Field Notes: Bundeena and Maianbar

Honi explores having a sense of place.

Art by Amelia Koen

Over the summer, I took a ferry from Cronulla to Bundeena – a coastal village of just under two-thousand people on the outskirts of southern Sydney. Bundeena is the land of the Dharawal people of the Eora nation, and means ‘sound like thunder’ for the noise of its waves hitting the shore. Cradled by the Royal National Park, it is set with a cluster of jewel-like, fine-sand beaches, encroached by shrubby heathland vegetation and rainforest reserve. Taking up residence near Jibbon beach, as we did, you may find your doorstep shared by native species like kookaburras, red-bellied black snakes, and the antechinus — a small marsupial resembling a large-eyed, bristly-furred mouse. 

Bundeena is separated from smaller neighbouring village Maianbar by a snaking bush track and a footbridge over the narrow section of salt marshes connecting the Cabbage Tree Basin and Port Hacking’s Simpson Bay. This overpass, bridging the shores of the Bonnie Vale Campsite and Maianbar, is awash with primaeval stillness, unlike the well-levelled, grass-covered vicinity of the camping ground. 

If you travel along the estuarine sandbars surrounding the footbridge at high-tide, brackish water floods the land underfoot abundant with Grey mangroves. Their thin, lichen-spotted trunks twist darkly from the water in masses beneath the cotton-like sky, thick, long leaves occasionally stirred by a low-flying crow.  At low tide, the water pulls back to reveal porous, rooty sand. These and the surrounding marshes support an array of aquatic life, including soldier crabs and oysters, which constituted the diets of their Indigenous people. 

Walking onwards, you will find a path winding up the sandstone cliff head of the national park. Like the vegetation surrounding Bundeena’s main beaches, angophoras and bangalay rise above spiny bush and ferns, coils of their reddish and brown bark littering the walking track. In pockets, fungi bloom from bark in orange plumes. Upon the hilltop in Maianbar, the forest’s serenity is disrupted by a construction site, evidence of Bundeena’s increasing popularity for holiday-makers from Greater Sydney’s suburbs. But for now, Bundeena and Maianbar are precious coastal wildlife reserves, completely out of time and perfectly in place, sitting just below the hum of the city.