I hope that you are still enjoying reading about adventures to Maggie Island, because I am absolutely still enjoying discovering new places on the island and sharing more of the views and wildlife with you!
Last Saturday, I caught the 7:35am bus to the ferry terminal with Liz once again. JaHyun and Lawrence were supposed to make it as well, but between packing sandwiches for lunch and doubling back to grab a forgotten camera battery, they didn’t make it to the bus stop in time. But they planned to catch the next bus and ferry to the island. When Liz and I got to Maggie, we were welcomed by the sunniest day that I had spent on the island yet. We knew it was going to be a hot one by mid-day, so we decided to take advantage of the “cool” weather and do some hiking before the sun got too high into the sky. We decided to start by hiking the Walking Track to Geoffrey Bay, which we had walked parallel to on the boardwalk below a few times before. From this slightly higher vantage point, the view that we could see from the water with Townsville in the distance were even more beautiful.
It didn’t take long at all to walk this path. Next, we decided to hike to the trail head for the Forts Hike, which we planned to take the rest of the way across the island to Horseshoe Bay. We knew that this would be a long hike, but we were game for it and we still had a couple of hours before we expected Lawrence and JaHyun to arrive. I also had a super good feeling that we were going to see some wild koalas, and I don’t know what could be more motivating than that! With water bottles topped off, we took off on my first morning bush walk in Australia.
The Forts Hike is fittingly called so because it is a trek that leads to multiple WWII bunkers. Interestingly, I do not remember learning anything in school about Australia and the United States working together during the war, but since I have arrived here, I have been learning that both countries worked together quite closely. There is even a monument in Townsville the recognizes the sacrifices of soldiers from both countries.
It was very neat to be able to walk around these historic landmarks and flash-backs in time. The bottom right photo above is of the soldiers’ mess (kitchen) that opened 1943. The lookout post where Liz is peeking out has a 300 degree view of the shores around the island, which explains exactly why a lookout post was put in that exact spot. Looking out at this gorgeous view, it was impossible for me to imagine the sight through the eyes of a soldier fighting for their life and their country.
As Liz and I were hiking, we came to a fork in the trail and realized that the path we were on was actually a loop. We were surprised, because we both thought that this trail would take us from one side of the island to the other. But, we didn’t mind retracing our steps for a bit because we were still learning our way around a had much to see.
Once we got down from the Forts Hike, we came around a bend in the path to see a couple of hikers staring up in a tree and smiling. When you’re on a trail that had a koala sign at the beginning, seeing hikers stopped and looking up is always a good sign! And yes! All of those good-koala-finding vibes that I was feeling were right. There was a momma and joey koala in the tree just over head. It was amazing to get to admire them. I have no idea how they could both hold so still while sitting on a fairly narrow tree limb for hours on end. I think that I am far to wiggly to ever live the koala life; surely I would fall out of the tree in no time.
By this time, JaHyun and Lawrence had arrived and made their way directly to Horseshoe Bay. Once Liz and I got back to the trail head, we decided to check the bus schedule fully expecting that we would have to wait quite a while before it would be arriving. We were actually surprised and thankful to be wrong, because the bus was coming in just a few minutes. We counted out our change while we waited, but didn’t even end up needing it because as everyone boarded the bus, the driver just waved us by. No questions ask. It may not seem like much, but we sure felt like we scored big time by getting a free bus ride.
Once we arrived at Horseshoe Bay, the tide was out even farther than normal, which is perfect for a group of marine biology geeks. Thus, we all commenced another afternoon of reef walking, just like we have previously. I feel like this is something that someone who is not particularly interested in marine life would get board with. But it is actually really fun to explore the reef when you have smart friends who you can share knowledge of the sea life with. As Liz and I waddled over to the rocks, we could see Lawrence and JaHyun already poking around the reef flat.
After seeing the reef so many times without water or fish above it, I really want to go to Horseshoe Bay during high-tide next time. I want to have a chance to see the full effect of the reef and explore the places that I can not walk to when the tide is out due to coral cover being too dense to step.
These photos don’t compare to seeing the reef in person, especially from under the water, but since I do not have an underwater camera, these are some of the best shots of it that I have to share. It is so hard to accurately capture all of the vibrant colors of the reef life when the sun is at its highest, so just take a look at these and imagine adding some bright neon colors speckled across the corals. Or I guess you could just Google it… but there is no fun in that.
We found a lot of critters this afternoon that we had not yet found in person. Lawrence found a cuddlefish (top two photos below) and an Epaulette shark! Liz lovesss sharks and was able to tell me that Epaulette sharks can use their pectoral fins to walk around from pool-to-pool to hunt when the tide is out, which means that they do not have to be in water constantly and they can walk on land! By seeing this shark, one of Liz’s top Australia Bucket List dreams came true for her this afternoon, and it was so amazing to get to see her excitement and experience it with her.
Some of my other favorite organism sightings of the day are below. I was particularly keen to find the yellow nudibranch on the top left. Its scientific name is Doriprismatica atromarginata and its common name makes me laugh. It is commonly called the Cheesecake nudibranch! Isn’t that great?! What is even cooler is that they eat sponges that often have toxins in them. The nudibranch, instead of having a negative reaction to the toxins, actually concentrates the toxins in the black edging on its mantel and uses it as a defense against predators! I did not know this when I found it the other day, and I am glad I decided to not touch it “just in case it could be poisonous” like many things around AU.
I also love the blue “clam lips” right below the Cheesecake nudibranch. The “lips” are actually the mantel of the clam. When I first saw it, I thought it was some sort of flat worm at first because I could not see its body/shell that is burrowed into the substrate.
After we had spent nearly four hours exploring the reef flat, the incoming tide shooed us back to shore where we all found a nice spot on the sand and collapsed to take a nap. After spending the whole day on my feet bush walking and reef walking, it was so nice to take a rest and lay on the warm sand.
We woke up to watch the sun go down and the stars come up. Then, we got to watch a colony of large bats fly over head and counted satellites and shooting stars as they streaked across the sky. There always seems to be something that happens during my days at Maggie Island that feels as magical as a dream. Today it was many things. From the friends, to the wildlife, and the location, everything about spending today on Maggie Island was magical once again. I am so thankful and blessed to be literally living my dream and exploring the world down under. Thank you to all of you who have supported me throughout my life and helped me turn my dreams into reality.