Located on the east coast of Hook Island, Mackeral Bay is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the Whitsunday Islands. Devastated by a cyclone a few years ago, the bay’s coral reef has partially recovered. Amidst the soft corals, you can see groupers, angelfish, butterflyfish, and sometimes rays or turtles. Underwater visibility, variable in the Whitsundays, can however sometimes spoil your snorkeling.
Mackeral Bay is located on Hook Island, the second largest island in the Whitsundays archipelago. It sits just north of Saba Bay, where snorkeling is good too. To visit the archipelago, you can choose from dozens of day tours or multi-day cruises departing from Airlie Beach (starting at $105pp.). Day trips typically include a visit to Hill Inlet Lookout (the most famous viewpoint in the Whitsundays) and photogenic Whitehaven Beach, as well as one or more snorkeling stops around the islands. Mackeral Bay is a spot often visited by tours, but it is sometimes difficult to be confirmed the locations of snorkeling stops when booking. These are often chosen at the last moment, depending on the sea conditions. All boats to the Whitsundays depart from Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach.
On this spot, you get in the water directly from a boat, on the edge of the reef.
The bay is bordered by a shallow reef (↕1-3m), which measures between 50 and 150m wide depending on the location. Beyond the reef, the reef plunges steeply to the depths (↕5-8m). On this spot, the corals were severely damaged by Cyclone Debbie in 2017, and are gradually recovering. It is now mainly soft corals (especially leather corals) that cover the reef flat. In places, the reef remains dead, without any corals.
Many fish can be seen on the reef. Butterflyfish, in particular, are plentiful – including the Rainford’s butterflyfish, the golden butterflyfish, and the photogenic cooperband butterflyfish. You can also see many longfin groupers resting on the sand, at the foot of the rocks. While schools of Whitley’s sergeant swim around the high points of the reef, you might also spot sixbar angelfish, stingrays, and occasionally turtles in the deep areas.
As everywhere in the Whitsundays, the underwater visibility is sometimes bad at this location.
Day trips to the Whitsundays usually include lunch on the boat. Inquire when you book.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Shallow coral reef with fish and clams
Fringing reef with coral, fish and sea turtles
Shallow reefs and seagrass meadows with sea turtles, giant clams and reef fish
Protected coral reef with sea turtles and reef fish
Lagoon and reef drop off with sea turtles, manta rays and sharks
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