Staying Safe on Keswick Island

Tips for activities in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Eva Browne-Paterson

Last Update 2 tahun yang lalu

It pays to be aware of the possible dangers that you could face when visiting the Whitsunday Islands.

On longer walks

  • Know your limits and choose your walks carefully.
  • Some longer walks are difficult and are only suitable for fit and experienced walkers.
  • Be well prepared and leave enough time for your return journey.
  • Never walk alone.

Be prepared for emergencies

  • Carry emergency supplies—food, water, AM/FM radio, spare batteries.
  • Monitor weather forecasts—local ABC radio stations give vital information about changing weather conditions.
  • Leave an updated itinerary with a reliable friend or family member—let them know what to do if things go wrong.

Carry a first aid kit and medical supplies

  • Iodine-based antiseptic is best for cuts, especially coral cuts, but check for iodine allergy before administering it.
  • Know how to treat blisters, heat exhaustion, and sprains, strains and fractures.


  • Mobile phones are unreliable on the islands.
  • Satellite phones are best and a marine VHF radio is very useful.
  • Personal emergency beacons (PLBs) are highly recommended.
  • In emergencies you can contact other vessels in the vicinity on:
  • VHF marine channel 16 (emergency channel)
  • or VHF channel 81.
  • The Whitsundays receive good broadcast, radio reception and weather forecasts are available on most channels hourly.

Weather forecasts are also available from the Bureau of Meteorology or by calling 1300 360 426.

Evacuation procedures

The Whitsundays lie in the Queensland tropical storm or 'cyclone zone'. In the event of a cyclone or tsunami, the department has developed a contingency plan and will work with local authorities to inform visitors of impending cyclones, tsunami and possible evacuation.

Danger! Marine stingers

Stingers, also known as irukandji, or stinging jellyfish, can cause extremely painful, burn-like, stinging welts, which need urgent medical attention. Children may be particularly affected due to their size.

  • Wear 'stinger suits'—full-body, Lycra suits—or protective clothing when snorkelling or entering the water.
  • Always supervise children near water.

The main swimming beach on Keswick Island has only ever had reports of occasional sea lice during king tides, but no actual stingers. However, Connie Bay on the northern end of Keswick Island has had reports of blue bottles in the past.

If stung:

  • Leave the water immediately move into shade.
  • Douse the affected area with vinegar.
  • Continue to dribble vinegar over the area for several minutes, or until the pain eases.
  • If you run out of vinegar, use sea water not fresh water.
  • Do not rub sand into the welts.
  • Arrange urgent medical help and monitor the patient constantly.
  • Also, read Marine Stingers for the latest safety advice.


Many species of sharks live in the Great Barrier Reef and all along the Queensland coast and sharks are present at all times of the year in the open ocean.

  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Never enter the water at dawn, dusk or night.
  • Never enter the water when drunk or affected by drugs.

Basil Bay has had reports of reef sharks and baby sharks swimming protected from predators several times a year. Reef sharks are timid and will scare away easily if you run into the water.

Egremont Passage next to neighbouring St Bees Island has had reports of bull and tiger sharks that can be more aggressive. You can snorkel safely along the shore towards Horseshoe Bay and at Coral Gardens, but we don't recommend swimming in the passage where the current is strong.

Keep the waters clean

  • Never clean fish or throw food scraps over the side of your boat while at anchorages.
  • Even black waste (sullage) attracts fish, which attract predators.


We are yet to sight a single crocodile at Keswick Island to date.

Look but do NOT touch

Some marine creatures are deadly. Cone shells, blue-ringed octopus, and stonefish will sting. It's painful and can be fatal.

  • Never touch, take or tamper with any marine animals or plants.
  • Everything is protected by law. Penalties apply.
  • Never dive or snorkel alone.
  • Stay in a group when snorkelling or diving, so someone knows where you are and when you are expected back.
  • Check local conditions—tides, local currents, swells, current weather.
  • Do not get caught out by tides or strong currents.

Bring plenty of water

  • There is no fresh water on any of the uninhabited islands.
  • Bring plenty of your own drinking water; at least 2 litres per person, per day.
  • Avoid heat exhaustion and sunburn.
  • Drink plenty of water—at least 1-2 litres per day is recommended.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Wear suitable footwear.
  • Medical help can be hours away.
  • Wear dive shoes to protect your feet from sharp shells, broken coral and beach rock.
  • Wear sturdy shoes for walking—a bone fracture can mean the end of your holiday.

Treat coral cuts with disinfectant

Don't delay treating coral cuts, as even the smallest scratch can quickly become infected.

Before you visit

Our precious Great Barrier Reef World Heritage islands are among the most pest-free islands in the world. They need your help to stay this way. Please be pest-free before your visit.

Around turtles

The Great Barrier Reef gives visitors some special opportunities to closely observe the life cycle of one of nature's most ancient and fascinating creatures, the marine turtle. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a critical foraging and nesting area to six of the world’s seven turtle species.

Globally, marine turtle numbers are rapidly declining which makes this Australian ‘nursery’ even more significant. It’s vital that you be particularly careful when boating in areas known to have turtle populations or when you’re watching turtle nesting.

In general

  • Never touch, grab or lean on turtles, hatchlings or eggs
  • Do not try to feed turtles
  • Do not light campfires on turtle nesting beaches.

When viewing from boats

  • Be on the look out for surfacing turtles in areas such as shallow reef flats and seagrass beds. Travel slowly in these areas, with no wake
  • If a turtle is close to your vessel, engage neutral and allow the animal to move freely
  • Do not encircle or trap turtles with vessels. Allow an escape route
  • Do not drive your vessel over a turtle
  • Do not pursue turtles if they try to avoid the vessel or flee the area.
  •  When viewing turtle nesting
  • Do not approach a turtle emerging from the water or moving up the beach
  • On sighting a turtle emerging from the water, keep still and turn off all lights until laying begins
  • Do not alter the environment in any way

Limit the use of light by turning torches off whenever possible and viewing with ambient light. Turtles may get confused by artificial light and may not finish nesting

  • Use low wattage torches (less than three-volt, two-cell) with red cellophane or a filter over the bulb
  • Never shine lights directly onto turtles – angle the light towards the sand at the side of the turtle
  • Stay well clear (at least two metres) of turtles nesting, covering their nest and moving up or down the beach – never stand in their pathway or make them alter their course
  • Keep still and quiet – sudden movements will disturb turtles
  • Remain behind turtles as they dig and lay their eggs – do not stand in front or where they can see you
  • Restrict use of flash photography to a minimum and only take flash photos during the egg laying phase. Always take these photos from behind the turtle
  • Turn off all lights and do not use flash photography when the turtle is returning to the sea
  • Remove lights and back away from the turtles if they appear stressed
  • Watch where you step to avoid crushing eggs or hatchlings. Do not disturb or dig up nests.

When viewing hatching

  • Stay well clear (at least two metres) of nests where hatchlings are emerging
  • Limit the use of light and never shine lights directly onto hatchlings. Hatchlings may become confused by artificial light and may not make it to the ocean
  • Use low wattage torches (less than three-volt, two-cell) with red cellophane or a filter over the bulb
  • Do not shine torches out to sea when hatchlings are in the water – this may cause the hatchlings to return to shore
  • Allow hatchlings to dig themselves out of the nest and run to the sea without disturbance or assistance
  • Do not touch or handle hatchlings
  • Never interfere with natural events (for example, rescuing hatchlings from seabirds or predatory fish).

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

You must not ‘take’ turtles or their eggs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit. Note: ‘Take’ includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners.

Around whales and dolphins

Few wildlife experiences could compare to the sight of a massive whale majestically rising out of the water and flopping backwards, or a pod of dolphins playfully showing off their acrobatic skills.

The Great Barrier Reef is a vitally important breeding ground for about 30 species of whales and dolphins (or ‘cetaceans’). One of the most commonly sighted whales are the massive humpbacks which make the trek to the Reef’s warmer waters from Antarctica between May to September to court, mate, give birth or rear their calves.

It’s critical for their continued survival that their ‘nurseries’ are available to them, free from any harassment which may lead to calf mortality.

As someone who shares the waters with the Reef’s precious cetaceans, you have a responsibility to help protect them and to keep safe distances (refer to diagram below).

By following these responsible practices when you’re in the vicinity of whales and dolphins, you’re not only playing a big part in their conservation but you’re also providing a safe environment to watch them.

Report sick, injured, stranded or dead whales or dolphins. Also report if your vessel accidentally strikes a whale.

When boating around whales

  • Be alert and watch out for whales at all times, particularly during whale migration season (May to September)
  • Post a look out to keep an eye out for whales if they are suspected in the vicinity
  • Do not approach or disturb mothers and calves – never place a boat between them
  • Always move in a parallel direction to the whale or dolphin
  • Do not use engine sound or speed to attempt to influence the behaviour of a whale
  • When you’re leaving an area where whales were present, turn the motor on, post a look out, and move off slowly
  • Slow down to minimise the risk of collision where whales have been sighted
  • Report any boat strikes and reassure your passengers that the relevant authorities have been contacted to assist the whale.

When boating around dolphins

  • Do not intentionally drive through a pod of dolphins to try to get them to bow-ride – some dolphins don’t bow ride, and can become disturbed near boats
  • If you do come across dolphins bow riding, maintain a constant speed and direction.

When viewing whales and dolphins

  • Never try to overtake whales or dolphins
  • Avoid making sudden noise, speed or direction changes
  • Be quiet when you are near a whale or dolphin
  • Let the whale or dolphin control the situation – do not try to round up or herd
  • Move away immediately if the whales or dolphins suddenly change behaviour and appear agitated.

Behaviours that indicate that boats should move away include:
  • Bumping the vessel
  • Rapid changes in swimming direction or speed
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Escape behaviour such as prolonged deep dives
  • Tail slapping or swishing.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • All whales and dolphins in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are legally protected
  • When operating a vessel or aircraft check safe distances diagram (above).

Bird watching

With an estimated 175 species, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park boasts an incredible collection of birdlife – some are year round residents, while thousands of others use the Marine Park as a much needed pit stop during their exhausting annual migration.

Many of the Reef’s islands are internationally significant breeding and nesting sites and offer an amazing wildlife experience. The birds, however, are particularly vulnerable during nesting and it’s vital that special care is taken not to disturb them.

Slight disturbances may scare the adult bird off the nest; and it can take only minutes for unattended eggs to be ruined or for chicks to be eaten by predatory birds.

In general

  • Land and launch your boat well away from any seabirds or shorebirds
  • Do not pull your dinghy up the beach into nesting areas
  • Always try to not disturb any birds
  • Stay well clear of nesting and roosting shorebirds and seabirds. Remain low by crouching, keep quiet, move slowly and use existing cover
  • Watch your step to avoid crushing camouflaged eggs and chicks
  • Never try to touch birds, chicks or eggs

Take particular care at the following sensitive times:

  • Late afternoon and early evening
  • The hottest part of the day
  • Wet and/or cold weather
  • Moonlit nights
  •  When eggs, or naked/downy chicks are in their nests.

  • If seabirds or shorebirds exhibit stressful behaviour (for example, raucous calling, swooping or ‘dive bombing’) back away and leave the area immediately
  • Do not conduct activities that may disturb birds (for example, kite flying, volleyball, beach rugby, beach cricket)
  • Do not use objects that flap or make noise (such as umbrellas or tarps) around nesting or roosting seabirds and shorebirds
  • Do not sound horns, claxons, sirens or loudspeakers, and muffle the sound of your anchor chain
  • Keep dogs well away from seabirds and shorebirds, ensure the dogs are kept quiet and on a leash, avoid taking them to beaches where there often are seabirds
  • Do not take animals (including dogs) to National Parks, islands or cays
  • Do not shine torches or bright lights directly on roosting or nesting seabirds – angle the lights to the side, and cover bulbs with red cellophane or filters.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not 'take' birds or their eggs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit. Note: 'Take' includes removing, gathering, killing or interfering with, or attempting to take. There may be special arrangements for Traditional Owners
  • You must abide by access and speed restrictions at Sensitive Locations in the Cairns Planning Area, at significant bird sites in the Hinchinbrook Planning Area and at significant bird sites in the Whitsunday Planning Area
  • You must not bring any animals (including dogs) to National Parks and most islands and cays.


One of the many thrills that a Reef visit brings comes from discovering its remarkable and unique animal and plant life. Many visitors understandably want to keep a memento of their unforgettable trip, but they could be pocketing a creature’s home or, in worst cases, taking a live animal from its neighbourhood.

Your help is needed make sure that the Reef’s natural treasures are left behind for others to enjoy. Please collect memories and take photos, rather than limited edition natural trophies.

In general - look but don’t touch

  • If you take specimens in accordance with the Zoning Plan, take only what you need, and abide by official limits
  • Return all unwanted specimens to the water carefully and quickly, preferably to the exact location where you found them
  • Collect dead shells only
  • Check the shells for live animals that may be living on or inside them. If there are any, return the shells to where they were found
  • Treat all specimens humanely and carefully, as handling some specimens may be dangerous.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must abide by the collecting requirements in the Zoning Plan.
  • Limited collecting is allowed in General Use (Light Blue) Zone, Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone and Conservation Park (Yellow) Zones. Limits to the number and frequency apply (generally no more than five of a species at a time).
  • Collecting is not allowed in the Buffer (Olive) Zone, Scientific Research (Orange) Zone, Marine National Park (Green) Zone or Preservation (Pink) Zone.
  • A specific Marine Parks permit is required to collect greater numbers than the Zoning Plan allows, or to collect coral or protected species.
  • You must not damage, collect or otherwise take coral, including dead coral, and protected shell species (that is giant triton shell, helmet shell, giant clam) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.

Diving and snorkelling

Diving and snorkelling are some of the best ways to take in the spectacular underwater views that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, and to come face-to-face with its captivating marine life.

Although divers and snorkellers have had minimal impact upon the Great Barrier Reef so far, there are times when some divers and snorkellers can get a little too close and may stress the marine life or crush and break corals.

Most damage occurs as a result of those who are unable to maintain good control in the water (for example, through fighting a current, or trying to get a closer look, or taking photographs). By having good snorkel and dive practices, you'll be able to preserve this special world for others to experience.

In general

  • Wearing a wet suit or lycra suit when snorkelling or diving will help to protect you from the sun burn and stings from jellyfish
  • Enhance the quality of your dive experience by learning about the environment you'll visit
  • Practice buoyancy control over sand patches before approaching a reef - test buoyancy whenever you're using new equipment such as new wetsuits, buoyancy control devices (BCDs) and cameras
  • Make sure you are properly weighted before diving near a reef
  • Check that all your dive gear is secure before you get into the water so that it doesn't dangle and catch on the reef
  • Move slowly and deliberately in the water, relax and take your time - avoid rapid changes in direction
  • Avoid making sudden or loud noises underwater
  • Avoid leaning on, holding onto or touching any part of the reef - this is particularly important when you are taking underwater photographs
  • Avoid kicking up and disturbing the sand if you're over a sandy area
  • Avoid touching any animals or plants
  • Avoid feeding fish
  • Stay more than one metre away from giant clams
  • Keep clear of free-swimming animals (such as turtles, whales and sea snakes). In particular, do not chase, ride, grab or block the path of these animals
  • Avoid relocating any marine life, particularly when taking photos and filming.

Marine Parks legal requirements

You must not damage, collect or otherwise take coral, including dead coral, and protected shell species (that is giant triton shell, helmet shell and giant clam) in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit.

Recreational Fishing

Fishing is a popular recreational pastime that allows people to spend time on the water with family and friends and to get in touch with the nature.

As well as observing fishing regulations, it is important that fishers adopt responsible fishing practices while out on the water. These practices help protect the natural environment, maintain the ecological balance of the Reef and contribute to improving its general health - particularly at a time when the Reef under increasing pressure.

By following these simple guidelines you are helping to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef continues to be one of the best spots to fish. Report tagged fish, suspected illegal fish kills (large numbers of dead fish), entrapped marine animals and suspected illegal fishing activity.

Marine Park Zoning

Zoning helps to manage and protect the values of the Marine Park that people enjoy. Each zone has different rules for the activities that are allowed, the activities that are prohibited, and the activities that require a permit. Zones may also place restrictions on how some activities are conducted.

See how no-take zones are working and providing a range of benefits below.

When fishing

  • Avoid anchoring on coral – anchor in sand, mud or rubble where possible and always avoid no-anchoring areas.
  • Take only what you need
  • Do not use pest or non-native fish for bait. Never release introduced species into the water
  • Do not fish where fish feeding takes place, for example as part of a tourist program
  • If you're unsure of the fish identity or size, release the fish immediately
  • Return all under-sized and unwanted fish quickly to minimise injury
  • If you're keeping the fish kill it humanely and as quickly as possible
  • Do not litter - clean up all fishing gear (such as discarded tackle and line, and bait bags) and take it back to shore to dispose of it properly.

When spearfishing

Plant-eating fish remove seaweed that can grow quickly after corals bleach — fishers and spearfishers should consider leaving these fish to help control seaweed and enable coral larvae to settle and create new colonies. Find out more about how herbivores can help the Reef recover from coral bleaching.

  • Always track down injured fish, do not let them swim off injured.
  • Spear only what you need
  • Do not pursue a fish if you are unsure of its identity or size
  • Do not take big fish merely as trophies because these are important breeding stock
  • Do not take plant-eating fish

This poster about herbivorous fish helps and these videos of rabbitfish and unicornfish eating seaweed on the Reef help identify the fish.

The spearfishing factsheet shows you where you are allowed to spearfish in the Whitsundays.

When returning unwanted fish

  • Minimise the length of time a fish is out of the water - keep fish in the water as much as possible and have your equipment close at hand. Very large fish should not be removed from the water
  • Do not leave fish on a hot, dry surface to thrash around
  • Place fish on a wet towel and cover them, especially the gills and eyes. The fish should not dry out and direct sunlight can damage their eyes
  • Handle fish gently - fully support its body, do not hold upright by the jaw, squeeze or kneel on the fish
  • Use wet hands or wet cloth when handling fish to minimise damage to their protective mucous coating
  • Remove the hook carefully and quickly using a pair of long-nose pliers or a de-hooker to minimise tissue tearing. If the hook is difficult to remove, cut the line instead, particularly if the gut hooked
  • Help fish recover before their release - gently release the fish headfirst into the water
  • Use barbless hooks or those that are unlikely to become hooked in the gills or gut, such as circle hooks
  • Where fish show signs of expanded swim bladder (barotrauma) return fish to deeper water using a release capsule, release weigh or venting with a hollow needle

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • You must not take or possess protected fish species in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit
  • For many species that do not otherwise have possession limits, you can only take or possess up to five specimens at any time in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park unless you have a Marine Parks permit
  • You must abide by the fishing requirements in the Zoning Plan:
  • General Use (Light Blue) Zone and Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone - maximum of three lines/rods per person, six hooks in total
  • Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone - one line/rod with one hook per person
  • Buffer (Olive Green) Zone - maximum three lines/rods per person, six hooks in total, trolling for pelagic species only
  • No fishing in the Scientific Research (Orange) Zone, Marine National Park (Dark Green) Zone or Preservation (Pink) Zone
  • You must abide by Queensland Government (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Department of Environment and Science) fishing regulations including species allowed, size limits, possession limits, protected species, tackle restrictions and seasonal and area closures
  • You must not discharge fresh fish parts, unless the fish were caught in the Marine Park.

Motorised water sports

Motorised water sports including jet skiing, parasailing and waterskiing can be fun activities in the Marine Park, but users need to keep a lookout for wildlife and be mindful of those visitors who have come in search of peaceful escape.

When operating motorcraft

  • Be considerate of other reef users in the area — be aware of your noise and wake.
  • Stay a safe distance away from people in the water.
  • Be on the lookout for marine animals such as dolphins, turtles and dugong - reduce your speed and be especially alert in areas where these animals are known to occur.
  • Go slow near islands and cays, especially where seabirds are nesting or roosting.
  • Go slow near the coast, especially when you are near popular beaches.
  • When travelling in shallow water, keep your watercraft in idle speed to minimise the stirring of sediments.
  • Avoid beaching or anchoring in sensitive areas such as corals, seagrass beds, and nesting sites.

When maintaining motorcraft

  • Check that the engines do not leak fuel or oil.
  • Conduct your vessel maintenance regularly (for example, spray painting, oil changes and engine cleaning) on land.
  • Refuel on land, not on the water, to reduce the chance of spills.
  • Fit a propeller cowl to protect wildlife.

Marine Parks Legal Requirements

  • To protect wildlife and preserve a natural setting, there are some areas where motorised water sports may not be undertaken:
  •  In the Whitsunday Planning Area you may only undertake motorised water sports in setting 1 (intensive) areas, within a designated motorised water sports area and outside setting areas. In the Whitsunday Planning Area the boundary of a 'setting' area is generally 1500 metres away from reefs or the coastline. Speed and access restrictions also apply around Significant Bird Sites.
  • You must have a Marine Parks permit to undertake motorised water sports as part of a tourism program.

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