv­ing and fos­silised on the fring­ing reef,” he said.

“Due to the ear­lier lower av­er­age sea lev­els, a large por­tion of the fring­ing reef is now vis­i­ble above the wa­ter­line when the tide drops.

“Although the ma­jor­ity of this is dead, un­der the wa­ter­line lives a thriv­ing ecosys­tem con­sist­ing of many fish species such as groupers, rab­bit­fish, par­rot­fish and many smaller reef fish species.

“Some of the largest tur­tles in the wild, mainly green sea tur­tles and hawks­bill tur­tles in­habit the fring­ing reef along with sharks and rays.

“Stud­ies con­ducted in the area sug­gest these fring­ing reefs are ac­tu­ally healthy, sup­port­ing a rich va­ri­ety of coral species and able to cope with acute dis­tur­bances such as cy­clones, floods and coral bleach­ing episodes with only short term dis­rup­tion.”

How can you en­joy them as a trav­eller?

From the sealed roads, you will find patches of reef at Cow Bay around Black Rock to Snap­per Is­land, at Thorn­ton Beach off Noah’s Range, Co­conut Beach, off the Cape Trib Camp­ground and be­tween Cape Trib Beach and the Beach House. These are all ac­ces­si­ble by nor­mal sedans and hire cars.

Fur­ther up the Bloom­field Track, and ac­ces­si­ble by 4WD and walk­ing only, there are Em­ma­gen Beach, Cedar Bay and sev­eral other lit­tle hid­den spots un­til you get to a very stun­ning and com­plex sys­tem at Archer Point near Cook­town. Archer Point is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by mo­tor ve­hi­cle.

To en­joy them, you can beach walk, go snorkelling; or try sea kayak­ing. Firstly, find a low tide, usu­ally when the tides are be­low about 1.2m.

A good walk along the beach is the eas­i­est, es­pe­cially at Co­conut beach, the Cape Trib Camp­ground, Cape Trib Beach and Archer Point.

If snorkelling, you will need your own snorkelling gear as there are no hire places in the area. Re­mem­ber ei­ther to have a buddy with you or have a friend spot­ting you from the beach.

An­other beaut way is to go via sea kayak­ing. If you don’t have your own kayak, then Crocody­lus (Cow Bay), Cape Trib Camp­ground and Pad­dle­trek are the only three hire and tour com­pa­nies in the area.

“Sea kayak­ing is fan­tas­tic in any weather con­di­tions,” Bryn said.

“On a flat calm day you can see tur­tles pop­ping up to the sur­face to breathe and st­ingrays in the shal­lows of the man­groves. In stronger winds you can en­joy surf­ing the kayaks through the beach swell.”

Of course, if you want to see the reef in its com­plete daz­zling form, then take the ex­tra step and go out fur­ther to the mid shelf and outer shelf reefs with some­one like Ocean Sa­fari. There you’ll be able, with­out fear of stingers, to en­joy the colours and in­cred­i­ble di­ver­sity of the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Happy trav­el­ling.

Among the fring­ing coral reef: Bryn Jones at Cape Trib Beach

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