Dolphins, Seals, Birds and Scones made my day on the Lonsdale Eco Cruise.
For the past 4 or 5 years, I've been an agent of the Lonsdale Eco Cruise, taking bookings via my website for their 3 hour Gippsland Lake Charter.
In that 4 or 5 years, I've never actually been for a cruise aboard the Lonsdale. Not that Tony and Mel haven't insisted I come along for a ride, it's just been work, family, visitors, and the usual perceived lack of time that's stopped me in the past.
However, as the weather started to clear the other day, I received an invite from a group of business people I'd just given a presentation to, about Mobile Apps. "Come along with us for our final day and cruise on the Lonsdale," they insisted. So I did. And i'm glad I did.
On arrival at Cunningham Quay, Mel was at the gangway welcoming us all aboard. There were probably about 30 people onboard that day. A mixture of kids starting at 5 year old, up to elderly citizens, and our bunch of Wwoof business owners from all over the world.
I was taken back by the roominess on board. There was a comfortable downstairs area, with foldable plastic windows for viewing the Lakes, the Wheelhouse area, decked out with comfortable padded seating, and an upstairs open area giving wonderful 360 degree views. Plenty of seating all round.
The skipper, Tony, departed spot on 1:00pm. He announced there was free tea, coffee and water available, and to make ourselves comfortable, as he expertly steered the Lonsdale out of its berth and into Cunningham Arm.
From that moment on, he started an expert commentary on the sights on the Gippsland Lakes. Starting with Bullock Island as we pulled a left and headed towards the Entrance to the Gippsland Lakes.
With a strong outgoing tide pulling us towards the Entrance, Skipper Tony faced the vessel back on to the Entrance, giving everyone a wide open view of the magnificent breakers smashing onto the pylons that make up the two sides of the Entrance. There were some large seals sunbaking on the rocks, and we all had plenty of time to take photos and videos of this wondrous sight.
After giving us the history of the building of the current Entrance to the Gippsland Lakes, Tony then headed between Rigby Island and Barrier Landing. Explaining the vegetation and bird life along the way. Barrier Landing is a small stretch of sand, separating the Ninety Mile Beach from the Gippsland Lakes.
We then sailed through Rigby Channel, which is a small waterway separating Rigby Island and Fraser Island. Again, Tony talked us through the history and ecology on these beautiful islands and waterways.
Heading up Reeve Channel, the Lonsdale kept close to the shore, enabling countless species of birdlife to be identified. Some rare, some not so rare.
Taking us around Bells Point, we then snuck into Box's Creek and Chinamen's Creek near Metung. These small inlets give you a chance to see the local boating fleets up close, tied to their private moorings, and countless Pelicans and Swans, many with young, sheltering in these secluded coves.
Cruising past Metung and seeing it from the water, showcases the beautiful homes dotted along the shores of Bancroft Bay. Millions of dollars in real estate. Tony then took us around the point at Metung and into Lake King, This gives you an idea of the scope and size of the Gippsland Lakes. They're huge.
On the return journey, Tony fills you in on all the local knowledge of Metung and the scattered settlements along the strip of land holding back Bass Strait from the Gippsland Lakes. I was surprised at the amount of houses nestled amongst banksia trees, with the only way in by boat.
Coming back through Reeve Channel and passing by Rigby Island, we spotted a pod of the rare Burrunan Dolphins. It was a small pod, about 6-8 strong, but they came right up to the bow of the stationary Lonsdale, putting on a great show for all on board. You could clearly hear them breathing every time they surfaced. Absolutely mind blowing.
Nearing the end of the journey, we returned again to the Entrance, with the tide now slowing down, Seals could be seen diving around in the depths, catching the fish as they went out on the outward tide. A quick sneak into Bullock Island and the Gippsland Ports slipway, then it was back to Cunningham Quay, spot on 4:00 pm.
I highly recommend take your friends or visitors for a Cruise on the Gippsland Lakes, they truly are an amazing piece of natural wonder, right here in our own back yard.