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

Travel Digest - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

PHOTO : Peter Aitchi­son

Well-marked walk­ing trails in­clude this through lush easy Ken­tia palm stroll and Banyan

forests.

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

PHOTO : Vanessa Hunter

At Neds Beach you can hire snorkelling gear for the cost of a con­tri­bu­tion to the hon­esty box.

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