A trip to Whitsundays and The Great Barrier Reef…why not!!?December 28, 2011
So after paying the nice lady at Peterpans a nominal amount of money we were off on yet another plane. Destination: Airlie beach in the Whitsundays. It was a beautiful place (and wasn’t raining) with bright blue sea and white sailing yachts in the harbour.
Our hostel was lovely. It was set in beautiful gardens and overlooked the pool and the bar. Our first stop was of course the beach. We both went straight in knee deep into the sea. Quite strange that nobody else was in the water on such a hot day. Ah well, we thought, us brits will show ‘em how its done. It wasn’t until 3 days later we saw the massive sign warning us of the dangers of Jelly fish. December is apparently their breeding time. Apparently you need a stinger suit to get in the water. Apparently 90% of people get stung in knee deep water. Apparently 50 people have died from jelly fish stings. Apparently we are complete idiots!
After our pleasant (and rather dangerous) paddle we wandered around the town and got settled in our most comfortable habitat….the pub. Whitsundays has such great night life, with live music every night and clubs filled with giddy holiday makers.
The next morning we were sailing on the beautiful purple catamaran called Camira. Well we weren’t sailing, our enthusiastic crew of 4 were. We travelled to an island called Whitehaven which is surrounded by one of the top ten beaches in the world. On route we stopped off at some coral reef and went snorkelling. We couldn’t see a great deal but had fun splashing around and pretending we were mermaids (ok that might have just been me . Whitehaven island was stunning. The whitest beach I’d ever seen. The sand is made up of 98% Silica and actually squeaks when you walk on it. Ben and I decided to dig a hole and attracted some other equally mature travellers. We managed to enlist the help of 6 others. The hole was pretty big.
When we got back to our lovely sailing boat and enthusiastic staff, lunch was waiting for us. We took the term “all you can eat” quite literally and spent the rest of the afternoon lying in the sun digesting while the crew sailed onward to our home for the evening-Long Island.
Before our island stay we had a quick visit to the “accommodation we could have won” . It was called…wait for it…”Day Dream Island” (oh come on!) We looked around at the amazing pool, beach, the living reef pool and pool bar and started getting a little envious of what real money could buy. Anyway off we went to our “budget island” and actually were surprised to see it was quite nice. We sat at the pool bar (in the rain, don’t get me started!) and were slightly horrified at the food prices. Thank goodness we had eaten “all that we could” and decided that we couldn’t afford to stay on the island for more than 1 meal so booked on an earlier boat to get us off the island.
In the morning we discovered there were kayaks on the beach that we could just get in a use for free and slightly regretted our earlier boat home (who needs food?).
Off we went on an extremely bumpy ferry home to Airlie beach (at several points we got covered in seawater and were nearly washed off the boat). We left our trip satisfied yet wanting more and so took another trip to Peterpans (can’t recommend them enough!) and we decided we wanted to see some really amazing coral. Our lovely (this time French) lady sold us a trip on the most amazing boat ever . It had a water slide, underwater viewing deck and snorkelling areas attached to it. She also talked us into doing our first scuba dive and I could literally go back and kiss her as she was soo right!
So day 2 we were off in a bigger boat to the Outer Great Barrier reef. This time our overenthusiastic staff included 24 members and, as our boat was not at capacity, it meant that every 2 people had one member of staff at their beckon call. We booked ourselves onto our scuba dive and the staff reassured us it was very safe and accommodated complete beginners. All was good until I overheard one of the staff talking to an asthmatic saying he couldn’t go down as his lungs would pop. Yikes.
Ben and I went straight into the water to snorkel when we arrived at the Great Barrier reef. Even from above the water the reef looked beautiful. The current was particularly strong that day and as we reassured the staff we were competent snorkellers (we had both only done it for the first time the day before) we swam out to the limit of the barrier and struggled against the waves and wind. I sheepishly (and discreetly) used the barrier rope to haul myself back into the boat. Far too confident for my own good!
Next activity: scuba dive. We both nervously sat there putting on our equipment and walked down to the drop off. Scuba gear is bloody heavy when you are out of the water. To make matters worse they attach a weight belt to make you heavier.
This was our pre dive lesson:
right put your face in the water. Cool. Now kneel down in the water. Excellent. Off we go…
And it was literally that fast. I attached myself to the dive master and off we went down deep into the water. The coral was amazing but all I could think was “keep breathing, don’t stop because your lungs will pop”. After a while I started to enjoy it and by the end I wanted to go again. So we did. This time I manage to swim on my own and although I would have the occasional freak out (omg we are 12 metres down! that fish is bigger than me! how the hell do you swallow with a mouthpiece in?! I really don’t want my lungs to pop!) I loved the feeling of weightlessness and managed to actually look at the amazing coral and sea life. So I think we’ve found an expensive new hobby.
We only had 4 hours at the reef and the time flew by, probably because we had two dives. We went on the slide which actually wasn’t that enjoyable and you get a mouthful of sea water at the end if you don’t close your mouth. It’s surprising how many times you can forget to do this at the end of a waterslide. After our “all you can eat” lunch we spent the rest of the day in the sea snorkelling (staying within range this time). We got called out by the staff when it was time to go home (just 2 more minutes, pllleeeeaaaaasssseeeee?!) and set off in a speedy boat back to Airlie beach (not without the obligatary stop at bloody Day Dream Island). Back at Airlie beach we headed straight for the jelly fish free lagoon pool which overlooks the beautiful harbour. Here is where I learnt how to do an underwater hand stand for the first time . It was a momentous day indeed!