Try to find the spot where the photographer was standing.
The Whitsundays are internationally famous for their rugged, green-clad islands, blue waters and white sands. But behind that beauty lies much more: a tumultuous geological history, a long tradition of Indigenous use, and a complex ecosystem with thousands of animal and plants, including rare and endangered species.
The Whitsundays lay in a geologically active zone, where volcanic activity continued for 37 million years. Explosive eruptions threw rock and ash into the air to rain down on the surrounding land. Layers of volcanic debris built up and gradually formed a solid bedrock. Today, this bedrock, composed of ash and rock fragments 'welded' together, can still be seen (e.g. on Whitsunday and Hook islands). This hardened rock appears as a smooth greenish grey to brown, and is worn away by saltwater wave action.
The Whitsundays are generally ideal for coral growth: warm, clear, relatively shallow water, with an average temperature of around 20–30 degrees Celsius. In addition, the Whitsundays’ large tidal range causes fast currents to stream south with the incoming tide. These currents transport food and nutrients that nourish a rich and colourful diversity of corals on the edges of the fringing reefs. Vivid and beautiful, these corals also provide food and habitat for many sea-dwellers.
Different plants grow on different parts of the islands, influenced by variations in soils, exposure to the elements, and availability of fresh water.
At the top of the beaches grow tough pioneer plants like goat’s foot convolvulus, sea bean and spiky spinifex, which can tolerate wind, salt spray and shifting sands. On the foredunes behind these stabilising creepers and grasses, grow salt-tolerant shrubs and trees such as octopus bush and coastal she-oak. Further inland, vine forests and lush vegetation grow in moist, sheltered gullies and on steep, rocky hillsides, with tall hoop pines scattered through them. Hillsides with drier, deeper soils support open eucalypt forests and, on many islands, undulating native grasslands. Below all of these, along the shorelines, patches of mangroves flourish.