Marpa National Park (CYPAL) Tropical North Queensland

Nature, culture and history

    Natural environment

    Marpa National Park (CYPAL) is comprised of three, sandstone continental islands known as Ronganhu, Errewerpinha and Olilu.

    The island foreshores are a combination of small, sandy mangrove beaches and rocky sandstone and are subject to varying amounts of both natural erosion and growth. Along the exposed south-east foreshore, large sandstone boulders lie discarded from the cliff faces above.

    Image of two sooty oystercatchers.
    Sooty oystercatchers.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    Image of a black flying-fox hanging from a branch.
    Black flying-fox.

    Photo credit: Bruce Thompson © Queensland Government

    The grassed summit of Ronganhu is windswept with few shrubs and large rocky areas. Olilu has similar vegetation, mainly grassland or herbland between its many bare, rocky areas. Wind-sheared shrubs are scattered in sheltered spots.

    The islands have remained pristine, providing an important home for many plants and animals. Vulnerable beach stone-curlews Esacus magnirostris, near threatened (rare) eastern curlews Numenius madagascariensis and sooty oystercatchers Haematopus fuliginosus can be seen along the shore while white-bellied sea-eagles Haliaeetus leucogaster, peregrine falcons Falco peregrinus and eastern ospreys Pandion cristatus fly overhead.

    During the day, terns leave the colony to feed at sea. See their swift and graceful flights to and from the island and watch as they hover over the water, dipping and plunging to feed on small fish. At night they return to the island and gather in large groups, roosting on the ground and in low bushes.

    Terrestrial birds such as pied currawongs Strepera graculina and rose-crowned fruit-doves Ptilinopus regina can be found on the islands. Look for varied honeyeaters Lichenostomus versicolor and dusky honeyeaters Myzomela obscura feeding on the nectar of grevilleas. The profusely flowering bushman’s clothes peg trees produce large amounts of nectar, attracting a variety of birds. However, it is the woody fruits, that were once used as clothes pegs, that gives the tree its name.

    Wandering about the rocky outcrops, discover black-tailed monitor lizards Varanus tristis scampering into crevices. Along the foreshore near threatened (rare) rusty monitors Varanus semiremex live in holes in mangrove trees. Fish, crabs and insects are their favoured meal. Witness the evening exodus of black flying-foxes as they fly from their roosts in the mangroves in search of native blossoms and fruits.

    Surrounding the islands, fringing reefs and seagrass beds provide food and shelter to animals such as dolphins, dugongs, turtles and estuarine crocodiles Crocodylus porosus. During the breeding season vulnerable green turtles Chelonia mydas may be seen nesting on the beaches of Ronganhu and Olilu islands. Seagrass beds are also a significant nursery for commercial prawn species.

    Cultural awareness and protocol video

    As part of the ongoing commitments to strengthen relationships with Traditional Owners in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, the Queensland Government, in partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, is developing cultural awareness and protocol videos about the principles of visiting and working respectfully on Country.

    These videos highlight the intrinsic connection that Traditional Owners have to their Country while also providing them with an opportunity to share their stories, personal insights, experiences and cultural guidance for working on Country.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.