Today’s paddle is Ventnor to the Nobbies off the western end of Phillip Island. Possibly out to Seal Rocks at the edge of Bass Strait. The route follows the northwest coastline along empty, sandy beaches and lumpy dunes, through emerald green water and around the occasional bommie and rocky reef.
After an hour or so, we stop for morning tea near the remains an old jetty, at least that’s what it looked like although it seemed impossibly high put of the water. Seabirds perched on the spars squawked and flapped their wings in outrage at the kayakers below.
The Nobbies seemed a long way in the distance but we seem to get closer and closer in no time at all. Layers of lava flows are etched into relief by the sea and capped with calcarenite, suggesting a badly iced cake.
Up close, the Nobbies are no longer a lump of basalt in the sea, but a busy place. Seabirds nest among the the pink Carpobrotus flowers and succulent coastal plants which cover all but the most exposed slopes, seals and penguins mill around at the base of the cliffs and still more birds circle the tiny island, riding the air currents and swooping suddenly into the sea for prey. Cape Barren Geese, albatross, penguins, gannets but most commonly silver gulls and pacific gulls are commonly recorded (http://www.eremaea.com/SiteSpeciesList.aspx?Site=424).
Consensus is reached to extend the paddle out to Seal Rocks, with a little rock hopping around the chain of sea platforms along the way. The water is pretty shallow close to shore and the visibility good.
Soon though, it’s suddenly deep once once we reach blue water. It starts to feel like a real sea kayaking trip and it’s exciting as the kayak splices the waves, crests and falls with the surge of the swell.
Delight is the only word for the first sighting of the seal colony, even among paddlers who had been out to the rocks before. It is the second largest colony of Australian Fur Seals. They almost the same colour as the rock and for a moment, I don’t realise how many there are, flopped in the sun, slithering into the water, or staring at the new arrivals.
With seals go sharks, not that anyone was nervous…
Up close, seal pong started to get pretty strong but these amazing animals continued to delight as they circled and dived beneath the kayaks, clambered up onto the rocks, showing just how clever they are in the water. Their wails and moans sound like cheers from a football crowd.
They seemed to get more and more bold and cheeky as they got used to the boats, teasing and at the same time warning us off from the young.
Reluctantly, we need to leave and paddle the 13 km back to Ventnor Beach on the incoming tide. Everyone seems to have extra energy after the experience and even though I’m used to seeing spectacular scenery and wildlife, this has to rank with one of the best days on record.
Postscript….some weeks later, one of the kayakers re-visited Seal Rocks. If there was any doubt about loss of biodiversity in the area, sighting a seal with its head bitten off would seem to provide ample evidence that sharks at least are alive and well.