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Motorhome Travels - October 2013

11/10/2013

The Abrolhos Islands are an absolute paradise for anyone who loves the sea. If you happen to also enjoy spearfishing, then visiting the islands is like winning lotto!

Our island home for two whole weeks - [Click for a Larger Image]
Our island home for two whole weeks

Before I tell you about our two weeks on the Abrolhos Islands, let me tell you a little bit about the islands themselves.

Located 80 kilometres west of Geraldton, the Abrolhos Islands consist of 122 tiny coral islands that rise just a couple of metres from the crystal clear tropical waters.

The islands are divided into three groups, the Wallabi group to the north, the Easter group in the middle and the Pelsaert group (where we camped) to the south.

Many of the islands have small fisherman's camps consisting of basic, but comfortable shacks. To own a camp on an island, you must hold both a commercial fishing license and crayfish quota for the area. Without both of these it is not permitted to camp on any island (most islands are also off limits for even landing). 80km is way too far for all but the largest of private boats and the inability to stay on an island prevents almost all recreational fisherman and tourists from visiting the islands. So how did we get to go and stay there for two whole weeks?

Well it was more about blind luck than good planning. A few years ago, while in Geraldton we were fortunate enough to meet a Cray fisherman and his family. To cut a long story short, they invited us to join them when they visited their camp to undertake some pre-season maintenance on the jetties (to accommodate the newest and largest addition to their fishing fleet). Wahoo!

Tivoli (our cat) was safely installed at a local cattery (the islands are an A-Class reserve - no pets allowed). The weather had not been good for about a week before the day of our departure and this meant there was a bit of a swell on, but nothing that our 75 foot (23 meter) boat could not handle easily. The trip was quite comfortable considering the sea state. We towed a large jet-boat to the islands and once there quickly understood why this was so necessary. The jet-boat was able to skim across the top of coral reefs in just 100mm of water at great speed - this took quite some getting used to. It was also the only way to get from the deep water jetties to the camp. As you can see from the aerial photos, the camp has shallow water jetties on three sides.

The wind dropped to nothing towards the end of the first day and I was able to fly the quadcopter twice and get some great video and still photographs. I even squeezed in a dive and speared the first Baldchin Groper of the trip.

A small Bald Chin Groper - [Click for a Larger Image]
A small Bald Chin Groper

I had our GoPro camera (in its water proof housing) mounted on my head, but quickly found that the resulting video was ruined each time the camera broke the surface when I came up to breath. After the dive I spent some time making a plastic mount to allow the camera to attach directly to the spear gun. This worked quite well, but the recoil when the gun was fired caused the camera to shake wildly - a new system would be required.

Ashley, our host, is also a very keen spear fisherman. Competition and good hearted rivalry between us added to the fun as we made the most of every day that the weather allowed us to fish. Our quota allowed us to catch just two fish per person per day - but new rules added this year dictated that the minimum sized fillet that we are able to return to the mainland with was 300mm. To get a 300mm fillet, we needed to shoot fish no smaller than 500mm long - this is a pretty big fish! We targeted Baldchin Groper predominantly, with the odd coral trout and estuary cod thrown in for variety. Despite the new rules, we had no problem getting an ample quantity of quality fish to bring home (and enjoyed fresh fish almost every day).

Our two weeks on the islands just seemed to fly past and we enjoyed every single minute of our time there. We captured over 100Gb of video and photos and I will make some of this available when I have finished editing and sorting it. We feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity to experience it and we are extremely grateful to the Newton family for inviting us. 

The deep water jetty - [Click for a Larger Image]
The deep water jetty

Early morning at the islands - [Click for a Larger Image]
Early morning at the islands

One groper, one coral trout - [Click for a Larger Image]
One groper, one coral
trout

One large estuary cod, one happy fisherwoman - [Click for a Larger Image]
One large estuary cod,
one happy fisherwoman

After completing some small jobs, we left Geraldton and headed for another of our favorite spots - 14 mile camp on Warroora Station.

I have also added a POV (point of view) system to the quadcopter - this allows me to see what the onboard camera sees in real time through a set of "immersion" goggles. This dramatically changes the entire flying experience, giving the feeling of actually being inside the copter. It also allows me to more accurately capture video and photos and permits me to fly beyond my line of sight. Of course learning to fly the copter like this is another whole challenge - so far, so good - a few close calls, but no crashes.

 

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