Nine senior marine studies students from Camden Haven High School recently visited the beautiful Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef with their teachers Deb Geronimi and Ben Sainsbury and community member, Tom Ferrier from Camden Haven Community College.
The trip was made possible by a NSW Transport Grant received by Camden Head Pilot Station Manager Ross Butlin and Camden Haven Community College.
Without the funding for the transport it would have been extremely difficult for the students to raise the funds to go. The students and their teachers are extremely grateful.
The group left the school on May 27 and following an overnight stay at Hervey Bay took a 13-seater plane to Lady Elliot Island the following day.
Four of the students had never flown before and the flight alone was an amazing experience.
On the approach to the island, giant manta Rays were spotted in the sparkling turquoise blue water below. It was not long before the students were on a glass bottom boat and snorkelling with the manta rays.
The wildlife was amazing and every morning the students were up at sunrise to have a snorkel at Lighthouse Bommie before breakfast. Manta Rays were abundant at this time of day and were observed at cleaning stations along the reef.
At these station’s little fish called cleaner wrasse pick off parasites to clean the Rays, it was a spectacular sight to watch. The students returned for breakfast at Lady Elliot Island Eco-Resort where they were staying and then went to the lagoon for a snorkel with green turtles, hundreds of fish species and beautiful corals.
On other snorkels at the Coral Gardens, the students saw black tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays, giant loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles and more green turtles. Giant moray eels, barracuda, bamboo sharks, octopus. It was an amazing wildlife experience and because this part of the reef is a protected marine park (Green Zone), the fish were huge and their abundance and diversity were too. The students spent as much time as they could in the water over a five-day period.
The first Humpback Whale of the season also went past the island during their stay!
The students also conducted Coral Health Surveys (Coral Watch) for The University of Queensland. This data will be used by scientists to monitor the reef health.
Most of the corals were very healthy but some had bleached due to extreme summer temperatures in January and February. It was lucky that Cyclone Debbie brought cooler water to the reef and stopped the bleaching from becoming catastrophic.
The swell from the cyclone also caused a small amount of coral damage but not too disastrous.
Students also conducted a marine debris survey for Tangaroa Blue Foundation and were sad to see plastic items and fishing gear being washed up on such a beautiful remote island.
The students were fantastic, enthusiastic and extremely well behaved. Reports from resort guests praised the teachers and Camden Haven High School students on their behaviour and respectful attitude to other resort guests.
The students are currently making a video documentary of their trip to present to Camden Haven High School and Pilot Station manager Ross Butlin.