At Wings Whitsunday Adventures snorkeling is one of our trip highlights. Being an overnight tour we have the luxury of having the ability to visit many of the Whitsundays best snorkeling sites. If you were to ask any of our crew what their favourite site was we guarantee the answer from all of them would be the beautiful Mackerel Bay.
Mackerel Bay is located on the Eastern side of Hook island, the second largest island in the Whitsundays group. The reef here is shaped into two protected key holes with a reef wall running between them. Because of its location we don’t get to visit Mackerel Bay very often but when the wind is blowing just the right amount and direction its excitement all round.
The first thing you will notice about this place is the coral, it is incredible. It is super healthy, vibrant and absolutely carpets the bay, there is barely a patch of rock in site. Of course you will see the beautiful soft corals that the Whitsundays are known for but Mackerel bay also has an array of hard corals and even stunning fan corals to see, although you might have to dive down a little deeper to see the later. Now we know just how tempting it can be to reach out and brush the colourful soft corals in your excitement and wonder, but it is super important that you take deep breath and restrain yourself. The corals are actually colonies of tiny living little animals called polyps, these polyps are very fragile and sensitive. Even the slightest touch from your hand can kill them. We want to keep all our corals as healthy as possible so it is best to enjoy their splendour with your eyes only. This way all of our reefs will be around for many more years to come and for many more eyes to enjoy and explore.
Now while you are checking out all that coral it would be pretty hard not to notice the fishy residents. Mackerel bay is absolutely teeming with fish, from the very small to the very large. The first fish our crew will be itching to introduce you to are the resident anemone fish. For anyone who doesn't know what an anemone fish is, think Nemo. These guys live right on the edge of the reef in the southern keyhole and they are nestled safely behind some large hard corals. It is really entertaining watching these little fish darting in and out of their anemones watching you, the strange giants, hovering around. Some other fish that you will be sure to spot are the parrot fish and wrasse. These guys are extremely colourful and you are bound to come and ask your crew about those stunning rainbow fish you saw. Listen carefully with your ears under the water and you will even be able to hear the parrot fish crunching and scraping away at rocks and coral to get their yummy algae snack off. Everywhere you turn there will be schools of fish swimming by, grumpy cod watching you from their hole on the reef and busy fish darting here and there going about their daily fishy business.
Another group of residents we regularly get to see in mackerel bay are the stingrays. This group can be a little harder to spot though. Stingrays like to hang out on the bottom where they hide and forage for food. So the best place to go and see them is up in the shallower parts of the key hole, just ask your host and they will gladly point you in the right direction or even help you to find one.
One of Wings Whitsunday Adventures favourite features on the reed in Mackerel Bay are the clams. These guys are bivalve molluscs who find a spot on the reef they like and they settle there for the long haul to grow and live their very chilled life. One of the main reasons we love them so much is the beautiful colours they display. Clams just like coral have tiny little algae cells living inside their own which help the clams to get food. But these little algae cells also help the clams to look their best and give them beautiful bright colours and stunning patterns. No clam looks the same as the next, you will have a great time spotting them all as you snorkel over the reef.
Last but definitely not least are the sea turtles, Mackerel Bay is full of them. The first place you should go and look is at the mouth to the southern keyhole on “turtle sleeping rock” because you are almost guaranteed to find at least one turtle taking a nap there. This rock is actually a cleaning station, there are little damsel fish who live there and they love to eat the algae and parasites off the turtles. As you swim deeper into the keyhole there is a good chance you will see turtles snacking on algae and their favourite food jellyfish, or taking a name on the nice comfy soft corals. The most common type of turtle you will see are the green sea turtles, but if you are really lucky you might get to see the shy but equally cute hawksbill turtles.
Watching stunning reefs on national geographic documentaries is one thing but wouldn't you rather come and experience their beauty with your own eyes? We promise you it's even more amazing and unforgettable in person. Wings Whitsunday Adventures is here to help you live your very own Blue Planet episode.