You might call us nuts, you’d probably be right, but we needed to scope out a solid contingency plan for TAG’s Cassowary Coast Sea Kayak adventure in the event of inclement weather, and the only time of the year we can really do that kind of stuff is in the off season – SUMMER! Adventuring in the coastal waters of the tropics in summer is precarious at the best of times. Humidity can be absurdly uncomfortable, cooling off in the water is not appealing as there are lots more stingers (box jellyfish) around, and rain, intense storms and cyclones are far more probable.
So yes, really it’s a silly time of the year to be out exploring… but we had some intelligence from an experienced kayaking friend that Dunk Island might be a good plan B and we went anyway. Dunk Island is largely national park, however there is a sizable chunk of freehold land where the remains of what was a 5 star resort still stands, a somewhat charming yet run-down - though still functional - camping area exists, and a beachside bar. Dunk Island resort was pretty well shaken apart when Cyclone Yasi came through in 2011… Clearly the insurance company didn’t cover a rebuild as all but 4 buildings you can see from the beach stand still incomplete and deserted. These buildings are beset with serious structural damage including sections of roofs bent backwards, windows and doors broken or simply not there… all open to the vagaries of the weather.
Our crossing from Mission Beach took us about an hour and 40 mins. We had a little look at the picturesque Purtaboi Island and viewed some of the island's birdlife from our kayak - this is an important shore bird rookery and landing between October to March is not allowed. Hungry we then pushed on to Dunk Island to enjoy lunch at the closed Sunset Beachside Bar where there were a ghostly array of chairs, enough to seat more than 50 people - but we were the only ones there. Later we learnt that the bar is sometimes open on weekends for the locals who motor over for a social time.
We looked at the 9 campsites with paths that go nowhere except into trees which had grown over them. There are a lot of coconut palms dripping with yummy coconuts (which we annoyingly couldn’t reach though there were plenty of older ones on the ground) so we made sure we didn’t and set up our tent under one of them. Our afternoon exploratory paddle took us out to two small islands nearby (Mung Um Gnackum Island and Kumboola Island) where we saw lots of sea life including schools of fish, stingrays and a few reef sharks. We noticed the clouds building and the sky put on a terrific display that we thoroughly enjoyed – ahhh we love our other office!
Upon cracking a coconut and watching the sunset from the jetty, before heading off to have an early night, we saw on the distant horizon some lightening but thought if it brings us some rain that would be a great relief from the incredibly sticky, hot, still evening we’d been experiencing.
At around midnight the wind sprang up and gradually got fiercer and fiercer… so much so that we wondered whether we might be about to experience a tropical cyclone. We had to drop our tent so the poles didn’t break with the force of the wind and the tarp-shelter we’d set up was jeopardised with two guy lines snapping and others coming loose flapping around in the wind… then we were in for a dunking! The rain came, drenched we dragged our sorry excuse for a tent with all our gear in it to the closest shelter and waited out the rain… WOW we certainly felt alive, our hearts beating rapidly in our chests! After it all calmed down we put the tarp-shelter back together, set up our tent again and managed to get back to sleep – a little cooler (and not to mention damper) than before…
At 5:15am the alarm went so as though we had a full nights’ rest, we got up ate breakfast and did the walk up to Mount Kootaloo lookout, Dunk’s highest peak. Then onto the circuit track to Coconut Beach with its incredible giant and gnarly old Beach Calophyllum trees and big beach boulders. We collected coconuts on our way back to camp before packing up and heading back to Mission Beach.
Our visit to Dunk Island was short, but exciting! And, we happily took home many ideas about how Dunk Island could be used as a great contingency plan for our Cassowary Coast Sea Kayak adventure.
Words by Liliana Williamson (March 2018)