South GBR in December/Jan

Mar 14th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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South GBR in December/Jan

I am planning a trip to Australia in Dec/Jan. Cannot do it at any other time. A trip to the Great Barrier Reef is very much on my itinerary. However I am given to understand that this time of the year is not a particularly good time of the year to visit the Northern part of the GBR - because of the monsoon, humidity, jellyfish etc. In that case I will confine myself to the southern part, specifically Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island. I would be grateful if people could let me know whether that should be ok or not. Thanks in advance.
travelrider is offline  
Mar 14th, 2006, 03:56 PM
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travelrider - firstly I should explain that Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island, are true coral cay islands and are situated some distance off the mainland. Both islands have migratory birds nesting in the trees at certain times of the year, and also female turtles laying eggs. The coral is pristine, and the diving is excellent, with organised diving on certain diving locations each day, depending on the wind & tides. So as you can see, these islands are for the people who like - nature, wildlife, diving on coral reefs, seeing sharks, manta rays, sea snakes, and various colourful coral fish.
I always recommend these 2 island resorts to my overseas friends, as they want to see as much of the coral reefs as possible, and not just a resort hotel. You can walk around both of these islands in a very short time. Heron Island has the better accommodation, and Lady Elliot's accommodation tends to be a bit more basic, but still okay. Lady Elliot Island has a sand bar, and thats exactly what its like, stand in the sand whilst having a cold ale.
Enjoy the southern GBR region, it really is an undiscovered region, for most overseas visitors.
tropo is offline  
Mar 14th, 2006, 06:33 PM
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I endorse Heron Island, we stayed for 5 days in 2004 and it was excellent, not cheap mine you BUT it was everything we imagined and more. An all inclusive price - not booze- excellent food and altogether an experience that we will never forget.
flybob is offline  
Mar 14th, 2006, 08:37 PM
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Dear Flybob and Tropo, Thanks for your endorsement of my choice of islands in the GBR. But my fundamental query was whether or not December/Jan is as good a time for visiting this part of the GBR as compared to say August - November. Awaiting response on this query. Thanks
travelrider is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 03:40 AM
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Dec/Jan is peak season for bird nesting on Heron and Lady Elliot. It's also egg-laying time for the turtles. I've not been to Heron at this time, but from all reports, many people find the birds to be a nuisance because of the noise and their droppings. So on one hand, it's the time when the island's wildlife is most active (a particularly good thing for nature lovers), and on the other, you've got the noise and the poop.

Not so sure there will be huge difference in weather in Dec/Jan than that further north. And keep in mind, jellyfish are never a problem anywhere on the reef (only close to shore). So I wouldn't necessarily rule out the North. That being said, I still think Heron is the place to go.
RalphR is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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Dear Ralph,
Thanks for your reply. Just one more clarification, though. You have said that jellyfish is not a problem in any case on the reef, and therefore not rule out the north even in Dec/Jan. But what about the monsoon? I believe that Dec/Jan is monsoon time in the north and that reduces the visibility even on the reefs, which can hamper the snorkelling enjoyment; in which case it would be more prudent to limit oneself to the southern GBR. Am I right?
travelrider is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 07:08 PM
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Hi travelrider,
It is a gamble being in the tropics during the WET season which is underway Dec/Jan.
The wet season (Monsoon) can result in cyclones (hurricanes) and heavy rain anywher along the Queensland coast with heavy (flooding) rain to the NSW north Coast.

The ideal time to be in FNQ is from May to October (maybe November).
You may fluke good days or even a good week but being the wet it will rain.

So my general suggestion is to stay away during the wet.

If you do go then, good luck and have a great time, the people will still be friendly to help you make the most of your experience.
bluey is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 10:12 PM
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travelrider - I have lived near Cairns since 1992 and have noticed that the "wet" seems to get later every year, and sometimes it doesn't happen at all. There was virtually no rain last December, a little in January but not enough to spoil a reef trip (often its raining on mainland and not on reef), a bit more in February, the wet didn't kick in until March, which is nowadays the wettest month of year. Ironically, only a couple of weeks ago there were storms and gales in SE Qld equal to that of a Category 2 cyclone (hurricane) with near perfect reef conditions in the north.

Wind is more likely to spoil a reef trip than rain and the windiest months are usually July and August. However last year there were 3 months from mid-July of constant SE wind - 25-35 knots was the norm in the north, at least.

Confusing, isn't it?
pat_woolford is offline  
Mar 16th, 2006, 03:51 PM
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Travelrider - just to answer your question regarding the weather in December/January re the southern GBR area....well we don't see much in the way of cyclones anymore (in fact no cyclones down this way for the last few years)
December/January will be warm & humid wherever you go in Qld. We don't experience the monsoonal weather that Nth Queensland (Cairns) gets, most of our rain comes from the south-east.
As for sea discolouration from winds, that shouldn't be a problem at Lady Elliot or Heron Island, as these islands are situated "some" distance from the coast, and are smack in the middle of some of the clearest sea water that you will find.
I remember being on Dunk Island (up near Cairns)one year, and we had torrential rain, and a few days later I couldn't help but notice the sea discolouration around the island caused by muddy water being pushed out of the rivers into the coral sea. Also Dunk Island is quite close to the mainland. I hope this information helps you.
tropo is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 02:48 AM
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Trop, Dunk Island, as you know is barely off the coast and is a long way from reef, sure you'll get mainland run-off from farming areas in heavy rain.

What I was trying to do here is dispel travelrider's fear of bad weather in northern part of GBR, in Dec/Jan. And Cairns/Port Douglas is hardly northern anyway, when you consider how far north the reef extends. Have been out to Moore Reef today, not ideal weather, but good enough to see turtles in abundance, myriads of reef fishes and coral which has partly been a bit damaged by recent cyclonic influence, good, but not as great visibility as it was in December when I was last there. BTW, we went with English visitors who have snorkelled just about everywhere in the world, and they proclaimed this piece of reef as as at least the best they've seen.
pat_woolford is offline  
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