Wondering what a Wild Mob conservation trip is actually like?

Here’s one of our incredible volunteers Melanie, with her rundown of our recent Percy Islands expedition in the Great Barrier Reef (and why she’ll never buy another plastic bottle).

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Percy Islands is the fourth trip I have attended with Wild Mob over the past six years.  I have been to the Tarkine, Norfolk Island and Brampton Island.

There are many other places I wish that I had the opportunity to visit with Wild Mob. Every trip has been lots of fun and a unique adventure.

The philosophy of Wild Mob involves: Conservation – saving endangered species and the ecosystems they inhabit. Culture – respecting the culture of the communities they work with. Community – collaborating with other environmental organisations, universities, governments, businesses, volunteers and landholders. Commerce – ensuring the conservation activity benefits the local community.

Who is Wild Mob?

The team of Wild Mob is made up of scientists, ecologists and educators. Projects have local and national significance. Wild Mob do trips with school students; university students and then trips for people like me who have an interest in the environment, want to learn, and make a difference.

“What everyone has in common is an interest in the environment and sense of humour.”

There is generally a ratio of 6–8 volunteers to 3 crew. On the trips I have attended, volunteers range from their 20s to early 70s. What everyone has in common is an interest in the environment and sense of humour.

What to expect

The format of each trip is similar – a day travelling each way and four days on the project. The mornings are spent working on the project and the afternoons are spent relaxing, exploring the island, swimming and snorkelling.

“It is surprising how interesting these activities can be in the context of the project and having someone to explain the purpose.”

On the trips I have attended the conservation activities have involved Bush care (weeding, chopping down trees, planting seedlings), counting birds on beaches, and clearing beaches of rubbish. It is surprising how interesting these activities can be in the context of the project and having someone to explain the purpose.

For the majority of trips the cost is no more than $700 for the week including all meals, the use of a tent, transportation to and from the island, and the use of wetsuits and snorkelling equipment.

Paradise on Percy

The Percy Islands is 120 kilometres south-east of Mackay and we travelled there via a 15-metre catamaran Wild Cat. We were unlucky with the weather heading to the island with a 2-4 metre swell, 2 metre seas and 15–20 knot winds.

The trip should have taken 10 hours but took 2 days to allow volunteers time to adjust to the conditions. For the remainder of the week, the weather was glorious and a quick 7-hour return trip. Fortunately, all other trips are not so remote.

Wild Mob - Percy IslandsA snapshot from the beautiful Percy Islands.

The Percy Islands has historical and cultural significance. For 130 years, Middle Percy Island has been a stop-over for sailors who would get provisions such as sheep, goats, coffee, coconuts, mangos and honey on their way north.

Today, it is a place to anchor for yachters and fisherman passing through. The five permanent residents live sustainably by growing produce for their own consumption, graze goats and sell mango chutney and honey.

Getting to know the locals

There is a traditional Queenslander homestead where the caretaker Kate and her husband live, and a tree house at the beach where another couple live. Visitors are welcome to camp on the beach, anchor in the bay, and have a communal dinner in the A Frame.

On the last night we had the communal goat stew, which happens every Friday.

The A Frame is famous for its memorabilia. We were invited to lunch one day in the Homestead and did a tour of the island. On the last night, we had the communal goat stew, which happens every Friday.

bout 20 other people came ashore with food to add to the stew. By chance, there was a German backpacker from a fishing boat who practiced flame throwing for everyone after dinner. It was very sociable.

The Work

On one day we did weeding mostly of Periwinkle. There are many weeds so this activity was strategic: to give the Acacia’s the space to grow towards the shore; and provide the caretakers with compost material.

On another day we visited Pine Peak, which is a 1.5 hour boat trip from Middle Percy Island. Pine Peak is a nesting ground for turtles and the skipper was concerned about the impact of Cyclone Debbie on the breeding area. The island is difficult to get to because it is so exposed; there is a reef one side and mostly rocks on the other.

On Pine Peak, we discovered only one empty turtles nest on the northern side and on the southern side there was so much rubbish it was heartbreaking.

The deck chair, huge buoy on a pole and large fuel/water containers could be attributed to the cyclone, but the rest of the rubbish was general flotsam that gets washed in with the tide.

We filled seven bags in a couple of hours with drink bottles, polystyrene, foam, and thongs. And this is just one island out of many hundreds in the Whitsundays.  We barely scratched the surface, knowing that the next tide will bring in more rubbish. Apparently, the south-side of the islands are affected worst by the Trade Winds, but you never see the rubbish until up close.

I wish we could have done more!

I did not feel that I worked hard enough over the week, but this was because the weather took a day off the trip.

I vow to never buy a plastic drink bottle ever again and will always pick-up rubbish on the water whenever I see it.  

Most volunteers leave wishing they had done more. However, Wild Mob were satisfied because of what we were able to achieve and the impact it had on us.

Wild Mob never preach, but how can you not be affected seeing rocks filled with rubbish that should have birds’ nests, and knowing that birds and turtles will get sick eating the plastic, polystyrene and rubber because they don’t know any better?

I vow to never buy a plastic drink bottle ever again and will always pick-up rubbish on the water whenever I see it.

The trip was a lot of fun and everyone was great company. Without fail, every morning there was a beautiful sunrise, and every evening a spectacular sunset.

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