Explore Great Barrier Reef Islands

Explore Great Barrier Reef islands from your mainland base in North Queensland. Whether you live in this tropical part of Australia or are visiting, there is much to be discovered and enjoyed.

I live in Port Douglas, a 'jumping off' point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.  Many boats set off from here daily, headed for the islands and reef.

One popular destination is Low Isles, situated close to adjacent Woody Island, largely an island covered in mangroves, a busy nesting ground for the imperial pied pigeon or Torres Strait pigeon.

Low Isles, one of the Great Barrier Reef islands, an easy hour's trip from Port Douglas.

As a volunteer for Low Isles Preservation Society (LIPS) I enjoyed travelling to and from the island on board Quicksilver's Wavedancer (free of charge, courtesy of this community minded business). 

Volunteers would stay, in pairs, on the island as relief caretakers while the permanent incumbents occasionally attended to personal matters on the mainland. Quite an exhaustive training programme was undertaken before being able to assume this responsibility.

Duties included recording the weather (Low Isles is a government weather station) at set times each day, maintenance of buildings and public facilities as well as the generator and equipment and, most importantly, interacting with the public once the day's visitors began arriving.

It was important that visitors be discouraged from walking on the coral or removing it or shells from the island. Pathways were raked, rubbish collected and toilets cleaned until the time came for visitors to depart. Then we would be the only ones on the island.

One early morning I finished the weather report and decided to go for a walk. Oh no, what's this? Footprints in the sand, washed clean by overnight high tides. There must be someone here! At least there was nobody to observe my realisation that the footprints were my own and I had circumnavigated this small island!

The volunteers' cottage and the blue table

There are three houses on Low Isles - that belonging to the caretaker, another, a marine research station, belonging to the University of Queensland and a third used by LIPS volunteers.

Cups of tea in hands, we would often sit on the verandah of the cottage, gazing down the track to the beach. Central to this activity was a table, painted blue. I would often reminisce about all the lighthouse keepers and their wives who had spent busy but sometimes lonely years working on the island.

It is likely that they would also think nostalgically of those that they had left behind in 'the old country' or in other parts of Australia. Letters from 'home' would have reached them only every few months and would have been read and re-read perhaps daily as they dreamed about families far away.

The painting, above, is my response to thoughts of those stories which they may have exchanged as they enjoyed their cups of tea (and scones?) around the blue table.

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