Before you start
Go during low tide only
Trail name: Pigeon Island
Distance: 2 km (return).
How to get there: Go to Cannonvale beach. The walk starts at the car park located at the West end of the beach. Walk along the beach behind the mangroves and start crossing the the island using the sand spit as a guide (you will get the least amount of mud by doing it like this).
Facilities: Toilets and picnic tables with BBQ available at Cannonvale beach.
About Pigeon Island
Pigeon Island is located off the coast of Cannonvale beach. It is a general use zone, but lies close to a conservation zone (yellow zone). Please always refer to the marine parks zoning map before you explore an area. The island supports a local population of birds. It is fringed by a subtidal reef, the most visible are Coelastrea aspera (formerly named Goniastrea aspera), an orangey brown shallow water species that is highly tolerant of exposure to air, UV and high temperatures. A wide range of marine invertebrates live in the intertidal zones, and you can spot them in rock pools when the tide is low (we saw a nudibranch among others but missed the photo opportunity). If you are lucky you can spot a turtle or two from the island.
How to check for a low tide
Before heading to pigeon island check the tides forecast for the Cannonvale area.
Walking to the Island
Have you ever walk from the mainland to an island? Well, if you haven't you should try to walk from Cannonvale Beach to Pigeon Island at low tide. The walk consists of four main parts: the beach, the natural causeway, the sandy path, and the rocks.
This walk starts at the beach. When the tide is low, a natural causeway made of mud, sand and rock appears between Cannonvale Beach and Pigeon Island. The walk from the island could be a bit tricky as it is muddy at the beginning of the causeway. This is where the fun is, in finding the way where you get the least amount of mud on you, which will occur around about the point where the sand and rock causeway points directly at the mainland. The kids don't seem to mind this bit though. As you approach closer to the Island, a path made of sand appears, then life is like a beach and walking a lot easier.
When entering the island, the smell of fresh salt air blowing in with the sea breeze and the melody of birds is there to greet you. Follow the sandy path all the way to the entrance of the middle part of the Island. Inside the island, there is a small mangrove forest and a quaint beach. Here you can quietly sit inside to enjoy the sound of the singing birds.
The way back
From this point, you decide whether to continue or not to the other side of the island. We walked around the entire perimeter of the island. Although the furthest point of the Island is a little awkward to get to, it is well worth it. There is no trail and you must climb over rocks in some places. Once you get to this point sit for a while to enjoy the sea view from there. On the East side of the island is a boat wreck, which adds to the feeling of isolation, a nice touch. On the west side is remnants of boat ramp of sorts, suggesting the island has a hidden history, as we couldn't find anything on this.
A good place to see corals
Other than enjoying time outdoors and getting exercise, this walk is a great opportunity for children to discover marine animals and corals without having to take them snorkeling. Pigeon Island is surrounded by a fringe reef. The reef is dominated by the coral species Coelastrea aspera. A low tide, a garden of orange brown corals colonies appear all around the place. Together with the corals, a variety of snail species appear in the rock pools, and the rocks surrounding the island. There was also a species of sea cucumber and Alessa even spotted a nudibranch.
Please be mindful where you step as there could be exposed baby coral among the rocks and very close to the walking trail. You don't want to step on a baby coral. And please keep your hands away from the corals and the other animals you find along the way. Our hands could carry bacteria that is harmful to them, and hence our inquisitive touch could harm a coral colony and infect it.
Activities, games and outdoor art.
Guess what this is: As you walk around the island, try to identify what you see. Is it an animal or a plant? is it a vertebrate or an invertebrate animal? Teach your kids as they walk and try to teach them about the marine animals inhabiting the island.
The hobbits's tips
Make sure you wear shoes. You could find sharp rocks, and most of all there could be a cone snail crawling around the mud. Don't do like our daughter who refused to carry on with her boots.
Be sun smart as usual. Wear sunscreen
Be crocwise! Crocs have been spotted lurking around the island, and we are their food.
Please don't touch the corals.
Enjoy the walk. And always remember to take your rubbish with you!
(edited by Sam Penglase)
copyrights P&F photography