A Travellerspoint blog

Navigating the Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling,diving and more than my fair share of eating

We took the night bus from Rainbow Beach to Airlie Beach (via Hervey Bay where we spent 2 hours - more than enough time to see the highlights then find some delicious fish and chips, and stock up on sweets and chocolate - the ONLY way to make it through a 14 hour bus journey!) which was surprisingly painless as we both managed to get a double seat to ourselves. We arrived at 7am and met up with some of the girls from our Fraser Island trip, hung around the hostel with them, did a bit of shopping in town and relaxed by the pool in the nicest Nomads hostel so far. Airlie Beach is ridiculously nice - lovely shopping street with a gorgeous bay and a lagoon area where you can swim without risk of sharks! The benefits of being with a group of 60 people on Fraser became apparent when we bumped into someone from our trip every 5 minutes!

After night's sleep in a bed to recover from the journey an ill-fated bikini shopping trip (more on this later...) we headed off to the harbour where we met our sailing boat - Broomstick - and departed for the Whitsundays. It was phenomenal. There were 22 of us on the boat (7 of us from the Fraser trip!) plus 3 crew and we were on a proper competitive sailing yacht! If i knew more about international sailing i'm sure i'd have been impressed with its credentials. As it was, I was happy there was lots of space to sunbathe and the food was amazing!

The weather was incredible - perfect blue skies, crystal clear waters - the only slight drawback was that this meant there was no wind to speak of so we only managed to sail a little bit on the last morning. That was so much fun though - travelling at 9 knots (supposedly quite fast...it certainly felt pretty nippy!) and at a 45 degree angle. We all got the chance to hoist the sail and twizzle the funny handles that make the other sail go out (learnt all the lingo too...) and felt very sophisticated as we zipped though the water.

We were on the boat for 2 nights and went out snorkelling 3 or 4 times which was brilliant. The visibility varied but at its best it was great - huge shoals of beautiful fish which were very entertaining when we threw bread in for them! We saw an ENORMOUS green and blue fish called Elvis and also met his less attractive girlfriend. After it got dark, we watched as thousands of fish swam in the light shining on the water at the back of the boat. getting chased by squid and the odd shrimp. One over exhuberant squid propelled himself onto the deck and squirted ink everywhere!

The food was superb (especially in contrast to Fraser Island as we didn't even have to make it ourselves, let alone clear it up!) and the company was very entertaining with lots of banter, games of cards, and entertaining pastimes involving snorkels, toilet rolls and lengths of rope. Maeve and I managed to get the bottom bunks in the main body of the boat which were about 50cm below the upper bunk but which did have the advantage of a breeze blowing in from upstairs, which is more than can be said for the beds in the room at the front of the boat so we were pretty lucky!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the trip was the visit to the famous Whitehaven Beach - supposedly the 3rd best beach in the world (though as the 2nd best is a manmade one in Dubai, I think it must be top 2!). We sailed in on one side and walked through the rainforest to a look out over the whole bay and it was breathtaking. Our guide said it was about as good as he'd ever seen it and it was hard to imagine it looking any more incredible. Huge swirls of fine white sand across bays of bright blue sea with a back drop of lush green forest and flawless blue sky. Amazing. We then sailed to the other side and went to the beach you're allowed to actually land on. Some got in the dinghy to get to shore but some of us decided to swim. It didn't look THAT far... All i can say is i'm very glad i had a snorkel and flippers or i'm sure i'd still be swimming it now! I didn't help myself by getting my head down and powering off as fast as i could go for a good 5 minutes before looking up to discover i was swimming in totally the wrong direction...

When we got to the beach, we took off our stinger suits we had to wear to avoid being, well, stung, and set about a few games of frisbee, football etc. It was at this point I bent over in my brand new bikini of which i was so proud, and the top popped clean off! Luckily i recovered from the shock quick enough to preserve my modesty but that didn't stop the hysteria. Noone was more amused than Maeve who tried to fix me up but discovered the plastic clasp was completely broken so i just had to do my stinger suit up and avoid too much jumping up and down. Maeve was still chuckling as she ran for a ball and exactly the same thing happened to her! Isn't karma a wonderful thing?! Annoyingly, as the tops and bottoms of the bikinis were bought as 'separates' they'll only refund the tops so we're both stuck with a lonely pair of bikini bottoms but it was almost worth it for the amusement caused.

We got back to Airlie Beach and had a few drinks with the people on our boat and saw a few more Fraser Island folk before heading off up to Cairns on another night bus. We were a bit disappointed to miss the 'after party' from the trip but the rain was following close behind us and ours was the last night bus to make it all the way up so we felt very lucky. That same rain dominated our time in Cairns but again, luck was with us on the day we got a coach up to Port Douglas and went on a boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. It didn't rain at all and there were even a few glimmers of sunshine so we were very grateful!

The Reef was incredible. I had only signed up to do one dive but as soon as i emerged from that one, I signed up for a second and a third! It was amazing. I saw a huge turtle and a white tip shark, swam into caves and through archways, waved at clams as big as me - making them slam shut... and to top it off the food was pretty good too :-)

Rain stopped play on my final day in Cairns but we had a lovely last night together to celebrate our last night together after a fab few weeks and an early birthday to Maeve - eating a LOT of delicious sushi and going to see Adjustment Bureau at the cinema which was ludicrous but quite enjoyable. Then I booked my Fiji trip (I love to forward plan) and bid farewell to the land of dingos, red sand, coral, dodgy 90s dance music and laid back fun.

Posted by Hoodfish 11:12 Archived in Australia

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