The fiddler ray is gliding effortlessly just above the sandy bottom. I swim to one side and watch the animal searching for prey using its shark-like array of detectors. They range from a keen sense of smell to sensors that pick up electrical currents emitted by all living things. As the water gets deeper, I am able to move above the ray and take a few pictures without disturbing it.
I am swimming across the sand flats near the iconic Port Germein jetty, which is currently closed due to storm damage. The little township of Port Germein is a pleasant two to three-hour drive from Adelaide. There are several routes but all pass through a variety of mid north towns where a traveller can stop at a bakery, pub or roadhouse for some light refreshment. The town itself is small and most supplies are purchased in nearby Port Pirie, though there are weekend markets featuring local produce. An excellent caravan park with camping and cabin facilities provides accommodation just metres from the sea front and the hotel serves up a solid country menu especially if your preference is local seafood.
Sunset in front of the jetty
After spending a little more time observing schools of small fish, sand crabs and a variety of molluscs that characterise these sand flats I make my way back to land. Where the jetty meets the shore there is a playground, a wonderful old illuminated clock face tide gauge, lighthouse and a series of sculptures and historical signs created by the local community.
This is also the start of a walking trail that follows the beach behind the low dunes. It winds through the low coastal scrub providing a unique opportunity to observe the local wildlife. A few hundred meters along the trail, in a tangle of branches and leaves, I catch sight of a white-browed babbler, a species that is quite common in this area but less frequently seen around Adelaide. Closer observation reveals a number of the birds in the same group of bushes. They appear to be quite communal and may be nesting in the area.
White browed babbler
As I walk along the path, I can hear the buzz of insects and the occasional rustle of small animals in the leaf litter. I suspect that there might be small skinks hunting in the undergrowth. A tree stump amongst the scrub provides the perfect place to sit for a while and try to catch a glimpse of these elusive reptiles. I get one fleeting glance and fire off a couple of frames.
During the next half an hour I encounter a dozen different animal species including galahs, gulls, singing honeyeaters, a sleepy lizard, some rabbits and quite few small grey butterflies.
Galahs over coastal scrub
The trail lead into a more remote section of scrub that borders the mangroves and I turn back and follow the road towards the main street and hotel. The gardens along the route have some lovely plantings of native bushes and eucalyptus trees. They also attract a wide variety of bird and insect species. A burst of chirping and fluttering in the trees above me draws my attention. Half a dozen white-plumed honeyeaters are gathered in the branches. Some appear to be fully fledged juveniles that are still being fed by the adults.
White plumed honeyeater
I finish my shoreline adventure at the hotel. Over a well-earned seafood lunch and a cold beer, I reflect on the fact that Port Germein may be a substantial drive from the city but its charm, history, location and wildlife certainly make it a worthwhile day or weekend excursion.