Experience the Eyre Peninsula of Sth Aust
Updated: Feb 13
EXPERIENCING MARINE SANCTUARIES’ (EMS) is an incorporated, not-for-profit, non-government organisation. The program is based on (with permission) the highly successful New Zealand program ‘Experiencing Marine Reserves’. An important component of EMS’s approach to education is to give children and parents (and grandparents) a safe and professionally supervised ‘hands on’ experience of our unique and beautiful marine life.
They aim to;
FOSTER - appreciation and conservation of the marine environment
PROMOTE - the establishment, effective monitoring and management of marine sanctuaries
INSPIRE - people to become citizen scientists and actively participate in marine conservation
EDUCATE - and engage through experience in the marine environment
DEMONSTRATE - the value of marine sanctuaries
'EMS coordinators are qualified first aid, snorkelling and/or diving instructors and offer guidance, direction and co-ordination of in water experiences. EMS provides mask (goggles), snorkel, fins (flippers) and wetsuits. For many participants it is their first time snorkelling, therefore having a ratio of one parent to two students assists with supervision and safety.'
From 14th-19th January 2021 we visited and conducted 'Community Snorkels' at the 4 locations highlighted below with an amazing team of Volunteer's and support crew.
ROAD TRIP - 'and away we go' - Departing Adelaide early Wednesday morning with a 6hr drive ahead of us to our first destination, Cowell (Flat Rock Beach). For safety we factored in mandatory pit stop's including the obligatory bakery, fuel & toilet breaks along with abiding by road safety fatigue factors - (Drive 2hrs with a break/or change driver).
Road Trip Itinerary below
As we approached Cowell we took a moment to appreciate the local Silo Artwork, as there are many located all over the Eyre Peninsula. This was 1 of 4 Silo Art locations I had on my 'Must See' itinerary as well as many other tourist hot-spots that were planned along the way.
Shorty after, we arrived at our over-night stay at the Cowell Foreshore Caravan Park to unpack and settle in for 'the calm before the storm' of the pending Community Snorkels as the remainder of the team arrived slowly filtered in from the long drive.
Taking a moment to stretch, relax and recover from the long drive a few of us took a casual walk along the local boardwalk which spans above the mangroves that cover a large area of the local coastline. At the end of the boardwalk was a covered outpost I figured was for bird watching, a nature moment or just contemplating life. Upon reflection of the beauty and the serenity before us, we realised how fortunate life is. It was then reality kicked in, and it was time for a family-style dinner, chat and early turn-in.
Next morning, it was time 'volunteer up' and head to Flat Rock Beach to setup the Marquee, wash tubs, fins, mask, wetsuits & registration desk ready for the participants (37) spread over 2 snorkel times for the day with 13 volunteers including support from amazing National Parks & Wildlife Service (NP&WS) and Eyre Peninsular Landscape Board staff.
'Proudly supported by National Parks and Wildlife Service and Inspiring SA – this funding and in-kind volunteer support enable EMS to offer these snorkel tours at up to 85% off the normal price.'
Without the funding and support of NP&WS and Inspiring SA the annual Eyre Peninsula event would likely not occur, so a heart felt Thanks & Gratitude goes out to them & the amazing support staff.
The day was challenging with onshore winds and there were initial concerns of cancelling the event, however with participants and support staff already on-site, long distances travelled and showing enthusiasm of what Flat Rock may reveal gave us hope.
"The Flat Rock formation is a visible remnant of the ice age and snorkelers will experience an amazing variety of colourful fish and plant life on the reef and surrounding habitats."
An executive decision was made to continue with the snorkel tours and it proved to be a successful day with many highlights, such as many large dusky morwong, decorator crabs, eagle ray, silver whiting, blue swimmer crabs and tommy ruffs.
The range of participants were varied and mixed reflecting the diversity in our marine environment. We had families with young to teenage children, young couples to ageing couples and individuals happy to mix and meet others.
I relate the indicator of the success of the day is the exuberance, energy, smiles and chatter coming from the groups and individuals as they made the wet and sandy walk back to wash their gear and dry off sharing their experience, stories & sightings.
Great Team effort by all, but it's not over yet..... 'YES' it's time to re-pack the trailer and head to the next event location at Tumby Bay, but not before driving all the way to Pt Lincoln for our nights stay at the local YHA.
If you haven't been to Port Lincoln or experienced the Eyre Peninsula then I hope this Blog inspires you to 'Enjoy SA' and get out there. Below are some snapshot's - the coastline on the approach to Pt Lincoln, YHA lobby, YHA Dorm room and adjacent Craft Brewery.
After unpacking personal items, EMS equipment and eskies full of groceries & perishables for team breakfasts and dinners the group slowly split into many factions. Some decided to rest, grab some alone time, hit the local sites or grab a Beer at an adjacent Craft Brewery.
After re-grouping we sat down to a family style BBQ dinner with some de-briefing and socialising along with a little recovery time. Dinner and clean-up done, most of us hit the 'Dorm', showered and grabbed some much needed Zzzzzzzzz' for an early morning was upon us with a 40min drive back to Tumby Bay.
Up at 6.30am for an early morning, priorities first was to make the coffee, brew the 12 cup (percolator) then prepare breakfast, pack a lunch and hit the road to be at Tumby Bay by at least 8.00am to do a site safety assessment, briefing and set-up ready for participants arrival around 9.00am.
'The sandy white beaches, clear blue water and great fishing offer plenty of options for the whole family. Fishing, sailing, swimming and diving – you can do it all in Tumby Bay. Ever seen a leafy sea dragon up close? Dive down deep around the jetty and see them in the wild! It’s a magical experience that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.'
The weather was not ideal again, and some concerns were raised with the site with onshore winds for the participants experience and safety. Again we pushed through with 3 snorkel groups for the day and shared the daily roles between all volunteers and once more we had amazing support from NP&WS as lead guides, kayak and shore support roles.
As the participants filtered in for registration we started to recognise some familiar faces and after a bit of friendly banter we realised there were 5 groups of people/families who were booked into the entire Eyre Peninsula events. WOW, this was sooo exciting and impressive for EMS to have such a following from people, just shows what a draw card and amazing the EMS and the Eyre Peninsula is.
Highlights of the day were many, but let's start with the participants smiles, chatter and gratitude to be witnessing our wonderful marine life that some have never experienced. The soft corals, sponges and sea grasses were high on the chatter, along with the sighting of a Leafy Sea Dragon by one group. Also spotted were small schools of whiting, some cowfish and many other fish species.
But the marine/wildlife escapade didn't stop in the water, snorkelers were treated to a large squadron of pelicans on the beach as they walked back to wash their gear. As the final groups of snorkelers and guides filter in to bring another successful the day to a close everyone pitched in to pack up. Finally everyone dry, change of clothes, hydrated and snacks demolished it was time to hit the road back to Port Lincoln to re-group and consider 'Rest Day' options.
Long drives, 2 snorkel events, pack/unpack, tired and sore bodies called for a mandatory 'Rest Day'. Well, how did that go 😂 😆 - not well for most as the majority of us took to sightseeing around Port Lincoln, whereby others took the opportunity to rest and recharge....such wise people.
Whalers Way and the Lincoln National Park was a popular choice for the days outing, so decision made it was time to hit the road in a convoy of 3 vehicles. It was an enjoyable drive to bask in the moment & to breath a sigh of relief, to switch-off and be a tourist for the day.
The majesty & rawness of the epic sites of Whalers Way is unique, breathtaking and unlike any coastline I have ever seen in the world and I hope the photo's above capture our emotions. The landscape at each site/lookout differs to the other which is soo unique that it baffles the mind to acknowledge the diversity of the flora, fauna and wildlife that is endemic to the region.
Time soon became our enemy, as we became so enthralled with the wonderland of cliffs, blowholes, crevasses, caves and golden beaches we quickly realised the Lincoln National Park (LNP) was still on the days agenda. So, off we hustle to capture the sites of a few limited places recommended to us to maximise our time.
Upon entering the LNP and paying the entry fee ($12) we drove along the coastal road past Horse Rock, Woodcutters Beach, and Engine Point towards Donington Beach where we took time out to soak in the day and the serenity of our great Country during the global pandemic.
Rest Day (not) is over and time to return to YHA to re-group, plan dinner, pre-pack, sleep and be ready to hit the road for the next event location at Mount Dutton Bay, but before we head off I digress and would like to share another amazing local image from the Tumby Bay Silo Art.
As a convoy we made our way to Mt Dutton Bay for our next overnight stay at the Mt Dutton Bay Woolshed which is conveniently located only metres from the Jetty where we will be conducting our next snorkel event.
'Mt Dutton is on the southern coastal tip of the ‘Eyre Peninsula’ where the coast showcases the best in natural and unspoilt beaches and scenery…..where the Marble Ranges overlook the sea and within close proximity of the Coffin Bay waterways famous for Coffin Bay Oysters.'
The Woolshed Hostel caters for 20+ people including a large lounge/dining area and well equiped kitchen which led us to again cook up a huge family style dinner, chill out, have a social drink and prep for the next days events.
The next morning we were up bright and early to pack our belongings and EMS gear so we were ready to move on straight after the snorkel groups. Off we travel approx. 100m to the jetty and rallied to set-up the Marquee, registration desk, unload trailer with dive gear in readiness for the onslaught of participants.
Everyone was starting to show signs of wear&tear, tiredness and general exhaustion - but the 'Volunteer Hero Capes' came out and the guys/girls smashed it, again huge effort by all with another successful day of 3 snorkel groups with approx. 65 participants.
The jetty revealed to be a wonderland of life with plentiful amounts of decorator crabs, jellyfish, nudibranchs, sea stars and the most wonderful and vibrant pylon life of soft coral and growth. There was also the last remnants of the Caprice Shipwreck just out from the jetty, and close to shore were some cute little fighting crabs along with some vibrant green algae growth.
As the days events came to a close, again it was time to re-pack the trailer (tetris style) re-group and discuss the combined road trip of (175km). As part of my 'Must See' itinerary I planned for everyone to visit the the Talia Caves en-r0ute to Coodlie Park Farm Retreat, Pt Kenny as a team booster moment.
At the Talia Caves there are 2 very different but unique sites to visit and be in awe of;
1. The 'Woolshed' is a large cavern carved into the granite cliff by wave action. A walkway and wooden steps provide access onto the rocks to view the cave with its honeycombed ceiling, dark crevices and nearby blowholes.
2. The 'Tub' is a large crater in the cliff with a tunnel connection to the sea. It is 10 to 30 metres deep and 50 metres across with a granite base.
Below are some amazing and fun 360dg photo's of the team having a well deserved fun day out!
Photos courtesy of Carl Charter.
Coodlie Park Farm Retreat was calling us (to rest & recover!!!!) and we heard it loud and clear, so after another long arduous but gratifying day it was time to listen to our bodies and minds....
A short drive 8km later, the large colourful Coodlie Park 'Rainbow' style sign revealed itself, we turn off and drive along a dirt road to the remote Farm Retreat, just what was needed - a homely style set of lodgings with surreal surroundings. (pictures below)
As rooms were selected and people settled in it wasn't long before hot showers were in high demand, salty hair washed and dry comfy clothes were adorned. It seemed to also be Beer'o'Clock or individuals choice along with accompanied snacks and chatter as dinner prep was discussed, served and devoured.
After dinner, another drink and social banter and some of the group decided to have an early night as the next day was another allocated rest day, however again for the super keen other local activities were high on the agenda. I was one of the lucky ones to join Sophie and the kids to Baird Bay to snorkel with Sea Lions and Dolphins, others went to the adjacent town of Venus Bay for snorkelling etc. and the remainder either rested or took a rural walk around the Farm.
Below I compiled a short but energetic video of my experience of the Sea Lions & Dolphin snorkel with Baird Bay Ocean Eco experiences - please enjoy.
This was a joy to be a part of and to be allowed into their environment, swim with them and to witness nature was humbling, and at one time swimming with the Dolphins I could see no less 4 calfs' of differing maturity. The weather was a gift with flat sea, sunny with little to no cloud that the operator said they haven't seen for the past few months.
On the drive back to Coodlie Farm we were full of cheer and joy about the day and hoped that others were not tooo disappointed they could not join us due to limited spaces. Upon our return there were only a few others around, who were either resting or reading etc. so we kept our excitement to a minimum.
Shortly, several other cars started arriving back and we could see by their actions and emotive behaviour they were jubilant and excited about their day, even more so than us.....intriguing I thought - how could this be so.
After speaking with them about their day at Venus Bay, the beach, jetty, their snorkel and the interaction they had was comparable to our day as well, so a great day was generally had by all. As the group were snorkelling in, around and under the jetty they were buzzed by a local playful and inquisitive sea lion.
Photo's courtesy of Renate Honow
On the drive back from Baird Bay I was reminded about wanting to visit Murphy's Haystacks, a site I was desperate to see and add to my tourist portfolio. As the site was off the main road and time was precious for the EMS Team we decided to detour now and experience this phenomenon.
The day was perfect with emerald blue skies, minimal cloud cover and dusky tan soil which gave a faultless palette for striking photos. With a casual walk around and amongst the sculptures it was dreamlike to imagine the millions of years of weather, shaping and exposure that the formations endured from nature and evolution.
'Murphy's Hay Stacks were weathered and sculpted into their present form about 100,000 years ago. Geologists say the Hay Stacks are composed of pink granite from the Hiltaba suite of rocks which were laid down some 1500 million years ago. Amazingly these beautiful pink granites were formed at a depth of 7 to 10 kilometres below the earth's surface.'
Well enough said and done, time to re-charge for all from an exhausting but exhilarating day to prepare for our last Community Snorkel dat at Smooth Pools near Streaky Bay. This is a secluded location but has an enormous rock pool protected from the surf and has a life of its own with numerous habitats and hidden rock outcrops.
The next morning we all pack our belongings and hit the road early for the drive to Smooth Pools along the main road towards Streaky Bay, then along long uneven gravel roads to finally reach the site. It was a slightly treacherous journey due to the condition of the road, weight of the trailer and potential damage to peoples cars.
The sight of the turn-off sign came with a sigh of relief, yet the trek down to the Pools was still fraught with caution due to the roughness and large potholes in the road. Relieved and ready to go, the team set-up the site with the marquee, registration desk, snorkel gear and wash tubs like a well oiled machine.
The participants were closely moving in behind us ready for their experience, so there was no time to waste. Again we had such a variety of ages, families, couples and a lot of young children. This just proved to us how lucky South Australia is to have such amazing places that people and children alike want to discover.
Guides fitted out with their safety equipment, shore support ready, kayaks in the water and briefings done it was time to get wet and snorkel the crystal clear rock pool. With a cautious walk along the rocky outcrop, slightly unsteady and loose underfoot groups made their way to the edge of the pool and kitted up in company of their guide.
Today was an arduous and long day for all with many snorkel groups (4), and heartfelt thanks go out to the participants, volunteers and the NP&WS staff for their diligence and commitment.
With the final snorkel group for the day making their way back to wash gear, dry off and thank everyone for an amazing day, the team already had the majority of the days equipment packed awaiting the last of the gear, wash tubs and wetsuits.
Sadly time had come to say our final thanks and express our emotions with hugs and shared stories with all the volunteers and in particular the NP&WS crew. After the farewells and thanks were done we all made our way into Streaky Bay for a short break and some lunch before we hit the road for our last overnight stay in Port Augusta.
Ooooh, I almost forgot, there were 2 more Silo Art locations I want to share with you at Kimba & Wirrabara. 'The ‘Silo Art Trend’ is infusing Australian’s with newfound energy and enthusiasm. It’s encouraging people from all walks of life to get into their cars, caravans and motor-homes to journey along what is now considered Australia’s ultimate road trip.'
Finally I wish to acknowledge the remarkable EMS Team (Volunteers) in no particular order - Carl, Alia, Marcela, myself, Nikita, Tahnee, Mary, Chris, Emma, Molly, Renate, Luke, Jennifer & Sophie.
A mix of NP&WS and EP Landscape Board legends - Shelley, Barb, Elly, Lana, Dirk, Libby & Gemma.
In conclusion I leave you with this amazing 360dg photo courtesy of Carl Charter of us in our EMS Team logo shirts.
Another 'Rivetting Moment', to inspire & ignite the traveller in you, to broaden life challenges & experiences!!!
This Blog is not a sponsored or paid project from either EMS, NP&WS or EP Landscape Board and is written from my own personal experiences.
Any views or opinions represented are of my own and belong solely to the Blog owner and do not represent those of any individuals, institutions or organisations that the owner may or may not be associated within a professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated. Any views, opinions or statements are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company, or individual.
I also wish to acknowledge photographs' are at the courtesy of members of the EMS Team.