The latest attraction to the Whitsunday Islands is Australia’s first underwater sculpture trail. Located amongst the Great Barrier Reef National Marine Park and nestles amongst popular dive and snorkelling sites around the islands, this unique attraction is bound to appeal to adventurers, marine enthusiasts and art lovers alike.
The Whitsundays on their own is a spectacular place to visit. With their stunning scenery, turquoise waters, beautiful stretches of beach and world-class sailing conditions it's hard to imagine a more perfect place to take a holiday. Add to that the opportunity to be able to sail the Whitsunday Islands on your yacht and diving or snorkelling to view artwork off your boat and you’ve got yourself a bucket list item!
Designed and delivered by Reef Ecologic and involving community consultation and government funding, the Ngaro Marine Sculpture is showcasing six submerged sculptures from Australian artists.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the underwater sculptures is that in time, the reef will merge with the artwork creating an ever-evolving and changing artwork. You can come back time and time again and the same sculpture looking completely different as it responds to the marine environment.
"As the underwater form matures, visitors snorkelling and diving the site will see a sculpture festooned with a myriad of coral species, tentacles encrusted with soft and hard corals, marine animals sheltering in and peeking from small holes." - Artist Jessa Lloyd
"Migration on the Mantras" Image Credit: Phill Gordon, Riptide Creative
Five of the six artworks have been installed at various popular sites around The Whitsundays, with the sixth being an inter-tidal peace located in Bowen.
Langford Reef - Langford Spit
Artist Col Henry
Stainless steel , 6.5m x 6m x 2m
Blue Pearl Bay – Hayman Island
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt
Aluminium, 2.7m x 3.85m x 0.6m
By artist collective Caitlin Reilly, Jessa Lloyd and Kate Ford
Concrete , 3.8m x 3.8m x 5m
Manta Ray Bay – Hook Island
Migration of the Mantas
Artist Brian Robinson
Concrete and Stainless Steel, Six mantas 2m x 1.8m x 0.3m
Artist Adriaan Vanderlugt
Aluminium, 3.8m x 3.8m x 1.2m
Horseshoe Bay - Bowen
Bywa (water spout)
Artist Brian Robinson
Concrete and stainless steel 1.3m x 1.3 x 4m
"Maori Wrasse" Image Credit - Phill Gordon, Riptide Creative
How do I get to the underwater sculptures in the Whitsundays?
The installation at Horseshoe Bay in the town of Bowen can be accessed by snorkelling to the coral reef site right off the beach. You’ll see an impressive, inter-tidal 4-meter-high sculpture depicting an Aboriginal Dreamtime story about reef creation.
One of the best ways to experience the five remaining underwater sculptures is to travel at your own pace on a bareboat yacht charter. When you hire a yacht you’re able to move freely amongst the different islands and bays hosting the sculptures and even anchor near the artwork for the night. Essentially you’ll be living aboard your private dive boat in the Whitsunday Islands.
Alternately, visiting the underwater artwork will be part of many Whitsunday tour operator's itineraries. There are snorkelling day tours and scuba diving day trips run out of Airlie Beach.
It can’t be denied that scuba diving is the ultimate way to experience the sculptures because you can stay underwater longer, explore the details, and take as many photos as you want. However, the sculptures are about 5-10 meters underwater in popular Whitsunday snorkelling sites, making the sculptures accessible to both divers and snorkelers.
The Ngaro Underwater Marine Sculpture Trail is part of the Whitsunday Reef Recovery and Public Art Project, with the marine art installations designed to combine tourism with reef rehabilitation.
The sculptures not only provide amazing scenery for visitors to enjoy, but they also act new bases for coral growth and animal shelters.
Coral nurseries have been planted around the sculptures as a part of a wider reef restoration projected run by Reef Ecologic after the devastation of Cyclone Debby in 2017.
Coral gardening takes coral fragments sourced from surrounding reefs and plants the "cuttings" in reef beds. It's like replanting succulents.
The coral gardening around the sculptures at Manta Ray Bay, off Hook Island, and Blue Pearl Bay, off Hayman Island, began in November 2018 and we are starting to see positive results.
You can learn more about the reef restoration initiative in this recent video update
Section of a coral garden nursery, Image Credit: Phill Gordon, Riptide Creative
We encourage visitors to the Whitsundays to add the Ngaro underwater marine sculpture trail to their travel plans. If you’re interested in seeing the sculptures while on a yacht charter, please get in touch so we can help craft your itinerary around experiencing this fantastic creative initiative.
Join us in the Whitsundays and embark on the adventure of a lifetime