A holiday favourite

Half way between Jervis Bay and Mollymook , a favourite holiday destination attracts families, fans of watersports and fishermen and women alike for the varied activities in the small area: great swimming, fishing, prawning, worming, wildlife and water sports. A beautiful area in the Shoalhaven region that has been described as “an aquatic playground, with crystal clear waters”.

Lake Conjola stretches about six kilometres back from the tidal entrance at Cunjorong Point, on the South Coast of NSW, just north of Ulladulla. The lake is home for many fish species that originally attracted fishermen. Amongst the fish that once upon a time could be caught are bream, whiting, tailor, flathead, black fish, leatherjackets and jewfish. Nowadays there are fishing platforms and small jettys that run along the park’s lake-side. Ideal for weekend tourists and opportunist cormorants.

Working or worming

Three hours South of Sydney, Conjola Beach is within the Narrawallee Creek Nature Reserve. Golden sand beaches with striking blue waters that are backed by 10-20 m high foredunes; and nearby, a small community of Lake Conjola (population 350). The perfect setting and location for a holiday, or for a home if you are a beach worm.

Beach worming is one of the least known fishing activities yet one that can only be described as an art, or hard work. It takes the patience of a turtle and the speed, laser vision of Cyclops, and lightning hands of a ninja to snatch the worm from the sand. Pliers in one hand and a smelly fish in the other, the worms poke their heads up to feed, concealing the rest of their bodies. One must creep behind the V-shaped pattern in the wash the worm creates when it sticks its head above the sand for the smelly fish. Then, with another piece of stink bait held close to its head one must lure the worm out on the bait. Once the worm is biting the fish, one must close the pliers around its head and draw its thrashing form from the sand. That’s the idea, anyway. Surprisingly, some beach worms grow to be up to 2½ metres long, beneath the sand.

Selling for $1 to $1.50 each worm, it makes for an attractive business when there is no limit on bag sizes for licensed wormers and one might harvest up to 1000 a day. However, over-harvesting has caused the destruction of the pipi industry. And some fishermen say to have witnessed a depletion of worms on the mid-north coast of NSW. Hopefully the industry will be regulated so that this skillful hobby can be done in the years to come.

Meet the locals

Bendalong is the ideal south coast seaside weekend village. Just a few hours drive south from Sydney, Boat Harbour Beach, is one of several beaches in Bendalong. This is an area with awesome beaches and whilst many little Aussie coastal villages can boast a great beach or maybe two, Bendalong has seven of them.

“Boat Harbour” is a 320 m long beach with waves averaging 0.5 m right next to Washerwomans Beach. The beach faces north and is pretty sheltered meaning it’s a good place to stand-up paddle board, kayak, swim or snorkel.

Additionally, Boat Harbour beach boasts a boat ramp located toward the eastern end. Thanks to this ramp, the beach has become famous for the large local sting rays that come in close to shore to feed on the scraps thrown to them by the fishermen. You can stand in the shore and let the rays come near to gently pat them or venture for a snorkel with these magnificent creatures on a weekend away.

A honeymoon island

Located in Bacuit Bay, Miniloc is one of four properties of El Nido Resorts, and part of a group of sustainable resorts in Palawan. This 40 year old resort attempts to resemble a coastal Filipino village with a magnificent setting. The holiday paradise only occupies 1% of the island and is at the edge of a plentiful house reef. Snorkellers and divers alike can have close encounters with huge jack fish and a variety of marine species just at its house reef. Even a black tip reef shark if they rise early!

The Bacuit bay is said to have been discovered by Japanese divers in the 1970s when they had to anchor due to a fishing line getting caught up in their engine. Since then it has been popular amongst divers, snorkellers and tourists as in these islands marine life is abundant. In specific, Miniloc Island is also popular among tourists because of its Lagoons.

Snorkelling with sharks

The blacktip reef shark lives in warm, shallow, tropical waters. It has a small territory it usually stays within which is why it is an easy target for avid snorkellers if one knows their favorite spots and is able to get an “off-menu” tour.

The black tips on its fins, in particular on the dorsal and caudal fins, gives it its name.Though it has a white belly and dark back that helps them camouflage with the dim seafloor and the brighter ocean surface which means one must be very alert to spot them.

These sharks grow up to 1.5 meters and is a species that cannot stop swimming, or they will simply sink. However, as a means of preserving the species, females are able to reproduce asexually if no males are available.

Beware of the macaque

This near-threatened crab-eating macaque is a ferocious creature. It lives around Southeast Asia and spotted in a coastal lowland forests in Miniloc, Palawan. This monkey lives in troops and whilst their social composition is a matriarchy, the males are pretty aggressive. They look even more so when showing their teeth beneath their moustaches and cheek whiskers. And even more so when a second one behind you does the same.

Local transportation

Filipino ingenuity and necessity for a mode of transportation gave birth to these tricycles. They originated from military trycicles left behind by the US military during WWII. This popular mode of transport is a motorbike with a roofed sidecar bolted to it to transport passengers and anything else through the narrow streets and small towns in the Philippines. The engines of the tricycles range from around 50-125cc which means they never go too fast; but the rides sure are bumpy!

More islands than days in ten years

All of the Philippines is made up islands which makes the country the second-largest archipelago in the world. It is estimated that it is composed of around 7,500 islands with only 2,000 of them inhabited.

Out of all of them, the small island of Palawan has been named one of the best islands in the world due to its incredible natural beauty. It is no surprise once visitors start discovering the big range of lagoons to swim in, accessibility to do island hoping tours, marine biodiversity to discover snorkelling or diving world class sites; and white sand beaches to laze and enjoy the sunset from.

Once devastation, now a destination

At 9 am on the 24th of September 1944 the US Navy strike force fighters and dive bombers attacked and sunk a dozen Japanese ships at the height of World War II. Considered one of the biggest naval victories of WWII for the Americans, the attack only took 40 minutes, and when it was over, a wide area of devastation was left behind in Coron Bay. Almost 80 years later, it is now home of some of the best shipwreck diving sites in the world.

Near Lusong island, a Japanese submarine hunter and gunship boat with a length of 30 meters is a popular snorkelling site. Presumed to be an auxiliary patrol boat, the Lusong Gunboat, lies close to the surface at a depth that ranges from just 5 to 15 meters. It is amazing how in such a short time the ocean has take over this man-made machine.

Islands of the Tagbanuas

A few hundred steps up and down take you to see the majestic Kanyangan lake. Though this is one of the most photographed views in Coron, this view is actually not the lake itself but the middle point viewing deck looking back to the open ocean into Coron bay. The lake itself sits behind the photographer and is composed of 70% fresh water and 30% salt water.

In the Calamian islands, the local native tribe, the Tagbanuas live. Tagbanuas people believe their ancestors still live on this island and thus entrance is limited up to 4pm everyday. Tagbanuas only let visitors into Kanyangan and Barracuda lakes, 11 others are Panyaan (sacred) and closed to public. Both lakes have been awarded the cleanest lakes in the Philippines; and Kanyangan lake was even awarded cleanest in the world recently.

Tagbanuas used to make a living by collecting swiftlet nests at the top of the island’s high limestone cliffs. This edible bird’s nest is used for making the bird’s nest soup. Now every visitor pays a fee which gives the tribe a much less hazardous means of income.