Microbiologist-turned-homemaker, she is a foodie with a flair for cooking. An avid traveller and voracious reader, she also loves to paint and indulges in photography.
Published June 29th 2016
The Stretch Connecting Cape Solander & Cronulla View Lookouts
WHALE WATCHING CRUISES - HOT DEALS! The first mail screamed when I was browsing through my inbox a few weeks ago. Lips pursed, I shoved the ad away into trash without much delay. A recently viewed documentary - Sonic Sea - was to be credited for this sea change in my outlook. Earlier I would have jumped at the deal but now the very thought stirred some strong emotions. The documentary amassed video footage, evidences and wide scale scientific research, to communicate the gravity of the situation of noise pollution under the seemingly calm sea. Water traffic, with its blazing trail of froth and thundering engines, has put the life of aquatic mammals at serious peril.
After much deliberation with my husband over the underwater sound pollution, we decided to go whale spotting from a cliff. So when friends suggested Cape Solander, we could not have been happier. Located at about 40-50 kilometres from Sydney CBD, depending on which route you take, the Lookout is a whale watcher's paradise from end of May to mid July. Public transport is available too, upto the Kamay Botany Bay National Park entrance, taking around 2 hours to reach from city centre. We arrived there on a Saturday afternoon to find people dotting the cliff surface with binoculars and zoom lenses, ecstatic at the sight of every passing pod.
The parking lot is quite expansive ending at a helipad. Still it is better to arrive early on weekends as the migration season can draw in quite a crowd. There is a viewing shade where volunteers monitor the numbers and varieties of the passing cetaceans. You can get down to the rocky platform here or climb down a metal staircase beside the helipad. The place can be windy and chilly even on a sunny day, so it is advisable to carry along some warm clothing, lest enjoyment ends in a bad cold.
The Rugged Coastline (Image Courtesy Chetan Prusty)
We found our vantage point and glued ourselves to the unfolding action for the next one hour. As heads and hands veered in the direction of the passing giants, it was easy to spot the migrating humpbacks. Luckily there was just a single freight ship in sight and hardly any speed boats - so no whale breaching. Whales breach, not because they are happy to see the onlookers but to communicate when the surrounding water is too noisy drowning their sound signals or when the sea is too turbulent for them to breathe. We were glad that neither being the case, majority of the bulk of the cetaceans' body remained underwater. The only visible indication of their presence - frequent spouts, an occasionally raised fin, or the hump before a deep dive.
The Lone Freight Ship (Image Courtesy Chetan Prusty)
While watching the whales our eyes often strayed towards the level, white rocky platform that stretched to the right. As usual we couldn't resist walking along the cliff. There are no wired barriers and the cliff head vertically drops down, so it is wise to watch your steps and be mindful of frolicking youngsters. The interesting thing about the Australian coastal macrocosm is that every stretch is a niche beauty of rocky recesses and vibrant blue expanse in itself.
The total length of Cape Bailey Track from Cape Solander to Cronulla View is about 4.5 kilometres with gradual drop in elevation. The trail was spectacularly different from the others we had covered on previous outings. Water accumulation had etched permanent stretch marks on the terrain. The surface appeared as rocky ripples. The coast was picturesque with the cliff faces projecting different features from opposing sides. Standing close to the edge was like getting a glimpse into the violent history of earth - a serrated piece of evidence pointing at the prehistoric separation of the Australian piece from the whole cake of land. It seemed to be nature's way of carving an easy thoroughfare for the aquatic mammals' annual migration.
As our stroll led to a bushy scrub, we checked the park map and decided to cover the rest of the stretch backwards from Cronulla View end. Meanwhile, we had spotted about 6 school of whales and a jolly pod of about 8 dolphins.
To reach Cronulla View, you have to drive out of the park, follow Captain Cook Drive and take a left onto Sir Joseph Banks Drive into the premises of Sydney Desalination Plant and Caltex Refineries. Close to the parking, the road narrows to a single lane, therefore, to be on the safer side, keep an eye out for oncoming vehicles. The parking space here is comparatively smaller. At first sight the lookout failed to impress. But we were in a national park, so things had to be special. Following our instincts was soon going to prove worthwhile.
From the parking area, a narrow opening leads to a sandy stretch. The lookout lacks a pointer to the Cape Bailey trailhead, so we followed our instincts and google map. The Rocky platform is much broader and uneven here. Google did a good job of leading us to the muddy trail. You can either be guided by footprints on the muddy track or just follow the coastline. We preferred the latter. And it was simply breathtaking. Features of a very different kind mark the cliff here. Erosion had cut out strange shapes that stood out with a mystique air. The surface felt brittle. And true to that feeling, huge rocks broken from the cliff face stood precariously balanced on the edge of the cliff. The vulnerability of the place imparted it a photogenic beauty. Shortly after the Cape Bailey lighthouse loomed into picture as we continued our walk. In the end, it was a day well spent.
Perched on the cliff makes one reflect on the herculean expanse of nature. In front of that width, we are just a tiny speck. Yet, our cumulative actions have put most of the life on this planet in danger, including the whales. May be it is high time for us to introspect and retrace our path towards mutual respect for all life forms and thus, a peaceful coexistence.
N.B.: If you decide to cover the entire trail from one end to the other, unlike us, remember to carry along plenty of water and some snacks. There are also no restrooms at either lookout.