Remote Island Paradise - Lord Howe Island, Australia - Tasman Sea South Pacific | QF QantasLink Dash 8 -200 - Part 2 | LDH - BNE
Welcome to Part 2 of my two-part trip report on my visit to Lord Howe Island in the winter of 2016.
This trip report starts off with Day 2 of the week long stay on the island, the return flight to BNE, and my concluding thoughts and comments.
Part 1 of the trip report can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1352337 Day 2 – Snorkelling in a marine park
Today was the day we had booked in to the snorkelling and glass bottomed boat tour on the lagoon. I had never tried proper snorkelling before (not in a swimming pool) – or been in a glass-bottomed boat for that matter. So after super leisurely lying in and lounging around in the morning, we left on our bikes later that morning and made the short cycle to the shopping area.
With stops along the way, we looked at viewpoints and other things of interest - so much easier when you are on a bike. One of these was the jetty, although we would not get an opportunity on our trip to see the supply boat MV Island Trader
make one of its scheduled stops for deliveries and collections back to the mainland.
We had lunch at the Anchorage Restaurant, which is also a cafe and a bakery, and was very popular.
I saw the SYD-NLK flight go over twice during the week we were there. I am guessing that is what it in fact was (with no FlightRadar24 to check). That was the only fly over I remember hearing or seeing the whole week, outside the scheduled island flights. Now that is a change from regular life!
As it was one of the nice days weather-wise, we sat on the beach near the boat shed until it was time to go and get suited up for the boat trip and the snorkelling.
I had never worn a wetsuit before and I was thinking I am going to be a real newbie here, but there were also quite a few other people, older than me and not as agile, and some of whom had never ventured into this activity of snorkelling either. I felt more comfortable now, knowing I was not the only one trying something new which was going to be in front of a whole small boat load of tourists!
It took a while to get everyone ready, but wearing a wetsuit is fabulous, so warm, even though it was a warm day, the water was cool so why we were advised to wear them. I was used to wearing the fins part of the outfit however. The tour operator was very helpful in getting the right sizes and equipment and how to go about it putting it on.
I did take and get some photos taken this day, but nothing to share on A.net here. I was too busy and having too much fun being in the moment of this experience. It was also not practical to be carrying a phone, camera or other personal items on the boat, and there just wasn’t a lot of room.
We set off, after being told a very specific way of getting into the boat from ashore. The tour operators were excellent and very knowledgeable, to my mind to a scientific and academic level, and everyone on the boat really got into the whole experience even though there was a lot of information to take in as we moved across the water. The atmosphere and sense of humour made it relaxing and enjoyable.
Only a quarter of us were actually snorkelling, which took place on a part of the lagoon that was suitable and safe. I had never been in a marine park or coral reef before and the types of colourful fish and what there is to learn about coral is amazing – it is quite complex!
Once we put our eyewear and snorkel on we were told how to fall overboard and not to worry if we started hyperventilating. It does take a minute or two to learn how to breathe underwater with snorkel.
Briefly, Lord Howe Island Marine Park was established in 1999 and extends three nautical miles out to sea from the mean high water mark, and covers an area of approximately 48,000 hectares, with a variety of tropical and temperate species brought on converging currents, and a large number of plants and animals which occur nowhere else.
The small human population and limited visitor numbers have ensured that marine resources are sustainable, so swimming and snorkeling with a myriad of colourful fish are the norm. Larger fish, which are scarce and avoid humans in other parts of the world, are easily approached at Lord Howe, making underwater photography easier.
The extensive barrier coral reef, the southernmost on the planet, protects the broad sheltered lagoon and sandy beach on the western side of the island while fringing coral reefs lie immediately offshore of the beaches on the eastern side. Lord Howe is the only place in Australia where such a diversity of fish, coral, algae and associated creatures can be seen by snorkeling, just a few metres from the beach (Source: lordhoweisland.info, 2017).
The only aviation theme I had for that day is that the Dash 8 -200 went out over the lagoon when we were out there, which was quite a unique perspective.
The snorkeling was fun, and I would describe it as another world beneath the waves, and the view was like a cinematic screen in ultra-high definition. We snorkeled around the boat for about twenty minutes. I could have done with another half hour really! Some places were quite shallow, and coral can be soft like a sponge, or as hard as a jagged pumice stone. I accidently hit a very shallow piece of the latter with the front of my ankle and the graze was still there two weeks later!
When we all got back to the shore, the tour operator minding shop showed us how to get out of our wetsuits and clean up and provided us all with a hot mug of tea, coffee or chocolate. What a fun afternoon, and a few bucket-list items ticked off. I really want to do more coral reef experiences, but this one was a fantastic and a small scale introduction to the experience.Day 3 – Plane-spotting - for the flight that was cancelled
The next day, as forecast, the weather closed in. We were not deterred from doing the things we wanted to do though, in our short time here. That morning, we cycled up in the rain to visit Ned's Beach, on the other side of the island, opposite some of the smaller islands that make up the Lord Howe Island Group.
It was high tide, so we had a look around and found out when the low tide was so we could go back later in the week on a better weather day.The gumball machine used to dispense the fish food.
We then went back and to a shop to look at and buy some bamboo based clothing products, the most comfortable clothing around, it’s amazing. We bought some gifts, and had lunch at the Anchorage Restaurant again. We then cycled to the airport, which took about five to ten minutes, and waited for the daily scheduled flight to come in – and waited and waited and waited. Frustrating that I did not have access to FlightRadar24 so it was just like the old days of plane-spotting.
It was remarked by my travel companion that plane-spotting is really an interesting all-weather event - I said, of course! The weather wasn’t dire, but it was windy, squally, and showery, but not cold. All that wonderful sea air and sea-salt spray - so healthy!
After another hour or so it was obvious that no flight was arriving, and it also became apparent that the road activity to the airport was too quiet. After talking to a few passers-by on foot and some stopping to have a look out also, a car pulled up and someone said, ‘there is no flight today’. Later we learnt that meant it was cancelled, not that there was not a scheduled flight.
That evening we went out to the Bowling Club again. It has to be said, that there is electricity rationing on the island, so when you go out for a meal - anywhere, or even at the accommodation, the lights are dimmed, permanently. This venue is so popular however – as the feature dining option on the island that evening, and with its steady stream of locals and tourists, must be earning a mint.
As the venue is two kilometres from the accommodation we waited inside in informal groups for our minibus, and by the time we left for our five or maybe ten minute (at 25 km/h) drive ‘home’ it was pouring, no, pelting with rain. Day 4 – Rain, rain and more rain
The rain continued from the night before. After spending the first half of the morning at the accommodation, I went out to the shops late morning to get food supplies, and had lunch. Cycling along in the rain, I was thoroughly enjoying myself – after all, it wasn’t cold, and there were few people about.
Back at the accommodation, the television reception signal dropped out for best part of an hour later in the afternoon, after the loss of the only decent to watch channels that morning, so I now started to feel a bit cut off from civilisation – not quite on an episode of Survivor
I had my Amazon Kindle book to read, which was going well in focussing and getting through it, because I didn't have distractions like the Internet. We did not have a power outage the whole time we were there which was great.
The rain continued into the evening, accompanied by increasing winds.
While doing their daily rounds and visits, one of the managers at the accommodation said ‘we just have to take whatever the weather throws at us here’ and other succinct island sea-faring anecdotes which I cannot remember now, but you get the idea!Day 5 – Windy day, but the plane-spotter’s flight arrived!
The rain continued as showers the next day and the wind really got up, but then it brightened up mid-morning, and the wind blew away the clouds into blue sky and sunshine! We went for a walk along Old Settlement Beach then. The wind was still blowing.Close up of the gas air holes in a rock, formed from volcanic lava flow during the formation of the island.
After lunch back at the villas, we went for a bike ride to the airport. The wind was still blowing strong. The two cancelled flights from Tuesday and Wednesday were able to land and take off so the new holiday makers could arrive and the overdue to leave ones could head home.
We saw VH-TQG arrive and depart. What surprised me about the take-off and landing is that although the runway is short, the aircraft only used about one third of the runway to take-off. The landing IIRC was about two thirds used, and the aircraft came to a stop very quickly. Sounds obvious, but it was a site to see.
The northern end of the runway.
We also had a cycle around to the other side of the airport and visited two other beaches – Blinky Beach and the southern end of Lagoon Beach; the entrance to the Golf Club, which was at the bottom of the hill below Mount Gower; and around to the entrance to the waste management facility near the airport.
We were familiar with recycling household wastes back home, but this was taken to another level of vigilance. Things must
and must not
go in the particular bins, or anywhere else for that matter where they should not be. Even an inspection or a gentle reminder was informally given now I think about it, about the exact ways this was to be done. Yes, there was signage up as well.
I don’t mind this, and I understand the reasons behind it all. The accommodation facilities were like anything you would get on the mainland, they were not rustic at all. Apart from the dim lighting, which I am partial to anyway – but some vision impaired people may struggle with, you would not know the work of the sustainability which was going on behind the scenes to make and keep it all nice and modern and functional for the typical mainstream guests’ expectations.The Lord Howe Island woodhen or Lord Howe rail, is a flightless bird of the rail family. It is endemic to Lord Howe Island and is currently classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) (Source: Wikipedia, 2017). The low speed limit means that wearing seat belts in motor vehicles is not compulsory for the driver or any passenger, like it is everywhere else in Australia.
We were told that not wearing a bicycle helmet is an ongoing issue, and that people were regularly fined by the local cop/s for violating this offence. It seems a basic thing to do, instead of wasting holiday money on paying fines.
Southern end of Lagoon Beach looking north. The runway and airport near Blinky Beach. Southern end of the runway and Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower in the background.
Of course, the obligatory ride and visit to the airport was a must. It was so quiet! Not sure whether it was open. There were just QantasLink staff in there so we just settled to have a look around outside.
We went to dinner that night at a restaurant, and had a very average meal with a set and limited menu, in a new part of the island high up on a hill and near Middle Beach, not previously visited. We met some people from New South Wales who came in on the flight mentioned above, there for a short stay, even shorter due to the cancellations unfortunately.
After what seemed like a long night, my only meh day and evening on the island, we stood outside in groups and waited a while for a bus to appear out of the darkness and take us back to the accommodation.
It was then that I looked up, out of boredom and lack of interesting thoughts and wanting to join in a conversation, to notice the night sky. This island would have to be the best place to study astronomy. The sky was white silver brilliant with light. The Milky Way galaxy was the most obvious to see. We didn’t get outside enough at night and look up. One regret perhaps. Day 6 – Fish-feeding in the morning, kayaking in the afternoon
On our last full day on the island the weather was beautiful, in that the wind had dropped – no rain, and as per usual, it wasn’t cold. We went to Ned's Beach to feed the fish as planned.
I've never seen fish come in so close to the shoreline before. These fish are used to tourists, and hang around the shallow waters and even follow you along as you walk along the beach inside the feeding zone.
I did not like the way they got too close and touched your skin. One tourist got bitten or nipped by a fish. That was enough for me to keep them at a distance and throw the food into the breeze instead of dropping it where I stood!
Went to the Coral Cafe at the Museum for lunch again, and purchased some gifts while the shops were open, from 10am – 2pm.
Some of the Museum exhibitions of the Lord Howe Island flying boat days, and early history.
There was also a lot of geological information about the formation of the island, and its eventual fate, in that it will in time (a long time in the future) disappear beneath the waves, to be reclaimed by the sea.
It also showed the flora and fauna on the island, but, as well, the pollution and how some of the plastic and non-biodegradable wastes from the east coast of the Australian mainland are ending up washing up on Lord Howe Island. Dedication memorial outside the Coral Museum and Café.Weather forecast sheet in the Information Centre, which is part of the same building.
We then confirmed with the tour operator that morning, that kayaking was on for the afternoon!
Kayaking is another one of those things that requires some suiting up, briefing and getting into the craft in a certain way so as not to capsize. I had done a bit of kayaking before, on a river, not a lagoon. The latter was easier, even though conditions were not ideal, it was a bit choppy, but not too bad.
I think it was a good idea to hire separate single kayaks, rather than a tandem – more sociable and fun. So went around to Old Settlement Beach and back, and around the lagoon, nearer the shore. Saw the Dash 8 -200 come in over the lagoon and take off again, but didn’t have a camera on the kayak.
I really enjoyed it and spent best part of two hours. As we approached the beach, the tour operator was shouting something, which above the wind was hard to ascertain. It was about though, the correct way to move to the shore and get out of the kayak without capsizing, or falling in. We managed to do this, so that was an achievement in itself, the kayaking part was easy!
Being on the lagoon was such a great way to see the island from that viewpoint, and one of those things that doesn’t need to be rushed at all. Highlight of the trip.
Went for a walk late afternoon to the base of the Max Nichols Track – fully recovered now from my earlier walk up that way - where I now took photos of a sort of sunset – the best nature afforded me at the time. Was cloudy, and I don’t know that Lord Howe is known for its sunsets?
Went out for dinner at the Golf Club, at the top of the hill near the airport – no views though as it was after dark. As we hadn't made the trip up in the day, we had missed out on the wonderful view from there in the daytime.
This venue is near the base of Mount Gower and Mount Ladybird, the two highest peaks on the island. There are guided hiking and rock climbing day tours on these, and are considered arduous, and challenging. Needless to say we didn’t attempt them! The two main injuries sustained on the island among tourists are falling off bicycles and falling down mountains. There is a resident doctor on the island, who is probably kept quite busy.
The Golf Club has their buffet night on a different night to the Bowling Club so that they share the patronage. The food they offered varied the most here; salad and chips and choice of steak, chicken, and fish, which I considered as equal in yummy taste to the fish buffet at the Bowling Club.
It was very efficiently run and the service was excellent. The only thing was the lighting; it was difficult to see what you were eating depending on where you were sitting, with the electricity rationing. Needed a torch to help see and eat the meal at this one, as we were sitting in an annex marque.
In island style, the chef is also the chauffeur for driving people home. Got away much earlier that night and was not left waiting in the dark and cool night air. Started packing up ready to go home for an early start tomorrow for our lift to the airport before 9am.
The last part of this trip report will be in the reply comments below.