Friday, June 24, 2016

Horn Island

The Seisia caravan park from the ferry

The supply ship from Cairns. It visits all the Torres Strait Islands delivering supplies

After three days of flat out birding combined with the long flight from Melbourne (approx. 3,000 kms in total) and the un-accustomed heat and humidity it was nice to have a slow day. The ferry left at 0800 so we arrived at the shelter beside the wharf, unloaded and I returned the car. It was a fun ride, sitting on the top deck, as we passed first Red Island and then Entrance Island before sailing between Prince of Wales Island and Horn Island and on to the wharf at Thursday Island.
Ferry route Seisia to Thursday Island then to Horn Island

As we got closer to Thursday Island we could see birds sitting on channel markers so up came the binoculars and we scanned for new birds to add to the list. Nothing new was seen but as we watched three fellow passengers came up and asked what we were looking at. We handed over our binoculars and showed them how to use them and the smiles became huge. I doubt they saw many birds but they certainly got a different look at the islands and boats that we passed.

As the ferry across to Horn Island runs about once an hour we decided to have a look around so after storing our luggage at the ferry office we walked up into town. For once on the trip we were real tourists. Thursday Island is quite steep so after getting to the shops my main aim was to find a shop that sold cold drinks, and then a spot to sit in the shade and drink the whole bottle. Feeling better we checked out the shops and in one we found we could buy toy dugongs. As I have never seen one in the wild I had to have one and it now sits with the red lobster from Boston and the purple dragon. The local cafe had very good food for lunch and then we decided to find a taxi driver who was prepared to drive us around the island to "see the sights". He was an interesting guy and we saw everything from the cemetery where his family members are buried to the gun emplacement at the top of the hill.
Seisia to Thursday Island Ferry

One of the small Thursday Island to Horn Island Ferries

We were booked into the "Gateway Torres Strait Resort", which is a bit of an overstatement but still it was very comfortable and it had a swimming pool. After the heat of playing at tourist the swimming pool was a major attraction. Sadly I had not bought any bathers with me so I went in a tee shirt and shorts. In hindsight it may have not been a bad idea as one of us got very burnt as she lolled about in the warm water. Luckily the motel had planted a lot of Aloe Vera plants and with the use of some very large leaves we anointed her liberally for a few days and the pain and damage was minimal.
The pool at the "Gateway Resort". 
The birding was slow on the island as very little was in flower and I ended up with a bird list of only 48 species but it did include Rose-crowned Fruit Dove, Horn-billed Friarbird, Varied Triller and Mangrove Gerygone.
Rose-crowned Fruit Dove

The road out to the sewage treatment plant. The hills of Thursday Island in the background

Varied Triller

We had one full day for birding and an extra one would have been nice to enable us to get to some of the water reservoirs to check for waterbirds. For accommodation there is also the Wongai Beach Hotel. From the outside it looks better than the "resort" but we did see some young men lugging very large speakers in for live music one night. I am not sure how much fun that would be but it may be an interesting experience to hear the local rock music, but for one night only thank you.

All text & images © Jenny Spry

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