Zanzibar, the most exotic island of all?

An ancient, crumbling, Arabian nights fairytale island, surrounded by the brightest turquoise water. Once a major trade capital for spices, silks, slaves and more, it’s the original melting pot, mixing ancient Africa, Arabia and India, with the Chinese and then the Portuguese following in later centuries. It’s a very visceral history that you can see, smell and feel in the air around you.

18 years ago, while doing an overland through east Africa, I arrived in Zanzibar and fell for its many charms. In three weeks time I will finally return, and I am wondering how much it has changed or not? Here’s my memories from the first time.

Getting to Zanzibar.

The ferry to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam was not the most reliable, or safest. We’d booked the morning ferry, it breaks down, we wait a few hours and catch the mid afternoon one, a four and a half hour trip sitting on our packs on the deck, in the bow of a very full boat, towels over our heads to ward off the intense sun. Then there was the mad scramble to get off the ferry, through immigration and pound the streets to find a room – $15 a night for four to share, with very dodgy mosquito nets. My notes at the time said “the Sambusa, down an alley, past the rubbish dump – nice little room though.”

Prison Island.

We took a dhow out to Prison Island, a tiny island with a little sand bar beach, just a few meters wide, extending out into the true blue water. There’s remnants of an old prison, and a small population of very old, very huge giant tortoises, who in spite of being very wrinkly, are very adorable. We sunbath in the hot sun and cool off in the water until the wind comes up and starts scouring our skin with sand. We head back to Zanzibar in a choppy sea and get drenched in very salty sea spray, and need a very good warm shower on our return.

StoneTown, Zanzibar.

We explored the Byzantian alleyways, the old fort, the sultan’s palace – the architecture was amazing, but most building were run down, worn out, peeling and in need of some renovation. We spent more time wandering the streets and alleyways than we did on the beaches, it was just so fascinating. We dined cheaply but well. Beers at Africa House, fresh coconuts on the beach, calamari for dinner at The Dolphin, and back for omelettes for breakfast. Freshly cooked seafood straight off the stalls in the marketplace, and calamari stew at the Floating Restaurant next to the market. Fish coconut curries and banana milkshakes at Caymur’s. I wonder if any of these places still exist? – apart from the markets, probably not!


The Beach, Zanzibar.

We grabbed a ride in a jeep to Jambiani, a popular beach a two hour drive to the opposite side of the island to StoneTown. On the way we stopped off to see the endangered red colobus monkeys. What is surprising is that we didn’t also do a spice tour, to one of the spice plantations, given Zanzibar’s fame as a spice island – having grown up on farms in NZ we didn’t see anything interesting about visiting a farm. The beach was stunning – when we arrived the tide was out about 500m, and by late afternoon it was right back up the beach lapping our toes. The local kids were busy selling us papaya and coconuts, and were just gorgeous to watch.

PhotoFriday: Street: The eye-popping Folsom Street Leather Fair, San Francisco

There’s no shortage of colourful neighbourhood street festivals in San Francisco every summer, but the most eye-popping is definitely the Folsom Street Leather Fair – and no, this is not some industry apparel convention!

I wondered whether the festival patrons might be a bit annoyed having a camera toting tourist in their midst, but I didn’t have to worry, this was a friendly crowd – very friendly! They welcome anyone, any gender, any age, any dress code, and people come from round the world to join in. And there’s not too many shrinking violets in this crowd, most people were very happy to be photographed and very offended if they weren’t! These photos in no way give a real picture of the festival, these are the most tame photos of the day – the rest are better suited to a XXX-rated site.

Is this the best travel photo gadget ever?

I found this by accident yesterday, I have no idea how long its been around, but I think it is the best gadget ever! “Big call” I hear you say. Yes it is.

gadget tripod
gadget tripod

How many times over the years have I ruined my low light photos by hand holding my camera and getting camera shake? Sure, I know I should carry a tripod, but a lot of the time it just seems too bulky, too much hassle.

And then I found this.

gadget tripod
gadget tripod

Its a bit like the head of a tripod, but designed to be screwed onto a bottle top or the top of a thin fence/wall/balcony. So just imagine, it’s sunset, I am kicking back with a beer, I wish I had a tripod, and voila – screw this gadget on, and the beer bottle becomes my tripod – or my water bottle, or rum bottle, or the top edge of the glass fence around the bar, or the chair back…… So now I can improvise a tripod where ever I am – how MacGyver!!

The instructions say it only takes around 500gms, so a compact camera, or a light DSLR. But I tested it with my camera and lense, a total of 1.2 kg, and as long as the beer bottle was full then it held it stable. It definitely needs a weighty, stable base for the bigger camera, but it can work – I think the size of the lense would be a bigger problem than the weight.

gadget tripod
gadget tripod

Mine was on sale for $4.99, down from $9.95 – a bargain. Its a very light construction, I don’t know how durable it will be, but at that price it doesn’t have to last long to be worth it. I think theres a great market for medium to heavy SLRs if they make a heavy, higher quality version too, at a higher price point – I’d buy it.

Top Ten things I love about Havana Cuba

It would be a much shorter list to write down what I don’t love about Havana (ATMs don’t work?), but what’s the point of that when there is so much to love? Of course, in addition to this list, there is another underlying pleasure of being in Havana, and it’s that feeling of being naughty, of being somewhere I am not allowed to be. Even though it is legal for me to be here, it isn’t for a lot of people, so it does feel like a form of protest just being here. Which just adds to all the other pleasures, which include:

Havana, Cuba, music
Havana, Cuba, music
  1. Walking along the Malecon in the daytime. The Malecon is the wide path running along the seawall around the huge sweep of bay in central Havana. On a hot sunny weekend I am amazed at the number of families at the beach, swimming, sunbathing on rocks, having picnic lunches. There are cyclists going up and down; there are people fishing for their dinner off the wall; there are couples cuddling on the wall; there are musicians playing the sax, drums, guitars, along the Malecon; it feels like the heart and soul of daily Havana is laid out for me to stroll past.
  2. Walking along the Malecon at night. I find this just as interesting as during the day time. Now there are more couples promenading, more groups of teenagers hanging out with their friends. There is a huge curved vista of the lit up city at night spread out in front of me, and there are more tourists out and about as well.

    Havana, Cuba, The Malecon
    Havana, Cuba, The Malecon
  3. Strawberry and Choc Chip icecream. Actually this is a Cuba-wide obsession of mine, they do some fine icecream, and the Coppelia in Havana is particularly intriguing, looking more like a spaceship than an ice cream parlour.
  4. Queueing for up to two hours for meals. This may not sound like a good thing, but it’s a sure sign that I am going to eat in one of the more popular paladars. We spent one and a half hours one lunchtime queueing on the street, in direct blazing sun, to get into a restaurant up three floors of rickety staircase, but it turned out to be worth it. One night we queued outside a paladar for over two hours and got dinner at around 10.30. But we got to sit in the garden down the side of the house while we waited, and drunk our way though so many Rum Collins that I have no idea what we eventually had for dinner, but we did have a fun night. And lets face it, queueing for food is a fairly good way of getting a small insight into what the locals have had to deal with for decades.
  5. Hiring a bright pink Cadillac convertible for a sightseeing drive. Getting driven around the embassy district and Revolution Square in a vibrantly painted 1950’s pink convertible has the added bonus of turning us into a tourist attraction too. Other visitors unlucky enough to not be in one of these cars are busy snapping us and our car as we cruise slowly by. Its even more fun when we add a few hats and hairscarves to channel the appropriate period. At the same time  we get to explore the embassy district, where the palatial houses of the richest families before the revolution have since become embassies of Cuba’s allies, some restored to their former glory, some still falling apart depending on the wealth of the nation represented. It seems mildly inappropriate arriving this way in Revolution Square, huge enough to accommodate those massive Castro rallies, surrounded by the starkly serious architecture of the revolutionary government, and the gigantic iconic outline of Che on the side of one of the government buildings.

    Havana, Cuba, car
    Havana, Cuba, car
  6. How many of the beautiful buildings have been restored and how many haven’t. There has been a huge amount of restoration work in Havana, especially the heritage protected Old Havana, which enables the buildings to glow in all their former pastel glory. And there are equally as many buildings just a few blocks away that are run down and on their last legs, a faded shadow of their former selves. For me this helps prevent the centre of Havana from becoming a theme park to its former self. The government is actively bribing citizens back into the restored heart of Old Havana to try and make sure it doesn’t become a sterile shell for visitors, that it remains a neighbourhood. It makes it fascinating to go walking, zigzagging through these streets, around every corner is a different type of view.
  7. The perfect snacks: the cold chocolate milkshake at the Museo del Chocolate; the mojito in La Bodeguita del medio, claimed as its birthplace by Hemingway; the perfect expresso at Cafe Escorial in Plaza Vieja.

    Havana, Cuba, mojito
    Havana, Cuba, mojito
  8. The Tropicana Show. Once upon a time, before the revolution, Havana was the original Vegas – it attracted the stars, the parties,the gambling, the corruption, the crime. And its centrepiece was the Tropicana Show, the original showgirl routines that Nevada has since built an entire industry on. It somehow has survived the decades of revolution and blockade, and the growth in tourism to Cuba has seen it regain some of its original lustre. Its pricy but we still wanted to go, its a little window back in time to a lifestyle that no longer exists. The Tropicana is a large open air amphitheatre under the stars and the trees, perfect for evenings basking in the sultry cuban heat. Tables are arranged in circular tiers around the stage so that everyone gets a view. There are really big production numbers with showgirls and guys, contortonists, aerial and high wire performers and strongman acrobats. And for a show based around displaying lots of naked flesh, it seems free from any sleaze. This may be partly because it was easy to, literally, see the frayed edges of the show. The costumes were obviously originally very elaborate, and just like the old 50’s cars, appear to have been held together with string and wire for the last few decades. The dancers shoes are permanently scuffed, the metallic paint worn off the edges. The dancers all wear “nude” coloured bodysuits, to give the impression they were completely naked except for the strategically placed nipple rosettes and g-strings. Once upon a time I guess these suits were made specifically for each dancer and matched their skin tones. However the Cuban population has skin tones varying from the blackest black to the whitest white, so it is definitely not a “one flesh coloured body suit fits all” kind of environment. Now the dancers and body suits are often mismatched – dark brown “flesh” on a pale girl, a pale cream on a darker girl, which if nothing else does give quite a homely quality to the pretend nudity.
  9. La Torre Bar – cocktails and views for sunset. On the top floor of a 36 floor building, with floor to ceiling glass windows, this bar is the place to come, sit back, sip a cocktail and watch the sun set over all Havana. Of course the drinks are overpriced, but it is the best view in town. Its part of the famous La Torre restaurant, reputedly so ridiculously expensive it makes the bar look cheap, but we don’t bother finding out, it is back to the paladar for us.
  10. Wandering the Old Town, between Plaza Viejo and Plaza Cathedral before 11am. In this small area of Old Havana, there are dozens of tiny cobblestoned streets to explore, opening onto many hidden and not so hidden squares. The buildings hide a huge variety to explore, everything from an armoury which still sells guns to the public, to a cigar shop which is one big humidor and has its own bar inside, to the Museo de Chocolate, to so many art galleries that I lose count. Up until about 11 in the morning I pretty much have it to myself, then it fills up quickly and is crowded for the rest of the day, just in time for me to retire to a rooftop bar for a refreshing mojito. So get up early and  get to enjoy it both ways.

Hot salsa nights in Trinidad, Cuba

Our friends call from the door of our casa particular and we go out and join them, strolling down the rough cobblestoned street in our summer dresses. We have had a delicious three course dinner in our casa, and now its around 9pm, a bit early yet but its time for some rum and dancing.

Case de la Trova

We head to the Casa de la Trova. Trova is one of the mainstays of traditional cuban music, based on the original trovadores, travelling musicians who played guitar and sung. Its the style made famous to the rest of us through the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon. Now every town has a Casa de la Trova, a “house” for the musicians to play at. They have become much more geared to tourists than locals, but can still feature some great musicians and we want to try it out. We grab a table in the courtyard and marvel at the canopy of old vines that make the roof over our head, as we wait for our order of “bottle of rum and four cans of cola thanks”. I really like the music, but the overall atmosphere in the place is a bit flat. I think its because all the dancers look like they are concentrating on remembering their moves from dance classes, rather than just dancing for fun. So we finish off our bottle and move on.

Salsa in the town square, Cuba. 

We want to try the african percussion bar next but its already full, its seductive throb of drums spilling  out onto the cobblestones. We walk half a block back to the town square, set out with tables and chairs in the open air, surrounding a large dance floor in the middle, a band playing boisterously on the side. This nightly open air gathering is free, except of course any drinks we want to order. There’s a big crowd dancing salsa, and an even bigger crowd watching, generating quite a buzz, so we push into the crowd and find a few stray chairs and order more rum. Amongst all the dancers are several local couples who are clearly professional dancers, maybe dance instructors as well, and they vie for the attention of the onlookers. There is no outfit too tight, no look too smouldering, no salsa dance move too sexy.  They completely ignore all the other dancers and conduct their own informal dance off, and it makes for fantastic viewing- we all pick our favourites and cheer them on. There’s plenty of locals as well as tourists in the crowd too, we are sharing a table with a group of them and many more are table hopping, and occasionally persuading us to get up and dance as well, although we are feeling quite intimidated, not having had our lessons yet!

Picture Postcard perfect Trinidad Cuba. 

Trinidad is a small town of only 60,000 people, on the southern coast of Cuba, all cobblestones and worn pretty-in-pastel Spanish architecture. It is a picture postcard of what we all expect Cuba to look like. But it’s not flash and renovated like Havana; it has a bohemian character, a mix of the renovated, the well worn, and the completely derelict. It is made for gentle days and party nights. We spend the morning wandering the streets, visiting fascinating museums, sitting in parks, and climbing the old bell tower for the best view in town. For lunch there are the little illegal ‘hole in the wall’ pizza shops that pop up and then close down within an hour when their stock is sold – you don’t know where they are going to open next but you’ll recognise them from the queue. The pizza is delicious and about 50 cents each. We retreat to the classic Caribbean white sand turquoise water at Ancon beach, a couple of miles out of town on the coast, floating in the warm water and soaking up the sun. All too soon we are back in town for the evening, in our salsa class, sweating madly and getting excited when it occasionally starts to come together.

African Drumming in Cuba.

And after dinner in our casa we are ready for another Trinidad night. But we have a quick diversion first. We head across the road to a small schoolroom where the students are putting on a nativity play.  The daughter of our casa is in a lead role, so we are here to be official photographers of the event, and promise to send back a CD with all the shots. Then its off out for the night. This time we head straight to the African drumming bar, and find ourselves  seats at the front.The decor here is patio inspired, wrought iron furniture in bright primary colours, and another roof of vines. As well as virtuoso drummers and percussionists with a thumping beat, they also have an amazing dance troup, all incredibly fit  athletic young men with six packs and dancing abilities to die for, and one token young woman. For some reason the guys in our group don’t enjoy the entertainment as much as the ladies this time.

Trindad’s nightclub in a cave.

Around midnight we head to the Ayala nightclub in a cave. Its an adventure just getting there, we scramble up a steep uneven dirt slope for a few minutes, to get to the cave in the hills. Part way up a police car at the top turns its headlights on, to light up the path, unfortunately it just blinded us instead but we made it to the top anyway. This hill is next to a dodgy part of town which is why there is a cop car keeping an eye on things, but its safe enough going up in a big group. I wouldn’t recommend it if there are just a couple of you – take the long way round the road instead. I thought Jorgito might be exaggerating but this really is a cave! First we head down about three flights of stairs into the cave tunnels and then we start to hear the music – follow the tunnels for a few more metres and we come out in an underground cavern. At one end is a large dance floor, DJ station and giant video screens, and around it are various levels of decks, with seating or bars. My entry fee came with a free mojito, which is a nice start. The whole set-up is cool, it has a retro 80’s feel with lasers and videos on the cave walls, but the music is not so good- a mix of 10 year old house music and latino boy bands, with a fair mix of madonna thrown in. Not very conducive to practising our embryonic salsa moves, so we only last a couple of hours before we scramble back down the hill.

Christmas Eve in Trinidad, Cuba.

Another day at the beach beckons, and we head offshore on a hobicat for some snorkelling at a reef close by, although its quite a windy day so it’s quite choppy and visibility is reduced a bit, but still worth a look. It also makes for a nice tailwind as we fly back to shore. The afternoon contains more salsa lessons and cervesas and canchancharas under the shade at the Daiquiri bar. The delicious Canchanchara is a mix of rum, honey, lemon juice and cinnamon. At sunset we scramble back up the hill to the old ruin (right next to the cave nightclub) to watch the sun set over the town and sea.

Today is Christmas Eve and we have been invited to a christmas party at the house of one of the local bigwigs, fittingly named Jesus. Jesus’ extended family has prepared a spectacular buffet of whole baked fish, roast turkey, soups and salads. We contribute our usual supply of rum bottles and cans of cola. The ubiquitous  ghetto blaster comes and and much bad dancing ensues, salsa and not. At 11.30pm we head off to the big church in the main square, which is full of local families. Realising in time that we are (a) not catholics, and (b) quite drunk, we sensibly decide not to offend the locals, so we skip the midnight mass and head back up the hill to Ayala in the cave to dance our way into Christmas Day.

Angkor temples without the crowds?

It’s the second day of the new year festivities, so we allow ourselves a sleep-in – departing for the far flung temples at the advanced hour of 7am. All the guide books talk about staying extra days, getting outside the “inner circle” of temples and escaping the crowds, and that is exactly what we are planning for today.

With hindsight, we should’ve taken the guide books with a grain of salt, but it doesn’t matter because we end up with a nice twist on the crowds. I should know by now that when popular guidebooks say “go here, get off the beaten track” then lots of other people will be doing the same thing.

And the crowds are definitely here, car loads and bus loads at every temple today, but for once we are completely outnumbered by the locals on holiday and its a great feeling. Because its the three day national New Year holiday, Cambodian families have gathered from across the country and are visiting their own history and temples in great numbers, often spreading blankets to have huge extended family picnics under the trees. And we, the hot sweaty fly-in tourists, are in the minority for a change, which makes the temples feel much less like open air museums than usual .

Banteay Srei, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Banteay Srei, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We make six temple stops today, which is a bit ambitious with our late start for the day, so we are a wee bit exhausted (heat stroke anyone?) by the end. Here’s my highlights of the day.

Kbal Spean – The River of a Thousand Lingas.

This site is an interesting change from the usual temples. It a 1.5km walk up through the valley to the riverbed at the top – its a gentle incline but made harder for uncoordinated people like me by  being a bit of a scramble over a rocky mountain goat track in parts.

I am a bit disappointed when I first see the carvings at the top, as they mainly look like a cobblestoned path. Duh! I eventually realise that these are the remaining bases of the thousand lingas (phallic symbols), and by the size of the bases they must’ve been impressively sized lingas. Now I guess its a case of a thousand eunuchs. We beat the crowds to the top and as we head back down, there are many families on the way up , easily carrying vast picnic supplies, politely laughing at the sweat running down our faces. We realise our driver may be a bit worn out from his New Years festivities when it takes us fifteen minutes to track him down fast asleep in a hammock.

Kbal Spean, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Kbal Spean, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Banteay Srei.

I love this beautiful small temple. Banteay Srei has the most intricate carvings, all in dusky rose stone. Its also incredibly popular and incredibly busy, its a continuous snake of people around the paths. However the layout makes it easy to get up close to all the beautiful carvings and get an uninterrupted view, negating any impact of the crowds.

The lack of shade is more of a problem, it’s still early morning and we are cooking! We finally find shade behind the temple, next to a local band playing under a tree. They are a poignant reminder of the recent past, as the band is a group of land mine victims and this is how they support themselves and other victims (and since the music is rather refreshing on a hot day, its not that hard for them to sell their CDs either.)



The Temple of Ta Som.

Back closer to the Angkor Thom complex we stop for a wander around Ta Som, a temple mainly known for its general state of dis-repair, and its classic strangler fig tree wrapped around an ancient ornate stone gate. All sensible people have retreated out of the midday sun by now, leaving a much emptier temple site to explore. I think I am on about my fourth litre of water by this stage. What I love about Ta Som is that it looks so decrepit, the stones toppling off each other and arches looking like they barely hold together. Its not an overgrown, ‘Indiana Jones slash your way through the undergrowth’ kind of environment – most of the vegetation has been cleared out, except for some bigger trees providing a nice level of shade, and the famous strangler fig of course, although it’s had some judicious pruning as well. But that does show off the fragility of the stonework quite well, so its a good compromise. And this temple has kids playing around today, which adds a nice sense of movement and colour.

We don’t last much longer after Ta Som, very happy with what we’ve seen, too worn out by heat and humidity to give the remaining temples their due, it’s definitely time to head back to a cool pool.

Tangalooma – a tropical trip back in time

Shall I tell you a secret – a really well kept secret? There is an island, a tropical playground only 75 minutes by ferry from Brisbane. I’m talking about Tangalooma Island resort, on Moreton Bay island just off the coast from Brisbane. In my ten years in Australia I’d say that pretty much every local and about 50% of imports and visitors I have talked to have heard of Moreton Bay Island, and yet I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve come across who’ve heard of Tangalooma. I suspect if I lived in Brisbane that number might be higher, but for the rest of us, its been a secret for far too long.

Tangalooma Island Resort, a trip back to the seventies.

Moreton Bay Island is a large sand island surrounded by beautiful shallow turquoise water teeming with sea life. Its 95% National Park, so if you are on Moreton Bay island its likely that you are at the Tangalooma Island Resort. In spite of their excellent efforts to modernise the accommodations, what I love about Tangalooma is how it feels like a step back into a good seventies motel. Here’s a holiday spot where I can embrace my inner bogan. Bring out your beer brand t-shirts, your hawaiian shirts, your tracky-dacs or your checked bush shirt and you will feel right at home here. I order a XXXX Gold – no,  I don’t have a choice, its the only beer on tap – at least it is lovely and cold. I mull over my choice of fish and chips, pizza or meat pie for dinner, order from behind the bar, sit outside in the beer garden, watch the sky turn deep orange and realise I really don’t need any other mod cons.


It may be the 1970s but there is a raft of brilliant things for us to do. First off we are staying on a beautiful sheltered white sand beach with calm shallow clear blue waters. As well as swimming, we can snorkel, kayak, or go for a ride on a water trike (giant three wheeled floating tractor for those who haven’t yet had this thrill). Around the resort there is tennis and archery. Heading inland there is sand tobogganing and quad biking. But we are looking at the sea, so we head off for an afternoon of whale watching. The boat heads around to the seaward side of the ocean, where from June to October each year the humpbacks migrate right past the island. We see a lot of humpbacks, including a few that come right up and swim under and around us, slapping their tails, blowing through their blow holes, but sadly no spectacular breaches today.

Hand feeding wild dolphins.

Night-time brings the most unusual entertainment – hand feeding the wild dolphins. Now this doesn’t immediately sound very ecologically sound to us, but we are reassured that it is in fact a highly controlled program, only about 11 of the population of around 600 local wild bottlenose dolphins participate (at their choice), and they are all feed only a small proportion of their daily requirements so that it doesn’t stop their normal hunting and feeding patterns. Re-assured that we are not doing anything bad, we line up for the process of dolphin feeding, which goes like this:

  1. Strip down to swimwear.
  2. Stand under a cold shower and make sure we’ve washed off any trace of mossie repellant, sunscreen, moisturiser or any other lotions and potions, as these can irritate the dolphins.
  3. Stand in a queue waiting our turn, getting colder and colder  – warm sunny day has turned into cold windy night
  4. Wash hands again in a special antibacterial solution to ensure we don’t pass any bugs on to the dolphin
  5. Pick up nasty slimy smelly fish from bucket and try and hold in the approved fashion, which is “just like an icecream “, the head is poking out toward the sky and the tail resting in my palm, as apparently dolphins prefer to munch their fish head first.
  6. Then its my turn and I shuffle forward hip deep in the cold water with one of the biologists, hold my fish a foot under the surface, and wait while one of the dolphins swims up and and swallows it straight out of my hand. I notice what big teeth it has as it opens its mouth wide.
  7. There is a strict no touching rule (we can’t touch the dolphin) but the dolphins have their own rules, and my dolphin starts nudging my shin – the biologist says it OK so I stand there with it nudging me until it gets bored at my refusal to play, and off it swims – the whole time I am desperately trying to stop myself from reaching in and giving it a huge hug – dolphins do have that effect on us humans!
  8. We wade back onto the beach and start dancing around in excitement – again its that joyful effect dolphins seem to have on us.


Dugong spotting.

In the morning we go for a walk up to the northern end of the beach, where there is a large man-made ship graveyard just offshore. This has been created deliberately in recent decades, and has turned into a spectacular dive and snorkel spot, with rusting skeletons of boats in shallow clear warm waters housing a colourful parade of fishes and sea life.
Then we jump on another boat to go Dugong spotting. Dugongs are a protected species, are notoriously shy, and can swim a long time under water without having to come up for a breath, so they can be hard to find. Thats why we head to the sand banks, in some very shallow water between Moreton island and the mainland, as it is easier to spot them when they are close to the surface. The dugong are large, up to 3 metres long, and have a rather ugly bulbous head which rather belies their legend of being the animal that made sailors think they had seen a mermaid. But when spooked they can instantly accelerate and speed off like a missile, no speed boat has a hope of keeping up with them. So both we and our boat try and stay as quiet as we can, and we are rewarded with a mass of sightings, pod after pod of dozens of dugongs, and we are under their spell for the next couple of hours, watching as much of their antics as they will let us.
As the afternoon shadows lengthen, we head back to the jetty and are soon on the ferry and heading home to Brisbane, very happy with our sea mammal encounters for the weekend.