Have you ever been to Macquarie Island? It’s Tasmania’s southern-most island, located in Antarctic waters. If you have visited, consider yourself very honoured! If, like me, you haven’t, I imagine that Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ Bruny Island Cruises are the next best thing.
The Ancient Mariner (Dad, in the same cap!), my husband and I all boarded a yellow, open-sided boat in Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. We donned our red water-resistant capes (more like dresses! You penguin-walk in them!). We listened to safety instructions and duly took our (free) ginger tablets to prevent seasickness. We laughed at the captain’s jokes (which were actually good) and then chugged out further into Adventure Bay where, without even leaving the bay, we saw a pod of dolphins.
Most people would be thrilled to see dolphins, especially the young ones who, according to our captain, were very near newborn. On a Bruny Island Cruises journey, you’ll probably also get to see penguins, seals, eagles, cormorants, an albatross or too (not the Great Albatross though) and so many different types of birds that you can’t remember their names… we did! And it’s not just the wildlife that makes the journey astonishing.
As you travel south along the coast of Bruny Island from Adventure Bay towards The Friars, you’ll encounter the second-tallest cliffs in the southern hemisphere, spectacular dolerite formations such as The Monument, skeletal trees burnt by the 1967 fires, passages through the rocks (our captain even nosed into it for us!), dolerite cliffs, various varieties of seaweed and several sea caves. Breathing Rock, as it is fondly called by the locals, is one such cave. In the shape of an A, it sucks water in and then pushes air out in a magnificent spout.
Further south, the landscape changes. There are no trees, just scrub clinging to the earth, bracing against the Southern Ocean. Here is a smattering of rocky islands and a strange smell: seals. A haul-out of seals (males only) lazes on the ledges of The Friars, occasionally stirring to look at us, fight another seal, toilet, or nose-dive awkwardly down the rocks before slipping gracefully into the water. It’s a spectacular sight (and smell!) and the trip is worth the cost just to see the seals alone! The captain, as he has done at previous locations, makes sure that both sides of the boat have ample opportunity to take photos.
Out at sea for the return journey, we see several albatross. They are smaller than their Great Albatross counterparts but are just as graceful. The spray kicks up a bit and Dad realizes that the capes are water-resistant, not waterproof. I’m warm in my waterproof pants and merino layers. After a few rounds of biscuits (savoury then sweet), we’re back in Adventure Bay, cold and tired yet elated!
What to Bring
Obviously, you’re going to need a camera. Make it as waterproof as possible when you’re not using it and hold tightly to it (no one is going to search for your camera at the base of a dolerite cliff pounded with waves!). You’ll also need warm clothes. No matter what the land temperature, it is COLD at sea, particularly when you get a little wet. Wear warm layers, a scarf, beanie and gloves and make sure that you have something waterproof on (such as a raincoat). Your red cape (provided) will accommodate a lot of bulk underneath. I also recommend closed in shoes (warmer) but take care as some materials, such as leather, don’t like salt water. As far as seasickness goes, Dad and I have had bouts in the past but didn’t on this particular voyage. The Ancient Mariner’s tried and tested tips are:
- Take seasickness medication at least half an hour before departure
- Eat ginger (take the two ginger tablets offered at the start of the journey by the crew)
- Look at the horizon whenever possible (looking at the photo on your phone or a seal in the water might seem like a good idea at the time…)
- Stay hydrated
- Eat small amounts
It worked for us!
To get to Bruny Island, follow the advice in my Bruny Island post. Once on Bruny Island, head to Adventure Bay (turn off just south of The Neck) and drive along the waterfront (main road) until you see the yellow signs for the car park. Walk a further 20 metres or so to the café and reception area. Make sure that you arrive half an hour beforehand so that you can use the facilities (there is an emergency toilet on the boat) and hear the safety briefing. If you would like transport to Bruny Island, you can choose a tour option which includes a bus from Kettering (where the ferry leaves mainland Tasmania) or a bus from Hobart. This is more expensive but, if it means that you can do a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ Bruny Island Cruises tour, it’s worth it.
Tickets for the three-hour tour are $135 per adult, $85 per child or $430 per family (Note: children under 3 years old can’t travel on the boat). This is the same price per adult as similar journeys in other parts of Tasmania (e.g. Bay of Fires). Tours depart Adventure Bay at 11am each day and you should book online beforehand via the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys website. Two boats went out for our tour; they will try to accommodate your booking if possible but advance online booking is the best way to guarantee your seat. There is also a shorter two-and-a-half-hour tour for $120 per adult in the afternoon, leaving Adventure Bay at 2pm (over the summer). Either way, I highly recommend the experience. Seeing hundreds of seals piled up on rocky ledges at the edge of the roaring Southern Ocean is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Read more about my travels in Tasmania’s south here.