Port Willunga’s Natural Charms

24 May

There is a pair of pigeons nesting along the limestone cliffs. They are billing and cooing and puffing up their feathers if rival birds come anywhere near their territory. Unbeknown to the loving pair a far greater menace, in the form of kestrel, is circling high above, scanning the cliff face for a tasty pigeon treat. Luckily for the nesting pair, the hunter overlooks them or perhaps the angle of attack is too steep and the cliffs too perilous.

Lucky pigeons

Lucky pigeons……click to enlarge

 

I am walking along Port Willunga beach just 40 minutes from Adelaide; a glorious little stretch of white sand that lies below ochre limestone cliffs and bounded by the Aldinga reef to the south and Gull Rock to the north. The reef is a marine sanctuary that showcases a wide variety of the state’s diverse aquatic life. And the beach is a rich repository of the South Australia’s pastoral history where the sea scoured remnants of an old wheat jetty, built in 1853, protrudes from the shallow water. Despite its idyllic setting, Port Willunga also harbours a darker history with no less than five ships being wrecked in the vicinity. The most famous of these was the Star of Greece whose skeleton can still be explored just 500m offshore.

The view from the beach

The view from the beach…..click to enlarge

 

 

Leaving the fortuitous pigeons to their parental duties I kick off my shoes and walk through the water amongst the old jetty piles. The wood is bleached white and worn by wind, sand and rain. Tenacious little limpets cling to the timber and a shore crab scuttles past my feet. Looking back across the beach I can see the rough hewn caves that were dug into the cliffs to house fishing dingies and give shelter to the hardy men who made a living from these waters.

Drummer, leatherjackets, sweep and a moonlighter on the edge of the reef....click to enlarge

Drummer, leatherjackets, sweep and a moonlighter on the edge of the reef….click to enlarge

 

Warm clear water, a fine day and good light….thinks….twenty minutes later I am snorkeling along the edge of the reef. The water is fairly shallow and the marine life prolific. A school of zebra fish swims close to me and large dusky morwong and magpie perch feed along the undercut shelves that define the reef’s edge. At the end of one rocky outcrop a number of different species are congregating where the reef and the adjacent seagrass meadow intersect. I dive to the bottom and hold onto the rocks to steady myself and fire off a couple of shots. Later when I review the images they seem to reflect both the environment and the moment. An hour in the water and I’m getting a little chilly and its time to go back, this time I walk across the shallow rocky platform exploring the many tidal pools.

A casual lunch outside or fine dining inside....click to enlarge

A casual lunch outside or fine dining inside….click to enlarge

 

 

The change rooms at the end of the car park make getting out of the wet suit easy and the short walk up the slope to the restaurant, named after the hapless Star of Greece, gives me a good view north and south along the coast. Often I have caught sight of a pod of dolphins cruising the calm gulf waters but not today; just a few fishers and an optimistic body surfer are enjoying the water. However, after a strenuous swim and a walk along the beach my priorities have changed from natural history to lunch and the boutique restaurant, once a fish and chip shop that I frequented as a lad, beckons. Fresh seafood, quality local produce and wines; a typically South Aussie way to finish my day.

 

Cheers

Baz

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