On board the 2019 built 93 metre ship, the Coral Adventurer, 296 passengers over six voyages visited Flinders Island between November 2021 and January 2022. The expedition leader had the luxury of choosing which white sandy beach to land on, depending on the weather upon arrival. Guests were treated to a variety of experiences, landing at either Front Beach on the Eastern side or Gem Beach on the Northern End of the island in one of their 12 metre tenders, Xplorer One and Xplorer Two.
Over the six voyages passengers were often greeted by dolphins on their approach to the beach and on the beach by up to three generations of the Woolford family. Stories of their time growing up and staying on Flinders Island arose from curious guest questions before Jonas and Tobin Woolford started the experience. They spoke of abalone and the beginnings of their business Eyrewoolf Abalone on Flinders Island, and the advancements made in packaging, preserving flavour and creating experiences for consumers. The brothers told stories of their past 25 years in the abalone industry, of what it like harvesting abalone, about spending significant time in association leadership roles and the biology and lifecycle of abalone. To finish off the abalone feature of the tour passengers tasted abalone directly adjacent to the waters they were harvest. Using different preparation methods, steamed, seared or sashimi, guests learnt about the flavour attributes of the different preparation methods and how each affected texture. They had the option to purchase abalone shells cleaned up by the youngest generation of the Woolford family or shelf stable forms of Eyrewoolf abalone, either canned or retort pouched.
After the tasting guests of the Coral Adventurer walked from Front Beach to the historic shearing shed where they could see farming artifacts dating back to the early 1900’s, read early and more recent settler stories collected by the Woolford family and look at early pictures from the Woolford family’s time on Flinders Island as well as some predating their time.
When on Gem Beach the guests either used the tender to visit the site of Matthew Flinders Landing in 1802, Flinders Beach, or beach combed along the two-kilometre white sandy beach where they could stop to see a sand blowout where remains of the now extinct Flinders Island Wallaby are regularly found, and also the ruins of the Gem Hotel/Boatel, a barbeque area built in the 1980’s by Lobster fishermen who spent up to seven months of the year fishing from Gem Bay.
If weather permitted one of the Xplorer tenders was used to take an 8km tour down to the site of the sealers camp in the 1800’s and the 1942 Kapara wreck, passing by Australian Sea Lions, an Osprey nest, Groper Bay and the infamous Bob’s Nose cliff line.
After the tasting the Woolford family kept up with stories of the early colonial history on Flinders Island, from the first European explorers such as Matthew Flinders and Nicholas Baudin in the early 1800’s to settlers on the island such as the pirate like sealer Bill Bryant who lived on the island for around 20 years from about 1826, to the first pastoralists in 1845 and the subsequent nine owners up to the Woolford family purchase in 1978. Other noteworthy stories told were of the shipwrecks, the whaling schooner the Vulcan and the crew of 18’s survival in 1845, and wreck of the 850-tonne coastal steamer the Kapara during wartime blackout conditions in 1942, which was the start of pest species being accidently introduced to the Island. Stories of life living on Flinders Island were explained firsthand by Jonas and Tobin who lived on the Island for nearly 10 years in the early 1980’s, attending school of the air and exploring the waters and coast around the snake free island. The family also talked about the future plans such as the Safe Havens Project with the State and Federal Governments to eradicate the island of introduced pests and introduce threatened and endangered mammals to the island, as well as the renovations of the 60-year-old waterfront house on Groper Bay creating a comfortable base on the island for ocean, history and nature lovers alike.
The visit was a part of Coral Expeditions 10 night voyage “Wild islands and walks of South Australia”, the voyage started in Port Adelaide, to Kangaroo Island (Antechamber Bay, American River, Vivonne Bay, Western River Cove), Tumby Bay, Coffin Bay, Flinders Island, Cape Donington, Reevsby Island, Troubridge Island and back to Port Adelaide.
The Woolford family are delighted to welcome back the crew and passengers of the Coral Explorer in November 2022 after a successful maiden season in 2021.
Photo credit: Quentin Chester Photography/Coral Expeditions.