Kayak turtle tour, Palm Cove

A kayak turtle tour at Palm Cove was one of the highlights of our recent stay there. Did we actually see any turtles? Read on to find out…

Kayak turtle tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Walking along Williams Esplanade at Palm Cove, we couldn’t help but notice the colourful trailer of Pacific Water Sports, with its eye-catching photos, including one of a stunning turtle. Some of our party stopped to chat to Luke, who is the son-part of the father-son team that runs Pacific Water Sports and discovered that they offer daily three-hour kayak tours to Double Island, where (hopefully) kayakers encounter some of these turtles in their natural habitat. We didn’t take much convincing to sign up!

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove

Double Island is a small island about 1.5 kms off the coast of Palm Cove, in Far North Queensland. It is (as you can see from the following aerial photo) fringed by coral reef, which is actually part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Double Island was once the location of an exclusive luxury resort, accessible only by launch or helicopter, and hosting a guest list that included Hollywood celebrities. In its day, it must have been quite something. On the tour we learned that it has been closed for a number of years now, and the tourism lease has been bought by a Hong Kong developer who apparently plans to reopen the resort. At the moment, just a caretaker lives there, and it reminded me of a scene from The Resort – that ill-fated early reality TV show about a group of people renovating a Fiji resort.

Anyway, back to the tour…Pacific Water Sports has been given special permission to run kayak snorkelling tours to the reefs of Double Island.

So, at 7am we gathered in front of the trailer on the beach at Palm Cove, and we were kitted out with full stinger suits (as it was during the stinger season) and life jackets, and allocated to our kayaks. We had brought along our own hats, sunglasses and bottles of water.

(Stinger suits are lycra-like full length suits that are designed to provide protection from box jellyfish by covering exposed skin. They are relatively cool to wear (especially when wet) and also provide a bit of UV-protection too.)

Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Most of the kayaks were doubles so Queenie and I were paddle-buddies. We were given some instructions about how to kayak efficiently, where to store our water bottles and what the plan for the 2.5 hour tour was.  And then we were off…

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

We were told to head towards a buoy we could see out on the horizon. The paddling was a bit tricky initially, but then Queenie and I settled into a pattern that seemed to work and we were soon steaking off across the water towards the first stopping point. We were blessed with the perfect day for this tour – calm water, blue skies and windless. It was, however, quite a warm and humid day, so frequent sips from the water bottle were essential.

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Oops…a bit of a collision.

Our tour was accompanied by Andy (the father-part of the father/son team) and Keanu, both of whom were very knowledgable about marine life, plus offered lots of kayaking tips and assistance. Andy had a Go-Pro with which he took many of the photos included in this post, and the aerial shots of our tour were taken by their drone camera. If you want photos of your tour, but (like me) don’t fancy taking a camera with you, their photos are usually available in a Dropbox (for a $20 fee) after the tour. (Disclosure: Andy kindly offered the photos to me gratis for the purposes of this post.)

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

The tour is taken at a reasonable pace, with lots of stops to allow a bit of a rest and for everyone to catch up and stay together. After about 40 minutes of intermittant paddling we reached our first destination – the turtle spot, where we stopped and drifted about, scanning the surface of the water for green turtle and hawksbill turtle heads coming up for air. We weren’t disappointed. Several turtles bobbed up and down, but you did have to looking in the right direction at the right time to see their heads. Queenie and I were fortunate to be very close to one that came completely to the surface, so saw the whole turtle.

I have to confess, I’m quite prone to seasickness, and the bobbing about while we looked for turtles did start to make me feel a bit queasy. If I was doing the tour again, I’d take a Kwells beforehand. I was the only one of the six in the Fairlie Entourage who felt this way though, so I don’t think it’s a common occurance….it’s just me. 🙂

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

The exact itinerary of each tour varies depending on tides and wind direction. For us, the next destination was to explore the mangroves of the south shoreline of Double Island where we were on the watchout for reef sharks and rays.  At one place, we pulled our kayaks ashore at a sandy beach, where rays and shovel nosed sharks are often seen playing and feeding in the shallows…but not on that day.

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Our morning tea stop was at the beach near the deserted resort jetty. By this point, I was sooooo hot from the humidity and the exertion, that even though the mere idea of stingers freaks me out, I was prepared to have a dunk in the ocean (with the hand-covers of my stinger suit over my fingers). Only my feet were exposed as I lowered myself to neck-deep, and I was praying that stingers don’t like the seafloor… 🙂

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

On the beach, Andy and Keanu laid out a much-appreciated morning tea of fresh papaya and pineapple, juice and lamingtons and we walked along the shore where we watched a number of shovel-nosed sharks in the shallows.

In the non-stinger season, Pacific Water Sports usually have snorkelling equipment as well, and you can have a bit of a snorkle and explore the coral reef.

Kayak Turtle Tour Palm Cove
Photo courtesy of Pacific Water Sports

Then it was time to head back to Palm Cove, which seemed soooooo much further away as we started paddling again at the end of such a strenuous tour! The calm conditions allowed us to kayak straight back to the beach where we had started, but apparently if the wind comes from the south or south-east, the return tour heads downwind to one of the northern beaches, where the Pacific Water Sports van comes to pick everyone up.

It was one of those tours where you get a workout as part of the experience, and I was a bit exhausted by the time we reached the beach at Palm Cove, but it is definitely one of the memorable moments of our stay there.

The details

Pacific Water Sports Double Island Kayak Turtle Tour
Website: pacificwatersports.com.au
Phone: +61 413721999
See their trailer at: 41 Williams Esplanade, Palm Cove
Tour times: 3-hour kayak turtle tours are run daily at 7am and 1.30pm (except for about a month’s break over the wet season – see their website or Facebook page for details)
Cost: Adults $80, Kids $60

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