Would you leave everything behind to go and leave on a tropical island?
It's the opportunity I had at the beginning of 2013. I had the chance to live and work for almost four months on a tiny island located in the tropic of Capricorn where the Great Barrier Reef starts. As soon as I left Kings Canyon I was already on a new adventure, two hours away from the city of Gladstone, on Heron Island. A great opportunity for me to experiment a new environment and another type of isolation, the island measuring no more than 800 metres long and 300 metres large!
View of the island from an helicopter
I worked at the resort on the island as a waiter for one and a half months then as a housekeeper for two months. Once again, work was not the main motivation for me to go to Heron Island – hospitality is definitely not my cup of tea! - I was much more attracted to the beauty of the place which is inhabited by an extraordinary aquatic life. Even though this island seems to be much more remote than Kings Canyon in its own way, isolation there was much easier to deal with than in the desert. The presence of water and beaches always very near offered a range of activities such as diving, snorkelling or just swimming and sunbathing! Even if we were working on the island, it always felt like we were on holiday and who would ever get tired of it! Also living so close to the sea had a very calming effect. The beaches often are desert or relatively quiet, they offer a perfect place to escape from the island life.
Life is a beach!
At at Heron Island, employees live together like most resorts. People there get close to each other very quickly forming a real microcosm. Once you're there your thoughts become focused on the life of the island and you almost forget the outside world, a bit like if you were living in your own bubble beyond time and space where nothing can reach you. A world without phones, without transport, without pollution...away from civilisation, away from everything. In the evenings we were all getting together either at the bar or at the jetty to watch the sun setting on the ocean. I saw the most beautiful sunsets that I have ever seen on the island. Every evening it seems like the clouds were catching fire and their reflection gave the calm water incredible colours.
Some of the most incredible sunsets in the world
Heron Island was also one of Jacques Cousteau's favorite diving spot, this is not very surprising considering the richness and the beauty of the seabed around the island. The aquatic life is very accessible with many reef sharks, colourful fish, rays and turtles. I had never seen so many aquatic animals! The most beautiful thing I have seen was turtle hatchlings one evening after sunset. Hundreds turtles came out from the sand! The sight of those little creatures coming to life is the most extraordinary thing I have ever witnessed but also the saddest as these tiny turtles really fight and struggle to make their way to the sea where starving seagulls are waiting for them in lines to eat them! Out of a thousand turtles only one makes it because even if they miraculously manage to pass the barrier of seagulls, other predators will be waiting for them in the water!
Turtles hatchings as the sun is setting
But aquatic animals aren't the only inhabitants on the island, we can find many birds as well. What I found the most striking when I first arrived on the island – on top of the humidity due to the tropical climate – was the permanent noise which became louder and louder as I got inside the island which is full of vegetation...and birds! About 70 000 birds live on Heron island therefore we had to get used to the noise... and the birds excrements raining down from the sky, both impossible to escape!!!! Actually, some people just can't deal with it and have to leave the island only after a few days! I remember on my first evening as I was unpacking my bag I heard some screams which sounded a bit like a baby's cries. These screams became louder and louder and It felt like my room was suddenly surrounded by screaming babies crying all together! Later I realised that it wasn't babies – thanks god! - but mutton birds, a bird that comes out when it's getting dark and who is well known for its spooky screams!
The jetty, the island's doorstep
Finally the most difficult moment for me was to leave this island where I stayed between January 22nd and May 7th without ever getting out. All the staff members had to leave at the same time because the island was closing for three weeks of refurbishment. About 40 of us left at the same time. A last group picture on the beach and off we went, on the boat bringing us back to the main land in Gladstone. I remembered the time when I had seen this island appearing on the horizon for the very first time at the end of January. I couldn't believe that it was already time to leave this place. The boat was moving away. We were waving at the few who stayed. I was sad and I had so many memories in mind as I was watching the island becoming a tiny dot on the horizon before disappearing forever.
A last group picture of the Heron Island Family - 2013
How to get to the island?
The island is located in the middle of the sea, 90km off the coast of Queensland. There's a daily boat connecting the mainland to the island from Gladstone. The journey takes about 2 hours.
Alternatively in case you're scared of feeling seasick you can make your trip even more scenic - and more expensive! - by getting there by seaplane. For $349 (or £200) It will take you there in about 25 minutes