The boat rocked from left to right, over choppy waters that looked ready to engulf us. I held on tight to my seat as the wind howled and the waves swung us high and low. Even in thick waterproof jumpers, we were shivering like baby chicks with no feathers. Our guide had warned us of the swells – they can go up to 5 meters on a bad day. Usually at least half of the passengers on board get sea sick on this cruise. Thankfully, we weren’t one of them.
The rough seas and harsh conditions resembled the harsh conditions of Antarctica that I had encountered on my expedition trip last year. It comes as no surprise though, as this – the Tasman Peninsula - is one of the closest landmasses to Antarctica. Storms from Antarctica travel almost 2000 km to get here, and this is often the first piece of land they encounter in this direction. Naturally, the sea conditions can pose as a challenge even for the toughest seafarer.
Cruising off the southern coast of Tasmania, we were meandering along the stretch of the coastline between Port Arthur and Eaglehawk Neck (that forms part of the Tasman National Park) to get to the famous Tasman Island, a great landmark of the Southern Ocean – its slender white lighthouse still a beacon for seafarers entering Storm Bay. This is an area famed for its dramatic and rugged beauty – the sheer sea cliffs here rising up to 300m above the sea, resulting in beautifully sculptured rock formations and magnificent blow holes.
But we were not here just to admire the beauty of the landscape – we were here to see the rich wildlife that inhabit this area. The Continental Shelf runs close to Tasman Island and an upwelling of nutrient from the ocean’s depths creates a smorgasbord for marine animals, from plankton and albatross to sharks, dolphins and southern right whales. Tasman Island didn’t fail us – we floated right by migrating humpback whales, cruised right by fur seal haul-outs, watched albatrosses and eagles wheeling in the sky. There was a feeding frenzy of diving gannets on the water surface and a surprising number of whales breaching all around us. We were awestruck by the amount of wild animals we saw that day – and the adventure that came along.
Just after leaving Port Arthur, we came across this beautiful rock formation
The dolerite rock towers feature interesting columnar characteristics
A pair of fur seals fight it out
A lonesome fur seal look out to sea
We managed to capture the fluke of a whale just before it dove in
There’s so much bird life in the area
A giant albatross spreads its wings
The sharp peaks of islands off the Tasman Peninsula
Diving gannets fighting for food on the water surface
Riding the rough waves
About the Tour
Our three-hour Tasman Island eco-cruise was organized by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, a very successful operator started by local fisherman Robert Pennicott. The Pennicott family are genuinely dedicated to sharing their business success with the local community and operating in a sustainable manner.
25% of the business profits are donated to important local, national and international conservation, community fundraising and humanitarian projects. In 2007, Robert Pennicott established the Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund toward which he has raised $100,000. This has been used on Tasmanian coastal conservation projects, the first of which was completed in June 2010 on Tasman Island. The outcome was the removal of a feral species that was killing over 50,000 breeding seabirds each year.
Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Tourism Tasmania, but all opinions expressed above are our own.