Snorkelling, diving, beaches and sunsets...
Sun 6 May 12 - Tue 8 May 12
Our trip to the Whitsunday Islands has been an absolute highlight of this journey. Stunning, untouched beauty at every turn. This is something not to be missed. We spent three days and two nights aboard a catamaran named 'Wings 3', which set sail from the marina at Airlie Beach. There were 23 guests onboard, and a fantastic crew of three: Tristan (our main 'tour guide'), Pete (the skipper) and Rachel (the cook and part-time guide). Justine and I were sharing a tiny berth with three other English girls and we all got on really well. We had amazing weather the whole time and really couldn't have asked for anything more.
Within two hours of leaving the marina on our first day, we'd reached our first stop, Blue Pearl Bay. They ran some intro dives for those who hadn't been diving before, and the rest of us got a chance to do some snorkelling around the reef. We saw some amazing fish, including some large surgeonfish feeding on coral and some beautifully turquoise coloured rainbow fish. I satyed in for about an hour just soaking up the sights of the reef.
Back on board, we started sailing out towards Dumbell Island where we stopped for dinner, then into secluded Tongue Bay where we spent the night. As the sun started to set we were treated to some of the most beautiful views. At one point there was the last rays of a red sunset at the back of the boat, and a huge full moon at the front. Apologies for the many pictures...
On our second day we were up early and making our way to Whitehaven Beach; the jewel of the Whitsunday Islands, and the second most beautiful beach in the world (apparently). We were one of only two boats there as we'd made good time, so we tendered over to Hill Inlet and took a short walk up to a lookout over Whitehaven Beach itself. It really is stunning. The beach is white silica sand, and the water is perfectly clear and a briliant turquoise blue.
Everyone got their fill of photographs from the lookout and we carried on down to the beach. We were there for a few hours, in glorious sunshine. I took a few more pictures, but for the most part I just sat, plugged into my iPod, admiring the scenery and taking it all in.
After we all got back to the boat, the crew had a chat with us and it was decided that we'd head out to the Outer Reef. The visibility hadn't been great at Blue Pearl Bay earlier, and they were confident that the Outer Reef would have better opportunities for both diving and snorkelling. The only downside was that it would mean a few extra hours travelling, but we all agreed it would be worth it.
We eventually stopped at Bait Reef, and Justine and I went for a dive with Tristan and the four other certified divers onboard. Unfortunately, I had problems equalising the pressure in one ear and had to stay above the others for a bit. I eventually sorted it and got down and was able to enjoy the dive a bit more. We saw some black kingfish (very shark-like in appearance) and a huge marble ray just sitting on the ocean floor covered in sand. Unfortunately, we didn't see much else in terms of fish, but it was amazing swimming around the reef and seeing the different tyes of coral and anemones.
After the dive, the tender was going back out to taxi snorkellers back and forward to the boat. I ditched my scuba gear and jumped back onboard with snorkel in hand (unfortunately forgetting my camera). The visibility was much better than it had been at Blue Pearl Bay, and a lot of the reef was really shallow. There were some points where youcould just float a foot or so above the reef and watch the fish. I also saw two green turtles and followed one around for a bit when it swam off. An amazing experience!
On the way back from the Outer Reef, which took about four hours, some dolphins came to keep us company and were swimming along at the front of the boat for ages. They swam really close to the surface in the drift of the boat, and every so often they'd jump out of the water – what a sight!
While we were still making our way to our overnight mooring, we saw another beautiful sunset. And as if that wasn't enough, out at sea we had a clear horizon with just a few clouds and we watched the moon rise. Enormous and red, it was almost like watching a reverse sunset. I've never seen anything like it – truly awesome.
We overnighted at Caves Cove (see pic below) where we stayed for some early-morning snorkelling the next day before heading back to the marina at Airlie Beach. It was a real shame to be leaving the boat and I'm determined to head back out there at some point. The whole experience was incredible and I would do it again in a heartbeat.