Paddling in Paradise [43]

by John and Pat Colquhoun

John and Pat Colquhoun, having visited Lord Howe Island last year, recently enjoyed another week’s holiday, with the added luxury of new hire kayaks.

Jack and Cindy Shick have added two Penguins to their fleet of ‘ocean kayaks’, and the intention was to do a substantial amount of paddling in the lagoon and possibly around the island.

However there is so much to do on Lord Howe that the paddling time was somewhat limited.

Day 1 saw a paddle to the southern limits of the lagoon and up to the central area. What a great feeling to be able to pull up and leave your kayaks, with gear, anywhere on the beach, with no risk of theft or damage! An afternoon snorkel at Ned’s Beach was a must, just before the fish are fed – to be snorkeling among kingfish 3 foot long and over is quite an experience.

Day 2 dawned, and Pat climbed Mt Gower with Jack’s guided group – eight hours of strenuous work, but the remarkable birds and mist-dominated plant life on the summit made it an experience not to be forgotten. Woodhens, recently in danger of extinction, but now brought back to respectable numbers by a very successful breeding program, joined the tour group for lunch, as did many providence petrels. John took his Penguin fishing. With a substantial ESE breeze, drifting was out of the question, so a bit of bottom fishing off the yacht buoys seemed to be the go. Nothing worth keeping, so paddled off with lures – also fruitless, but marvellous paddling conditions.

Day 3 had John fishing ‘outside’ with Jack and three other passengers in the Sea Raider – the first four fish are Wahoo, the biggest around 40 kg and about 6 foot long – WAHOO! Then with live bait, on to kingfish, all on board being successful, with the largest cleaned at around 20 kg. With the icebox full, returned to the lagoon. Pat beachcombed and raided the shops.

Day 4 was kayaking with lunch and snorkel gear to North Bay and exploring the Herring Pools – large rock pools big enough to get in and have a look at fish and coral, covered with water at high tide. A little difficult to get to over the rocks, but worth a visit. Back to Settlement Beach for a snorkel exploration of Sylphs Hole, the mooring place for the old flying boats – wonderful coral, and a fantastic array of different fish. We lunched, then paddled around Blackburn Island, home to a colony of wedge-tailed shearwaters.

Day 5 with no paddling, and a walk to Boat Harbour and return via Intermediate Hill – the walking was hard work, paddling would have been much easier! There were wonderful views of the colony of masked boobies from Muttonbird Lookout. Had thoughts about circumnavigating the island, but so far weather has not been calm enough.

Day 6 and back into the kayaks for a paddle to North Bay and a long snorkel to the wreck of the Favourite. Again lots of diverse corals and sea plants, and many varied fish. We saw a large sea snake sliding across the sandy bottom, and hurriedly swam in the opposite direction! Lunch, then back into the kayaks and out through the Northern Channel, but didn’t go far as there was a reasonable swell running with an offshore breeze. Paddled down the inside of the main reef to drop off the kayaks at Cobby’s Corner. Lunch at Capella South, on the balcony looking at Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird, followed by nine holes of golf!

Day 7, unhappily, was our return home, feeling that we needed a ‘post-holiday holiday’. Imagine paddling in beautiful coral waters with no crocodiles! The Flesh-footed Shearwaters nested in burrows all around our accommodation and the beautiful white terns fed fish to their young on tree branches, with no concern about human interference – paradise indeed!