The first thing I noticed after two years away from Heron Island was quite how much has been done by the owners Delaware North to improve this a real gem of a resort in the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Flying in by chopper you sweep low over nearby Lamont and Wistari Reefs which are the epitome of that view you have in your head for a reef system; ridiculously bright blue water, bommie outcrops of coral and turtles everywhere diving for cover.
I’ve spent a day here so far and feel at one with my surroundings. Even the birds here are relaxed; the seagulls walk at a slower pace, the rails leisurely hop out of your way and the ocean has been akin to a sheet of smooth aluminium foil ever since we arrived.
As with the other Capricorn and Bunker islands in this region, Heron Island has had an interesting past. It was discovered in 1843 by the H.M.S. Fly under the command of Francis Prince Blackwood and gained its name from the sheer number of Reef Herons the ship’s geologist, Joseph B Jukes observed feeding on the reef flats.
In 1925 Mr L Marsh opened the Australian Turtle Soup Factory but the company folded after two years due to declining numbers – thank goodness.
The island was turned into a resort in 1932 and back then it was common practice to actually ride the turtles back down the beach after they had nested…as if that job wasn’t hard enough for the water-loving creatures!
Protecting the entrance to the island is the iconic wreck of the H.M.C.S. Protector, she was originally built in 1884 but in 1943 she was struck by a towboat and eventually brought out here to protect the tourist boats waiting to bring their passengers ashore. Today she is one of the premier snorkelling sites on the islands harbouring shoals of fish, stingrays and turtles.
The Lonely Planet Guide to Diving and Snorkelling rates the Heron Island Bommie as “the best fish dive on the Great Barrier Reef”. When I visited back in 2009 I’d have agreed but since then I’ve dived a multitude of other sites that could take its crown very easily. It’s time to get in the water and put that theory to the test. I’m editing the footage as we speak so will bring you a new YouTube dive movie very soon
Underwater Earth have been here with me filming some of the marine life found here and we’ve all been amazed by the huge numbers of Rays that rest in the shallow waters around the jetty beach a high tide. You can swim right up to them (being very wary of course) before they disappear off to another quieter part of the beach.