The new Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail

The ranger is keen to ensure I have everything I need for a successful hike. First there’s a five-minute induction video, then I am given a waterproof/tearproof topo map and a quality 135 page guide book. She drops the weighty tome into my hands and I smile, trying to quieten the little voice inside that protests, “but that’s got to be at least another 250 grams!” It’s just one of the many little touches that the developers of the new Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail in South Australia have devised to ensure a first class experience for hikers.

Rocky River Cascades

Rocky River Cascades

The trail has only been open a month when I step foot on it, a 61km route beginning at Flinders Chase at the western end of the island and finishing at Kelly Caves further east. I begin on well-maintained trails close to the Visitor Centre through Black Swamp, a site famous for revealing the bones of the megafauna that roamed here between 45,000 and 100,000 years ago. Giant seven foot tall kangaroos and wombat-like creatures the size of rhinos once made this area home and while the real deal have long gone, life size cast iron cut-outs of these ancient beasts still manage to startle me, suddenly appearing from around bends or behind bushes.

I soon venture beyond the day trails and onto the KIWT proper. The Platypus Waterholes are quiet of action in the midday warmth so I carry on through dense eucalypt woodland to the Rocky River Cascades. Cool tannin-stained water rushes over a ramp of gently sloping rock. I lay down feeling the sun warmed rock beneath me, one hand trailing in the water, and start to feel that delicious peace and happiness that nature always brings.

dsc06653Twelve kilometres in, a discreet steel and wood sign welcomes me to Cup Gum Campground. This is cool camping – thoughtfully laid out with everything a hiker needs and constructed in materials that blend in with the environment. Individual campsites are tucked away up short paths offering a touch of privacy, some with timber decks complete with inbuilt seats. Near the communal cooking shelter I find a wooden sun lounge facing a grassy plain dotted with grazing kangaroos. It’s the perfect place to relax.

Cliff top panoramas

dsc06688On day two the bush trail meets the Southern Ocean, and a rough and rocky track climbs to the cliff tops where a stiff wind buffets my entire body. The forecast estimates 35-48kph winds for the middle three days of my walk. It’s not ideal for a trail of which nearly half is coastal – next stop Antarctica – but nothing can take away the beauty of the vast blue water whipped with white caps. Perhaps if it was less windy I’d have lingered at the divine cliff top views but I push on, reaching the next camp at Cape du Couedic by noon.

Listed trail times are generous and there is plenty of time to do a 9km side trip to the cape’s lighthouse as well as Admiral’s Arch, a partially collapsed limestone cave hung with stalactites. I shelter from the wind in the lee of the rock and watch the seals and sealions who live and play on the basalt platforms below.

Critters and Creatures

Wildlife is all part of the appeal of this trail – birds, frogs, echidnas, koalas, plentiful goannas sunning themselves on the trail, and even the island’s very own unique breed of kangaroo. At night I stretch out in my tent, dig out my new guidebook and discover the many interesting factoids about the flora and fauna contained within it. (Who knew a microbat could eat 600 mosquitos in an hour?) By the time I finish the trail I’ve read it cover to cover.

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Remarkable Rocks

Day three brings another trail highlight, the Remarkable Rocks. I last visited these rocks ten years ago but I’d forgotten how remarkable they were. Five hundred million years worth of wind, rain and raging waves have carved out these giant granite boulders, creating sculpted works of art. There are great gaping overhangs and areas of smoothed rock pocked with holes like a giant Swiss Cheese. In places bright orange lichen sweeps across the rock making a striking contrast against the blue ocean. I spend half an hour staggering around the boulders in the near gale force winds, fearing I might be blown off out to sea, before retreating to shelter.

Inland Discoveries

The trail weaves inland more on the last few days, with a few short detours to sumptuous bays filled with soft white sand and water of a colour that belongs in the South Pacific. Alas the guidebook warns against swimming – apparently the prevalence of marine mammals in the area attracts large predators “such as sharks” – so I content myself with just watching.

My fourth and final night on the trail is at Grassdale Camp, a lovely spot straddling two sides of a river and complete with fire pit surrounded by bench seats. It’s yet another thoughtful design feature by the makers of the trail, offering a great hub for walkers to celebrate the end of a fantastic hike. Across the water I catch sight of a koala leaping from one branch to another and on dusk well over a hundred kangaroos feed and box with each other on the open grassland nearby. It’s a special place.

Hanson Bay

Hanson Bay

It takes only a few hours to walk the final kilometres to Kelly Caves. On the way I pass two huge lagoons, home to tonnes of birds, and follow trails lined with sugar gums, beautifully gnarled and flaking with bark. I’m just starting to fall into that glorious space when you feel like it’s just you and nature, but the trail is almost done.

The Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail has done it’s magic on me!

**Want to do this hike yourself?  Check out my KIWT planning advice.

To Great Walk or not to Great Walk? – What to consider when choosing a hike in New Zealand

New Zealand is heaven for hikers. It’s stunningly beautiful, relatively uncrowded and absolutely full of trails, but how do you choose one that will suit your needs and desires?

There are currently nine ‘Great Walks’, a set of popular hiking trails developed by the Department of Conservation showcasing a variety of the country’s diverse terrain over both the North and South Islands. Their popularity is well deserved with excellently maintained trails passing through beautiful landscapes and with most walkers needs well catered for.

On the other hand there are countless equally stunning hiking trails throughout the country, serviced by nearly a thousand back country huts, so do you really need to book a place on a Great Walk?

You don't need to do a Great Walk to find great scenery. Hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island.

You don’t need to do a Great Walk to find great scenery. Hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park, South Island.


Great Walks tracks are of a higher standard than many other tracks in the country and are well formed and easy to follow. They are often quite wide with gradients generally in the easy to moderate range and all rivers are bridged. This can all be a good thing if that’s what you’re looking for but just occasionally these routes lack the interest and variation in track surface provided by more natural trails. Add to this the sheer numbers of other hikers you are likely to be sharing the trail with and you can sometimes lose that full sense of being in the wilderness that many of us crave.

Beautiful walking on the Kepler Track (a Great Walk)

Beautiful and easy walking on the Kepler Track (a Great Walk)

Outside of the Great Walks, trails range from flat and easy to steep and gnarly with added exposure, and everything in between. You may have to tackle bouncy mesh suspension bridges to cross rivers or even ford them on foot. The rewards though are often spectacular scenery combined with the peace and serenity that comes from hiking in less visited regions.



Sunset at Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track, a Great Walk

Sunset at Luxmore Hut on the Kepler Track, a Great Walk

Great Walks huts are of an excellent standard providing bunk accommodation with mattresses for up to 50 people, and most supply gas cooking stoves, lighting, flushing toilets and toilet paper so you won’t have to carry your own. Bookings are required and for the more popular ones like the Milford, Kepler, Routeburn and Abel Tasman, sometimes six months in advance which can make planning a challenge. Huts  cost anywhere from $22 to $54 per night and if the weather is looking dodgy or you need to change your plans there are fees and charges to change dates, that is assuming your new dates are even available. These huts are busy and on the more popular trails during peak season you are likely to have a full house.  With capacity in these huts reaching up to 50 beds that’s a lot of people to share your slice of wilderness with.

Comyns Hut - a basic free backcountry hut

Comyns Hut in Canterbury – a basic free backcountry hut

Upper Travers Hut, a Serviced backcountry hut (non Great Walks)

Upper Travers Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park, a Serviced backcountry hut (non Great Walks)

Regular backcountry huts come in three standards with prices ranging from free to $15 per night. Some are no more salubrious than a garden shed while others are almost at Great Walk standard, with double glazing, modern and clean design, indoor running water and wood burning stoves with fuel supplied. For the vast majority of huts, bookings are not required with beds provided on a first come-first served basis. Capacity ranges from two bunks including mattresses to up to around 30 bunks, toilets are mostly of the outdoor long drop variety and water is usually supplied by rainwater tank, though occasionally a nearby river. You will need to carry your own stove and fuel, headtorch and toilet paper.


All the work is done for you on a Great Walk. You simply collect your trail map and notes from the Department of Conservation safe in the knowledge that someone else has already worked out a conservative itinerary that will lead you through a beautiful hike, well marked with directional signage.

Outside of the Great Walks you will need to ensure you have adequate maps and a trail description before heading out. Some of the more popular backcountry trails are well provided for with DOC brochures available describing routes and walk times, but others may require a bit of research and planning.

Great Walks can be busy. An estuary crossing on the Abel Tasman trail.

Great Walks can be busy. An estuary crossing on the Abel Tasman trail.


Great Walks trails are regularly monitored and during peak season a ranger will be on hand in most huts to answer any questions you may have or to provide support if needed. In the event the weather is not conducive to an alpine area Great Walk the Department of Conservation will advise you against starting.

If you venture out on your own backcountry hike you will need to be self-sufficient and perhaps make decisions that affect your safety. You will need to consider whether the weather forecast is adequate for the route you are planning and whether the occasional unbridged river is safe to cross. Trail signage may or may not be easy to follow. While walkers always need to be responsible for their own safety, regardless of whether it’s a Great Walk or not, the majority of huts and trails are largely unmanned by wardens and rangers so walkers need to be comfortable with being on their own.

So, which walk is right for you?

The strength of a Great Walk lies in making New Zealand’s beautiful backcountry accessible to just about anyone.  But if you have a stove, a head torch, a bit of experience and value your own space then you will find many more equally stunning trails that provide flexibility in planning, are lower cost, and you just might have the whole place to yourself.

On the Gillespie Pass circuit (a non Great Walk)

The Gillespie Pass circuit (a non Great Walk)

A Different Perspective – the Great South West Walk

There was something about this walk. It changed my view of my place in the world, if only for a short time. Maybe it was the pair of emus that I came across. One ran off while the other came closer, tentatively peeking out from behind a tree for a better look before turning tail and zigzagging his escape through the forest. Immediately afterwards a dark and fluffy wallaby bounded across my path just metres ahead – there one moment, gone the next.

Koala on top of Mt Richmond

Koala on top of Mt Richmond

Maybe it was the three koalas I came across, in the midst of an argument.   Two males growled and bellowed loudly while a smaller female tried to get out of the way. I watched with my heart in my mouth as the larger male took a swipe at her, knocking her off the branch. She swung from one claw, dangling in thin air while the other two continued to scream at each other

Half an hour later the rustle of grass next to me on the path alerted me to a large furry body crawling along the ground. It was so big I thought it was a wombat. It turned out to be another koala.

Maybe it was the five snakes I saw, each one slithering out of my path… all except for one. I backed off after nearly standing on it and we both sat there watching each other in the longest snake stand-off I’ve ever experienced. His head was raised, tongue flicking the air and large dark eyes appraising me. The trail was overgrown, there was no alternative route around. I waited. He watched. Eventually he conceded to being the one to move and I tiptoed past.

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Maybe it was the big grey owl that landed on the ground just a few metres from my tent at dusk. He turned his face to mine, blinked his big round eyes twice in the torchlight and then flapped his mighty wings, lifting off into the darkening sky. Or perhaps it was the spiky echidna that crashed through the undergrowth emerging next to my tent, sniffing around my pack before realising I was there and then scuttling off again into the bushes. I saw a dozen other emus, more echidnas, countless wallabies, kangaroos, lizards and birds. It could have been any or all of these encounters that made me feel different.

It’s rare these days to find yourself in a world not dominated by humans. When I spent eleven days hiking the Great South West Walk in Victoria I experienced a rare insight. I was no longer the all-powerful and important human, top of the game, I was merely one animal amongst many. Part of a rich and complex interconnection, reminding me that there is a whole other world of animals on this earth apart from us and I was now amongst them. Without the distraction of other humans and our human-made world I could see the natural world beyond – one that has always been there though often not easily visible. It was nature in an undisturbed state, rich with life, and being in it took me to another place in my mind.

Overlooking the Glenelg River

Overlooking the Glenelg River

There are many amazing things about the Great South West Walk but for me it was these encounters with wildlife that were most special. The 250km loop trail out of Portland in Victoria’s west is full of surprises. The scenery changes significantly along the way, winding through four very distinct landscapes. I started in the forest. It’s an easy way to begin. The trail is largely flat and well graded, moving through swathes of Blackwoods, Swamp gums and Stringy Barks. In places the trees have been blackened by bushfire, and green ferns and flowering tea tree fill the undergrowth along with wildflowers in shades of purple, white, pink and yellow.

After eighty kilometres the trail merges with the mighty Glenelg River and the scenery changes dramatically. The trail becomes rocky underfoot, the earth red, a striking contrast against the greenery. The track climbs and then undulates over cliff top paths overlooking the white limestone gorge walls that line the river’s edge. Birds are drawn to the water, amongst them black cockatoos, kingfishers, blue wrens and gang gang cockatoos whose call sounds like a squeaky door overhead.

DSC09893After another 54km the river delivered me to the sea and I followed the ocean beach back east again. For hours I walked in the sand with not another soul in sight. Flocks of birds rose from the sand and landed further ahead as I moved forward. I liked not seeing anything but ocean and sand as far as the eye can see in both directions. It reminded me that I’m out there alone. Well, just me and my furry and feathered friends. The trail markers pointed me into the dunes and I followed the three pronged footprints of emus pressed into the sand. The wrinkles in their fat feet were clearly visible in the impressions, tipped by claw points. Aboriginal middens sat aside of the path, mounds of seashells abandoned from feasts several thousand years ago.

I wandered further inland over Mt Richmond, a low and lush forested peak, the remains of a volcanic tuff cone about two million years old. The soil is sandy here and the forest jam packed with animals. I couldn’t sleep for the noises outside my tent – koalas growling in the trees, unidentified crashing about in the undergrowth and other animals screeching in the night air. The land was alive.

A good few days of cliff top hiking

A good few days of cliff top hiking

I headed back out to the beach for another few hours of sand slogging before the beach abruptly ended, blocked by a rocky bluff. I climbed it and followed a path for several days that sat sometimes precipitously right on the edge of an unprotected cliff. One wrong move here and I would tumble into the blue ocean crashing up against the cliffs far below. The water frothed and foamed over the dark basalt platforms that spill out into the sea formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. The trail skirts around Cape Bridgewater and over some of the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria. In the clear water below it’s easy to spot seals and dolphins rising and falling with the swell. Just 20km from the finish the white lighthouse of Cape Nelson stands strong in the gusting wind on the last of the unprotected cliffs before returning to Portland.

I hadn’t heard a lot about this hike before I did it, nor is it heavily visited compared to some other trails, however this is a hike that deserves to be appreciated. The scenery is hugely rewarding and the distance is far enough to give you time to let go of everything that distracts us in everyday life.  And like me, you might just find it makes you see things just a little differently.


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Great Ocean Wanderings

DSC04321 copyWhat the hell was that? An alarming sound that was part pig grunt, lion growl and elephant wheeze pierced the air. I lay alone in my tent considering the options. I was either in a whole lot of trouble with some crazy marauding ‘pig-lion-elephant’ or… (I unzipped my tent and poked my head out to breathe a sigh of relief)… it was a koala. For such a gorgeous cuddly looking creature they do make the most awful sound. Wrapped around a limb high on the tree next to me was the offending grey ball of fur. It was the second koala I’d seen on the trail and I was only three hours into it!

The Great Ocean Walk is just over 100km of incredibly diverse and stunning trail sandwiched between the famed Great Ocean Road and the great ocean itself. Over five and a half days I hiked from Apollo Bay west to the Twelve Apostles, every day on the trail bringing some new scenic wonder to dazzle and delight.

DSC04384From my first camp at Elliot Ridge I walked along wide forest trails through tall gums accompanied by the occasional growl from a koala, eventually leading me to a camp nestled amongst the tea tree at Cape Otway.  As I downed my pack the sky began to darken, and during a post-hike micro-snooze I awoke to a huge gust of wind that felt like someone had grabbed the two corners on the long edge of my tent and given them one almighty loft that literally rolled me over in my bed. Shocked out of my slumber I awoke dazed and confused in the fading light. Too scared to head for the cooking shelter lest my tent blow away, I then cursed and fumbled my way through a challenging session of noodle prep in my tiny vestibule. And so began a long and sleepless night, pushed and shoved in my bed every five minutes by the crazy wind, and blasted by pelting rain, thunder and lightning. I was very impressed (and happy) that my little tent survived the testing conditions.

DSC04363 copyFrom the next morning onward though the weather steadily improved and the full glory of the ocean walk was revealed. The sea, now bathed in sun, sparkled a brilliant blue contrasting with red sand cliff top paths dotted with green and silver shrubs. After heading inland to cross the Aire River I hiked back out to the ocean, walking a low path sandwiched between towering red brown cliffs and the sea. Eagles circled above the escarpment on the updraft and I had to keep reminding myself where I was. The scenery was so world class yet completely unfamiliar to me as a stretch of coastline I’d visited a dozen times before just a few hours down the road from home.

Overlooking the Aire River

Overlooking the Aire River

The following days brought steep rolling green hills dotted with kangaroos, beach walking on golden sand covered in tiny mauve shells, and a wealth of wildlife including blue wrens, rosellas, black cockatoos, echidnas, and a handful of snakes which slithered peacefully off the path as I passed.

I spent my fourth night at Ryan’s Den, possibly my favourite campsite on the trail, high on a point overlooking the sea.  Its lookout above the trees was the perfect place to observe the evening’s red lunar eclipse.

Wreck BeachWaiting for low tide the next day, I tackled the beautiful Wreck Beach where the rusted remains of two shipwrecks protrude from rock pools fringed with almost fluorescent green algae. Their iron anchors have now bonded solid with the rock that was their downfall nearly 150 years earlier. Perfectly circular and oval rock pools cut holes in the flat rock ledge like a slab of Swiss cheese, revealing clear and deep water below.

The Devil’s Kitchen, my final camp, was yet another primo location and since I was largely alone on the trail I was free to snaffle the best site yet again. Suite 8 – the last numbered camp with a private picnic seat and sea view.

The Gibson StepsAfter hiking past the imposing Point Ronald, the final kilometres of the trail wound their way along the cliff tops with stunning views of the iconic Twelve Apostles, a series of ocean bound sandstone pillars. It all ends at the Gibson Steps, a steep flight of stone steps cut into a smooth and vertical golden sandstone cliff sweeping around in a huge arc that towers over the beach – just one more highlight in an absolutely stunning walk.

I thought I knew this stretch of coastline reasonably well but this hike has shown me a side of the Great Ocean Road that I never knew existed. I feel like I’ve had a backstage pass allowing me a greater understanding and appreciation of this very impressive and diverse region rather than the usual brief glimpses of its attractions from the designated lookout points.

The Great Ocean Walk – Do it!

Sunset at Ryans Den camp

Sunset at Ryans Den camp

The Benefits of Solitude

View from the Treehouse

View from the Treehouse (my current home)

There is something about this place that induces laziness.

Where the first month was a challenging oscillation between paradise-found and cabin fever, I have more recently found myself surrendering to the slow pace and tiny world that is my island home.   No longer pacing the deck, itching for some movement and variation in my day, I am now more regularly okay with flopping in a hammock with a book.

Being on such a tiny island for an extended period has definitely had its challenges though. Like some mega meditation-marathon I have regularly been forced to sit quietly with my own thoughts, which as anyone who’s ever attempted meditation will know, is no easy task. In these moments I can feel my mind grasping desperately for stimulation and distraction, but finding none, the occasional pearl of wisdom or insight surfaces instead – the benefits of solitude.

The Penthouse, Oravae

The Penthouse (my home for the first month)

In the past I have often likened hiking to meditation – focused solely on my surroundings, my mind empty of other thought – however even then I have more to entertain my brain than on this tiny patch of coral. I’m getting better at it though, the mind having surrendered to a degree, and the laziness that had so frustrated me at the start has now taken a hold, I have slid into island time. Now even to sit upright seems to take great effort. Better to lie in a hammock or recline in bed with a laptop.

An Adventure off the Island

So it really shouldn’t have been any surprise to me that a 15km walk from Gizo town to Saeragi Beach on the main island of Ghizo a few days ago was such a shock to the system, but for some reason it was.  Despite having a significant walking pedigree and being on largely flat terrain, my hammock-softened feet ached pathetically and muscles that I thought had long since given up complaining about walking were back on my case. Barely seven months ago I was a highly tuned walking machine, hiking briskly with a full pack for up to 10 hours a day up and down the mountains of New Zealand. Even up until six weeks ago, my city routine at home included 12km of walking a day as part of the daily commute. My feet just don’t hurt walking now, or so I thought. Just one short month of lolling about on an island seems to have changed all that, and it was depressing to think I might have lost all that hard-won condition.

DSC05074The road to Saeragi, comprised largely of hard white crushed coral, reflected the hot sun and the four hour journey in the searing midday heat was made all the more challenging by a battle with dehydration, sending me slightly cross-eyed. It was tempting to try and utilize the tunnel of tall palm trees arcing over the road for some shade but at the same time, remaining cognisant of the fall line of coconuts. Death by coconut is not uncommon here. The walk was well worth the effort though, and as the road wound its way along the coast I passed many houses and small villages filled with friendly locals keen for a chat.

Island Life

Back on tiny Sepo Island, the days continue to merge seamlessly into one another. Every morning from my bed in the Treehouse I watch a golden sun rise up over the top of Kolumbangara Volcano in the distance, and every night I watch the silvery luminescent glow of tiny worms gliding in slashes and loops across the surface of the inky black water below like the vapour trail of a plane across the sky. The much-feared (for me only) spiders of the island continue to loiter annoyingly on the sidelines of my world, popping up every few days to spoil the serenity. I have a new philosophy though – do not seek and ye shall not find – so I’ve stopped searching the room with my headlight before going to bed, preferring to just focus on where I’m going and trying to avoid wondering what else is lurking in the shadows.

The Book

My mission here, apart from helping the good folk of Oravae Cottage with some business ideas, was to begin writing a book on my New Zealand end-to-end hike. So how is it coming along? Slowly. Despite having churned out 30,000 words so far I’ve come to realise they’re unfortunately not the right ones. It’s all part of the learning process though and as Teddy Roosevelt once said, better to “fail while daring greatly”, and I do not regret having left my ‘safe job’ to try. Having said that I’m not planning to fail, it’s just that success might take a little longer than I thought.

I have just two weeks left here before the next chapter of the journey of a Soul Trekker begins. My life has quite regularly taken radical changes of direction that I could not have foreseen perhaps two months earlier, however I don’t think I have been quite so without a plan as I am now. I have absolutely no idea what will happen after my time on the island is up, but I’m sure it will be interesting.

Stay tuned…DSC05070

The First Week of A New Life – following the dream…

Oravae Solomon Islands

Ten days into my new life on this dollop of sand and coral in the South Pacific and I already feel like I’ve been here a month. I eat, write, swim, eat, sleep in a hammock, write, swim, eat, gin & tonic, sleep. Every day is the same. It’s Groundhog Day, but in the best possible way.

My mind is still clinging on to the old life a little and I find myself referring to my old workplace as though I still belong there.   I guess that’s to be expected after 10 years with the company.  But now my life is following my intuition and heart, wherever that takes me.  At the moment it is Oravae Cottage in Gizo, Solomon Islands.  If you ever want to have your own island complete with chefs, but can’t afford Richard Branson’s Necker Island, this is the place to do it!  (AUD$120pppn will see you through…)  For three months I will write and ‘sing for my supper’, doing whatever I can to help the resort.

Living the Dream

Every day I commit to making progress on my book on hiking the Te Araroa Trail. Some days the words flow, others it’s like trying to get juice out of a hard unripe lime. I’m giving it a go though and it feels good to do that. I’ve let go of the old world, the ‘safe’ normal world that never made me happy.   I’m following my heart.

A work in progress - writing my Te Araroa Trail memoir

A work in progress – writing my Te Araroa Trail memoir

This truly is one small island though, and if I was used to walking 15km a day in the city, I’d now literally be lucky to walk a few hundred metres. My only exercise is swimming and it’s become a necessary part of the day.

Underwater Heaven

As a diver with hundreds of underwater hours on the clock I am absolutely thrilled with the amazing snorkeling right offshore. Inquisitive reef sharks, delicate lionfish, giant iridescent clams, clownfish hiding in pockets of anemones quivering in the gentle current, and hundreds of others too numerous to mention. I could float for hours above it all. And I did on Day Two, burning my poor pale city-girl back in a way that I wont forget in a hurry.

Great fish life is often easier to come by than great corals but in this regard we are again blessed.   The front side of the island, exposed to nutrient rich open waters, is filled with stunning blue staghorn corals, pink mushroom corals, lime green and purple corals and huge round plate corals the size of a double beanbag. Such a tasty feature has unfortunately not gone unnoticed by the Crown of Thorns Starfish and it blooms here feasting on the coral polyps, sucking the life out of their limestone skeleton before leaving them bleached white and dead.

“Pieter” says our island keeper Patson, standing on the balcony of our overwater bungalow one evening. He’s pointing down at a patch of bleached coral below us, clearly visible in the clear water. “See that? The crown of thorns starfish is doing that. If you see one can you kill it for me please?” The next morning a wooden spear appears on our verandah.

Removing the pesky crown of thorns starfish from the reef

Removing the pesky crown of thorns starfish from the reef

A brief snorkel that afternoon yielded a kill of six, carried to shore two at a time on the head of the spear but it was clear “we’re gonna need a bigger boat”. The next day we ventured out again, this time trailing a leaking wooden dugout canoe behind us on a rope. I was uncomfortable at first, taking the life of one of God’s creatures, but after seeing the devastation they have wrought it was clear these guys have to go. In areas the coral has been completely wiped out, leaving white and brown skeletons furry with algal growth where they were once bright and brimming with fish life. One after another we hunted them down, hiding under plate corals or wedged between rocks. Lifting them up on the spear we dumped them in the dugout at the surface. Total kill rate: 46.

Creepy Crawlies

So far I have managed to avoid any major arachnid encounters that I was so fearing. My first evening here was a jumpy affair, nervously reading more into the flutters of the shadows than I needed to. Once lying in bed though with the warm glow of a kerosene lamp bouncing off the pale thatched walls around us, and listening to the gentle lapping of water underneath our floor, it was impossible to feel anything other than bliss.

A few days later though whilst lazing in bed in the morning I gazed up to see a spider stuck to the thatched ceiling directly above me. Eyes wide in horror, I leapt up and ran outside cursing. Pieter gave it a prod, sending it scuttering into the folds of the thatch, which of course didn’t remove it but simply removed it from sight. That seems to be the best we can aim for here. The place is wide open. Geckos and bugs and other small critters come and go through screen-less windows and doors at their leisure.

A few hours after my arachnid encounter I sat with laptop in lap, legs propped up on the bed. Something dark fell from the ceiling and plopped onto my leg sending me into leaping conniptions.   Tentatively poking through the folds of bedding my spider wrangler discovered a small gecko. Thank God for that…

Until next time…


Happy days...

Happy days…