A day in the life with the marine team on a private island

Morris EscapesTeam 3·2 Feb, 2024

Snorkels, flippers, kayaks and hobie cats are tools of the trade when you’re part of the marine team at Orpheus Island Lodge. Divemaster Charlie Bennett takes us behind the scenes for a few days in a job where the brief is simple – ensuring guests get to experience the best of the Great Barrier Reef.

Getting started

My most typical day would start at 7:30 am, opening the activities desk for the day. I’ll then head down to the beach and pop the sails up on the hobie cats and get the dinghy engines running and set up for the day.

A host of marine activities

One thing is for sure, you won’t get bored on the island! We offer a range of signature and bespoke experiences, as well as eco-tours. Our signature experiences include guided snorkels, guided walks, dinghy adventures (either snorkelling or fishing or both with a picnic lunch), paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing and sunset cruising. Our more bespoke experiences include scuba diving, Hinchinbrook Island tours, fishing charters, and diving at the Museum of Underwater Art installation. And finally, our eco-tours include tours of the James Cook University Orpheus Island Research Station, Picnic Bay beach clean-ups and our eco-educational dive and snorkels.

Guests’ agenda for the day

When guests start arriving for breakfast, I’ll check in with each individual table to see if they would like to join our daily activity (the 10:30am local snorkel is always popular) or if there is anything else I can organise for them. This might be a dinghy out to Yanks Jetty or a spa appointment with one of our incredible spa therapists. I’ll prepare each guest’s snorkel gear and grab the towels for the snorkel charter, while the skipper heads down to the boat and gets her all started up and ready to go. Then the fun begins!

Out on the water

Once we’ve got everyone on the boat, the skipper will take us out through the channel while I give a quick briefing and decide on our snorkel location based on the wind direction and conditions. We’ll all hop in the water for 45 minutes, then pop back onto the boat to head back to the lodge. On the way home, most of our guests will enjoy a glass of bubbles or a beer to celebrate such a gorgeous day on the reef.

Industry jargon

The best days are when you wake up to what we like to call ‘glass out’ weather conditions – no wind, clear water and sun shining. On these days, we’ll encourage guests to get out on the water early to make the most of the great conditions.

If I have the day off, I’ll hike straight over to Picnic Bay with my snorkelling gear and a packed lunch so I can snorkel all day, only stopping to hydrate and refuel before heading back out to snorkel again!

An ideal day on the Island

In my experience, the winds are typically calmer in the mornings plus the sea creatures have come in close to the shore overnight. So, I would say if you’re an early riser, take out a stand-up paddle board or kayak before brekky, during whale season especially! If you’re more of a ‘don’t talk to me until I’ve had a coffee’ person, head out for a snorkel after brekky, whether that be from a skippered boat, a dinghy or hiking over to Picnic Bay, all are incredible options.

First timer tactics

If you’re new to snorkelling, or out of practice, take your gear into the pool before heading out on the boat. Feel free to ask any of our marine staff for a hand too. It’s much easier for us to help out in the pool – we can give you our undivided attention in a controlled environment.

Insider tips – where to snorkel and what to look for

Make a beeline to the eastern side of Curacao, where there’s the most incredible display of coral diversity I have ever seen. From the colours to shapes and sizes of the corals, everywhere you look has something different to see. The reef fish variety and the iridescent clams here are also incredible to see.

Keep an eye out just off the western side of Pelorus Island too. During one of our snorkels, I saw my first ever Bamboo Shark! He swam under me and parked right up on a sand patch below me for another five minutes. It was the most incredible experience just watching from above.

Guided Snorkelling offered by the team on the island

When to visit

The corals and reef fish will remain all year around, however, over Spring a lot of fish spawning occurs and you’ll start to see smaller fish popping up all over the place! Especially in the branching corals, the mangroves and around the jetty. And of course, the humpback whales during whale season are spectacular. If you’re visiting mid-year, pop your head all the way under and you may be so lucky as to hear the sounds of the whales communicating with one another – this is referred to as echolocation.

Round two

After lunch, a lot of guests get back out on the water – you can’t go wrong taking a dinghy out with some bubbles and a cheese plate! We’ll run safety briefings and quick lessons, and meet them on the shore when they arrive back in. Our team stays busy organising the activities desk, new arrivals snorkel gear, or even just giving the back room a clean.

If there’s anything I’ve learned working here, it’s that when you’re in the Marine Team there is always something to do, that’s for sure. No day is the same, and that makes it the greatest job in the world.

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