As we pull into the crystal-clear waters of Roylen Bay on Goldsmith Island in the Great Barrier Reef, the warm winter sun has just dispersed the last of the morning cloud.
As Wild Mob volunteers, Goldsmith Island will be our home for the next 5 days.
Wild Mob has been working on Great Barrier Reef islands like Goldsmith for almost 10 years.
Here, group after group of amazing volunteers have been rehabilitating the island’s critically endangered beach rainforest. And conducting as marine debris clean up on turtle nesting beaches.
After a 3-hour sail from Mackay to Goldsmith on Wild Mob’s catamaran Wild Cat and a lunch of fresh veggie wraps, the first afternoon is dedicated to finding our feet at setting up camp.
We each find a spot along the beach to pitch our tents and swags (all provided by the Wild Mob crew). I’m stoked with my view and close-but-not-too-close proximity to the island’s only camping toilet.
We enjoy cheese, dips, beers and wines as the sun drops behind the neighbouring islands. It becomes a daily ritual.
The next day, we get stuck into the weeds. We’re attacking periwinkle, poinsettia and rhoea, all garden escapees wreaking havoc on the critically endangered littoral rainforest here.
Our project leader Derek explains why these island ecosystems are so important, and efficient, to protect. In Australia, islands make up about 1% of the total land mass, but a whopping 40% of coastal ecosystems.
Islands also support more than 35% of threatened species listed under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
“Importantly we can undertake management actions on islands that are simply not possible on the mainland, such as eradication of weeds and feral animals. We can also effectively stop new pests arriving on islands by adopting sound biosecurity arrangements,” says Derek.
You’re working small and targeted, but you’re achieving big results.
By the end of the week, we’ve amassed 3 HUGE stockpiles of rhoea weed for disposal, and documented the management area on GPS so the next group knows where to pick up where we left off.
We settle into the classic Wild Mob trip routine: Hearty breakfast on Wild Cat, morning conservation work, relaxing and exploring he stunning surrounds, sundowners, dinner, repeat.
Midweek, we hike over the saddle of Goldsmith, enjoying the glorious views from the summit.
“When we first started doing marine debris clean up on Goldsmith, we were literally waste-deep in plastic, dishwashers, thongs, you name it,” Derek tells us.
The situation is much better these days, but we still haul out around 4 large bags of plastic, rope, bait bags, bottles, drums, a tyre and a ladder. We stockpile it above the tideline to be collected (check out how Wild Mob is going about that here).
That night we’re treated to a Mexican Fiesta! Nachos, burritos, fresh salads and plenty of guacamole zoom out of the Wild Cat’s tiny kitchen, and we once again marvel at the culinary prowess of the crew!
Snorkelling up a storm
4 days whizz by, and on the final night Steve suggests we head to Brampton Island for some Saturday morning snorkelling. We sleep on the roof of the boat, and incredible experience that produces a much sounder sleep that you might think!
Before we head back to the real world, we have a snorkel in the reefs of Brampton.
Poor water quality remains a huge concern for inshore reefs around the GBR islands, as are climbing summer temperatures which cause coral bleaching events. It’s a final reminder of the importance of protecting these incredible places, and how we all need to do our part.