Thursday 18 February 2021

From on Board: Coral Adventurer's Wild Islands and Walks of South Australia - Reevesby Island

#expeditioncruising .

Reevesby Island (c) Quentin Chester

How many South Australians could name all of the islands off the 5000km of shoreline? That would be quite a feat, as there are almost 350 of them.
On Coral Expeditions Wild Island & Walks of SA itinerary aboard the brand new Coral Adventurer, we have ticked off several islands previously unknown to me including Reevesby Island (yes, that spelling is correct. See map), part of the Sir Joseph Banks Group, itself consisting of 21 distinct landmasses.

Many of SA’s accessible islands were opened up to farming more than 100 years ago with hardy and optimistic families took livestock for breeding as well as cropping wheat and oats. The harsh conditions and isolation must have been maddening for some, while others persisted for years despite such hazards as complete lack of access to medical facilities and getting supplies on and off wobbly barges in all kinds of weather.

Xplorer's unique design allows easy access to virtually any beach (R Eime)

Landing on the beach with Coral Adventurers clever tender, Xplorer, we’re able to go ashore almost anywhere. First mate, Sam, artfully manoeuvres the 600hp craft in the surf so we all get off easily in ankle-deep water via the retractable forward platform.

Our experienced local guides, Quentin Chester and Dale Arnott, lead us over the first line of low dunes behind the beach at Home Bay, in the SW sector of the 420-hectare island. Here we find the remains of the rudimentary homestead once occupied by the Sawyer family at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Sawyer family in 1907 in front of their corrugated iron home (SLSA)

All around the iron cottage and in the old sheds are relics from successive efforts including what’s left of vintage tractors, dilapidated carts and rusty cultivators. A small group of enthusiasts are working to preserve the history as well as what’s left of the wildlife. The island’s success story is the eradication of feral pests, like cats and black rats, and the reintroduction of the once widespread greater stick-nest rat (Leporillus conditor). We even see the bottom of one of the guinea pig-sized rodents dart quickly into the undergrowth.

Walkers along the beach at Haystack Bay (R Eime)

As we loop back across the dunes to Haystack Bay on the eastern shore for our extraction, we see Cape Barren Geese carefully observing us from a distant outcrop. The island is also famous for its black tiger snakes which thankfully remain hidden. Little penguins are in decline and wallabies are long gone, but the seas around the group still support dolphins, rays and seals.

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