Islands and Reefs of the Capricorn Bunker Group - Bundaberg Region
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Islands & Reefs of the Capricorn Bunker Group

Guest Blogger Bio Natalie Lobartolo

About 10,000 years ago, you could set out on foot from the mainland towards the horizon, and reach what are now the reefs and islands of the Capricorn Bunker group. Kangaroos and all sorts of native Australian wildlife bounced around, and indigenous Australians roamed the lands in harmony with nature. At the end of the last ice age, sea levels began to rise before stabilizing about 6,000 years ago. Corals began to settle on the underwater plateaus and slowly replicated themselves to form colonies, growing up towards the surface.


Over time, the force of wind and waves began to snap fragments off and pushed them to accumulate and become exposed at high tide. Seabirds looking for a place to rest brought with them guano and tree seeds: essential building materials for the islands to continue to form and grow. Seeds germinated and trees began to grow in the nutrient rich layer of phosphates and nitrates kindly deposited by the birds (as poo!) until intricate island ecosystems were formed. 

Coral cays are dynamic ecosystems carved by nature. Many of the Southern Great Barrier Reef cays have beautiful calm and sheltered lagoons - perfect for families or a first-time snorkel experience - with outer reef of slopes and walls for the more advanced and adventurous ocean-goers. You can visit them over and over again and each visit will never be quite the same as the last.

Get close to nature in Marine Protected Areas!

The best thing about the Southern Great Barrier Reef is that it has a much greater density of marine creatures than human ones! The Capricorn Bunker islands and reefs are some of the least visited, most highly protected and extensive “Green (no-take) Zone” areas on the whole Great Barrier Reef. Green zones are a safe refuge and breeding ground, supporting larger sizes and quantities of fish. Closed to fishing, they act like bank savings accounts, as they allow stocks to build up until they’re so plentiful that they overflow into surrounding areas, not only supporting a mind-blowing reef experience, but also recreational and commercial fishery stocks. There are just a few tourism operators in the whole southern region who have permits to operate in these pristine, untouched areas.

The only level more protected than green zones on the Great Barrier Reef are pink zones – you can only go there with a scientific research permit. When it comes to being close to nature in its truest and purest form with such little human interference, a visit to the reef from Bundaberg is about as untouched as you can possibly get. You will understand what we mean when a massive school of fish crowds your perfect turtle shot! When you head out to the reef, try to imagine what the islands, lagoons and reef would look like if they weren’t protected or well managed… (could include link to GBRMPA’s Eye on the Reef App which includes the Sightings as well as marine park zoning maps, free to download and use http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/access-and-use/zoning/eye-on-the-reef-zoning-app).

FUN FACT: The cays of the bunker group are not volcanic or continental; they haven’t risen up due to tectonic activity or “broken off” from the mainland. The reefs and cays are mostly flat and made up entirely of oceanic sediments; you won’t find any naturally occurring terrestrial rock – just lots of coral fossils and skeletons.

Your Master Reef Guide Top Tip! 

When you take a stroll along the cays, have a closer look at the specimens under your feet and you’ll notice little “corallites,” calcium carbonate skeletal cups built by the coral animals – this is the basic construction that forms the foundation for all of the wildlife and wonder you’ll experience below the surface!

Explore The Capricorn Bunker Group from Bundaberg!

No trip to Bundaberg, Southern Great Barrier Reef is complete without exploring some of the Capricorn Bunker Group. Take a day trip or overnight to our off-shore coral cays. For more information and to book, see Southern Great Barrier Reef

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Thursday, 06 May 2021

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