On a flight path to LORD HOWE ISLAND
With a population of just 350 residents, Lord Howe Island is the place to go trekking, where you will find birds, turtles and other marine life more populous than human life. LORRAINE THOMSON shares the treasures of this little-known Pacific island where
Lord Howe Island is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of global natural significance. Most of the island is virtually untouched forest with many of the plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Although only 11km long and 2km wide, Lord Howe has a number of delightful, well-marked walking trails in the permanent park preserve, covering two-thirds of the island. By this stage you may be asking where is Lord Howe Island? Well it is in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, 600km east of mainland Port Macquarie in New South Wales and 900km from Norfolk Island. The island was named after Richard Howe, the first Earl Howe and first Lord of the Admiralty, when the island was first sighted by Europeans in 1788. Visitors to the island can enjoy easy one-hour strolls at sea level through lush Kentia palm and Banyan forests; to moderate cliff-top hikes where you’ll see large numbers of seabirds; to the challenging 875-metre Mount Gower climb [eight hours return] – rated as one of the best day treks in the world. If you walk the Little Island Track between March and November you can view the spectacular aerial courtship displays by the winter breeding providence petrel. One of the world’s rarest birds, the providence petrel returns to the island to nest and can be “called” out of the air, landing at your feet and even climbing into your lap! Lord Howe Island is actually Australia’s premier bird watching destination, with 14 species of seabirds breeding here in the hundreds of thousands. From Malabar Cliffs, you can watch red-tailed tropic birds performing their balletic, airborne courting rituals between September and May. During these months, countless shearwaters (known locally as mutton birds) return to the island at dusk each day in one of the world’s most extraordinary courtship spectacles. Lord Howe is also legendary for fishing. Surrounded by Marine Park and with no commercial fishery, the diversity of species,
terrain, methods – and the sheer abundance of fish – rank Lord Howe among the world’s top fishing destinations. There are dozens of hot spots for hooking into monster pelagics such as Lord Howe Kingfish, Yellowfin Tuna and Wahoo, as well as several species unique to Lord Howe. And there’s a virtually untouched game fishery – featuring Black, Blue and Striped Marlin – just half an hour from the jetty. Lord Howe is protected by the region’s most southerly coral reef, which shelters the crystal-clear lagoon. The local sport fishing “grand slam” is to catch a Trevally, Silver Drummer, Bluefish and the endemic Double-Header Wrasse in one session of sight-casting in the shallow waters of the lagoon. Bag limits, however, apply to Bluefish and Double-Headers and a catch-and-release policy is encouraged. This destination is a great place to take the kids in the school holidays. The calm waters of the lagoon are ideal for paddling at the edge, or snorkelling above colourful corals just metres from the shore. Visitors can hire snorkelling gear from the
dive shops or, at Neds Beach where you can use the masks, fins and snorkels stored there for the cost of a contribution to the honesty box. You can body surf at Blinky Beach or swim in the open ocean at Neds Beach. Lord Howe Island’s abundant marine life and crystal- clear waters attract divers to some of the best diving in the region. The coral reefs at Lord Howe Island are the most southerly – and among the most spectacular you will find. The island is located at the cross-roads of five major ocean currents, including the warm East Australian Current which runs down the Great Barrier Reef and down into the Tasman Sea. The marine ecosystem hosts a diverse mix of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate species that are not found anywhere else. There are over 90 species of coral and 500 species of fish inhabiting the reef. Lord Howe’s underwater topography of trenches, caves and volcanic drop offs adds to the awe-inspiring diving experience. In addition to its natural attractions, Lord Howe Island offers a range of outdoor activities for a variety of interests and fitness levels. This makes it a destination for families or, equally, for a romantic getaway. From bike riding along picturesque roads and surfing the island’s clean breaks, to a relaxing game of golf or lawn bowls in dreamy surroundings, the island’s facilities and natural attractions keep people of all ages entertained. Other outdoor activities available include kiteboarding, windsurfing, tennis and sailing.
Well-marked walking trails include this through lush easy Kentia palm stroll and Banyan
Lord Howe Island’s crystal- clear waters allow you to mingle among the fish and turtles. PHOTO : Peter Aitchison
The sheer abundance of fish ranks Lord Howe among the world's top fishing destinations. PHOTO : Vanessa Hunter P
At Neds Beach you can hire snorkelling gear for the cost of a contribution to the honesty box.