BOWEN resident and lover of all things underwater, Barbara Kwaak, a life-long diver and marine photographer is taking her passion for the fringing reefs of her backyard to an increasingly hungry global online audience.
‘Underwater Adventures in Bowen’ on Instagram and Facebook showcases the hidden macro world of Bowen’s bays and fringing reef and has also garnered the attention of the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Marine Conservation Society who have approached Barbara to contribute her content to their audiences also.
Barbara explains what prompted her to share her findings to a broader audience: “The seagrass meadows, rocky outcrops, reef flats and fringing reefs of Bowen’s picturesque bays are important habitats for all sorts of marine creatures and we are so lucky to have these unique environments right here in our backyard.”
“Often I venture straight off the beaches of Grays Bay, Murrays Bay and Rose Bay, and sometimes I go a little further afield, to Kings Beach and North Head Island, but on each dive I always find something too good not to share and I am often surprised at the variety and beauty of what lives just below the surface, only metres from the beach,” Barbara said.
“In the last six months alone I have photographed over 65 different species of marine slugs including the colourfully patterned nudibranchs, marine flat worms and sap sucking slugs as well as the featherstars, wobbegongs, sea urchins, giant clams, and sea turtles that inhabit these marine ecosystems.”
Barbara said this summer has been challenging for the fringing reefs of Bowen.
As the waters are shallow they are much more susceptible to the warmer temperatures and therefore bleaching.
Barbara has witnessed the unfolding bleaching locally, uploading her findings to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef program, a citizen project, which encourages locals to contribute.
“It was heartbreaking to witness the summer’s marine heatwave and as the weeks went on, and the water stayed so hot, you could see that all life underwater was struggling to stay healthy,” she said.
“It’s been a long time waiting and the water has cooled down a lot now, so it is nice to see some of these corals are seeing recovery, though sadly not all.
“In these challenging times I think it’s important to not get side-tracked with what we have lost but to stay focused on what we do have and look at ways we can best preserve protect our marine life moving forward.”
Barbara hopes that by sharing the images of the precious underwater wildlife, audiences will be inspired to create change so that reefs like those fringing Bowen’s bays will have the best chance of survival.
To find out more visit Underwater Adventures in Bowen on Facebook or Instagram.