We all know Hill Inlet and the surrounding Whitehaven Beach are known for their soft bright white sands and beautiful swirling patterns. However these features are not the only things worth seeing. The area boasts an array of characters from the marine to the terrestrial and even the airborne critters.
First of all there are the chilled out stingrays that call the waters of Hill Inlet home. The name stingray usually puts a little bit of worry into the minds of people however that reputation does not do these calm graceful creatures justice. A stingray will only sting when it feels threatened or is hurt, so if you approach them slowly and calmly, using what we call the stingray shuffle, you will have nothing to worry about and enjoy an incredible encounter. The most common species you will get to see are the cowtail stingrays. They are super easy to spot as their dark brown bodies are a stark contrast to the beautiful white sands. As the tide rises they come into the shallows to feed on the tiny soldier crabs and other small creatures buried in the sand.
Close neighbors of the stingrays in Hill Inlet are the tiny baby lemon sharks. These little guys are born right up inside the inlet and spend their juvenile years in the protection of the mangroves that grow there. Just like the stingrays these little guys travel out to the mouth of the inlet with the rising tide. While at the mouth they hunt and feed on the small fish that swim around there. To spot these guys you have to be paying attention. Lemon sharks as their name suggests have a light yellow tinge to their skin and this makes them quite camouflaged against the sand. They are also quite shy so the best way to enjoy an encounter with them is to stay still and not chase them around as this may cause the little guys a bit of stress.
The tiny soldier crabs are a sight to see. At low tide these pint size critters make their way out of the sand into the open, and for safety they hang out together in large groups sometimes numbering in the hundreds. These massive battalions can be seen patrolling the waters edge searching the sand for food. Once done with an area they leave behind hundreds of little balls of sand which are created by the crabs taking the sand into their mouths to filter through it for food, they make quite beautiful patterns on the sand. You can try your best to get close to these little guys but you have to be quick, they can feel you approaching through vibrations in the sand and will bury themselves quick as a flash to hide.
There is also quite a bit of bird life to be seen on the beach. Perhaps the most noticeable are the Beach Stone Curlews. Their ridiculously long skinny legs make them quite comical little creatures and their loud calls can be described as a wailing haunting sound. These guys are best observed quietly and from a distance as continued disturbance from humans can be quite stressful for them. They breed during spring and summer and lay their eggs on the shore line in shallow nests dug into the sand, so during this time it is important to watch your step.
At Wings Whitsunday Adventures we love taking our passengers to meet our Hill Inlet friend. We make sure that all encounters and interactions with the wildlife are unforgettable but most importantly that they are safe for not only our passengers but also for the creatures we love.