Abrolhos eye-opener is a real catch | Ralph Lauren

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The craypots were set last night in the Abrolhos Islands, and we board the King Diver fishing boat at 6.45am knowing that, taking into account the rock lobsters already on board the Eco Abrolhos expedition cruise catamaran, the crew can bring home 67 more from this pot pull.

With experienced Hayden Michie running King Diver, they “bag out”, easily filling that quota from 11 pots. Bagging out becomes a consistent theme during our days on the Abrolhos. Throughout the four days, we visit all three groups of the Abrolhos, King Diver helping to “feed the boat”. Cook Andrew Chaffe presents beautiful meals, usually with rock lobsters or fish straight from the ocean, particularly when guest Clive Gibsone brings in a huge dhufish.

Hayden Mitchie with one of the crayfish.
Camera IconHayden Mitchie with one of the crayfish. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

Others of us, like Pereena McGuirk, Helna Lindhout and Robyn Foulds, are keener to get in the water, joining Eco Abrolhos’ snorkel guide Alexis Bell over pristine walls of plate coral and fields of staghorns.

We partnered in this Travel Club Tour with Imagine Holidays. Our original plan had been to visit Kalbarri and spend more time in Geraldton — but first cyclone Seroja and then the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions changed that. Behind the scenes, Imagine Holidays took the brunt of planning and replanning and replanning again.

What came home to me was the importance of having a skilled team on your side in such changeable times. But what comes home to me during the trip is the joy of travelling alongside others who appreciate our State.

Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconAbrolhos Islands. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

And everyone deserved it, “hanging in there” as, behind the scenes, things changed. It was only on Tuesday last week that we could finally tell everyone we would be leaving the following morning. And there we all were, on the coach, heading north.

Approach is important. And our gentle, meandering approach up the coast set the scene. We stopped for coffee in Ledge Point (thanks to Tony opening the cafe for us), where the Dutch trading ship, Gilt Dragon, was wrecked. We visited the Pinnacles, to see WA’s eroded tamala limestone cap laid bare, Lobster Shack in Cervantes, to get a taste of what lay ahead, and then followed the reef breaks on up the coast to Geraldton.

We boarded the boat spent, did all the briefings and, after “pizza night” slept well before a departure just before dawn.

Alexis Bell snorkelling off Morley Island.
Camera IconAlexis Bell snorkelling off Morley Island. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

The Abrolhos is 60km offshore, and so the whole first day was before us, landing on Pelsaert Island, in the southern group. As we move northwards, Post Office Island, Morley Island, Little Sandy Island and Beacon Island all have their stories — Dutch East India ships like Zeewijk and, of course, Batavia, which wrecked (and which underwater photographer Pat Baker had told us about at our pre-departure event); the crayfishing and guano mining industries; the vulnerable lesser noddies seabirds that nest here; the Australian sea lions and corals; and the fact that this is now WA’s newest national park.

The days on board pass with outings and activities, and culminate in a quiz that proves that, though we might have had a good time, we were listening and learning about the Abrolhos, too.

ON THE TRIP

Valmai and Peter Kopke, Robert and Mary Carroll, Gillian Meecham, Jo Ottway, Janet Giblett, Janet Walker, Brenda Cheeseman, Isla-Jean and Peter Whittaker, Robyn Foulds, Laura Gray, Clive and Floss Gibsone, Linda and Ed Marshall, Patience Jordan, Pereena McGuirk, Ray and Greta Bath and Helna Lindhout. Baxter Carson was tour manager for Imagine Holidays.

Snorkeling off Morley Island in the Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconSnorkeling off Morley Island in the Abrolhos Islands. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

PLANNING AHEAD

Imagine Holidays is offering the full trip, Wonders of the Abrolhos and West Coast Escape, again from February 7, 2022. It includes a four-night Eco Abrolhos cruise and fully escorted tours of Geraldton and Kalbarri National Park. The seven-night trip has other departures, and prices are from $3799 per person in a lower deck cabin on the boat) and $4099 per person in a main deck cabin.

It also includes a night in Kalbarri and two nights in Geraldton — one before and one after the Abrolhos cruise.

And it includes coach travel with a guide, visiting the Pinnacles and various other places along the way, and Skywalk in Kalbarri National Park. The Abrolhos expedition cruise visits the three main groups of the islands.

imagineholidays.com.au or call 1800 958 405 and quote Holiday Code: TOU2258.



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