What could be better than having the opportunity of a lifetime to dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef? How about staying at the only resort built on the Great Barrier Reef. You can, but there is only one. The Herron Island Resort.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system, composed of over 2,900 reefs, 900 islands stretching over 1,800 miles. Located 45 miles off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia, Herron Island and the resort on this island of less than ¾ of a square mile is small and exclusive.
The resort boasts some of the best diving in the Coral Sea with 20 Great Barrier Reef dive sites within 15 minutes of the dock. Herron Bommie, 5 minutes away, was named by Jacques Cousteau as one of his favorite sites. I had the opportunity to do my very first night dive on this site where I got to see turtle and shark. What makes the diving at Herron so remarkable is that 60% of the 1,500 species of fish and 72% of the coral species found on the Great Barrier Reef are present at the local dives sites. The dive staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and prepared to support the spectrum of diving and snorkel abilities.
Staying in one of the only 109 rooms, paying for your dive gear and dives and few Bundaberg rums at the bar at night is not cheap. At last check the basic rooms were running around $400 per night, dive gear rental around $80 and dives $65 day/$90 night. Like so many things in life one has to put money up against overall value. This is one of the experiences you will remember your entire life.
There are only two ways out to the island, helicopter or fast ferry. We choose the ferry that left from the small town of Gladstone and took two hours. The ferry is comfortable and modern. Your heart will race as you power across the pristine Coral Sea at 30 knots in anticipation of your time at Herron.
The resort staff is top notch. Because of the distance they live on the island and have a deep sense of pride and belonging. The resort is very careful to follow ecological and green standards. Don’t expect the 4 Seasons out here. The accommodations are very nice but the difficulty in maintaining perfection in the facilities is challenging given the distance. The food is great and the bar at sunset makes my top ten list any day.
When you are not diving or enjoying water sports you can take a lap around the island. The resort is only on one small side of the island, which is a protected habitat. A walk around finds copious amounts of birds, sea turtles and views of seawater that is as translucent as the sand is white. One of my best pastimes here was to try to photograph the rays as they jumped out of the water. Nobody is sure why they do this but they are plentiful and the jumping is constant. The trick is to guess where one will come up and be ready to shoot instantly. I caught a few good shots.
Another great pastime is to take a nature walk out onto the reef at low tide. The water will only be about one foot deep and you can go out a few hundred yards. A member of the nature staff will point out sea cucumbers, baby sharks (our guide caught one and held him up to show us), and many other sea creatures. For those of you who are into max relax time, there is even a spa. At night, a star gazing class is held on the helicopter pad. With no lights from humanity around, you can see stars all the way to the horizon. The Southern Cross stood out as if we were in a planetarium. Spectacular.
The effort it takes to get to Herron is more than rewarded with an experience that is unparalleled. I’ve had the privilege to see and do many things in the world and Herron Island is one place I will always remember. This is a great place to get away as couple for a romantic getaway or with the family, as there are many things for kids to do as well. If your daydreams of future trips looks down under, make sure you put Herron Island on your can’t miss list. (www.herronisland.com)