Archives for posts with tag: Snorkeling

Airlie Beach, Australia.

I decide on a trip, it’s a 2 day 2 night  inner reef trip on an iSail Whitsundays boat called the Blizzard. There is a maximum capacity of 10 passengers on the boat and I was worried that it would be all couples and me but it turned out that 2 of the people were cousins and the rest, though coupled up, were super friendly. It also turns out that I get a room to myself, even though there are 2 beds in it, which suits me just dandy. It’s perfectly compact and cozy and at night it feels like a little cocoon. The boat is really new so everything is super clean and pristine. Luke is the Captain and Lauren is the crew. At first glance Luke might not inspire confidence, he’s a shaggy haired young blonde guy who looks like the ultimate surfer “dude” but he quickly impresses with his mad sailing skills. Lauren is the first mate, the chef, the crew and the all-round able body. She does everything from hoisting up sails and pulling ropes to cooking us 3 amazing meals a day, and she makes it all look easy.

We start in the afternoon and sail for a couple hours to the spot where we will anchor for the night. The sail portion is really neat, the boat is slanted way over and we have to sit on the “up” side to help keep balance, an experience I hadn’t anticipated but which was very exciting . At anchor we are sheltered from wind and currents as we watch a glorious sunset, get acquainted, have a few beers and eat a yummy dinner. We have an early night as we’ve been informed that we have a busy day tomorrow.

In the morning we are treated to a fantastic help-yourself buffet breakfast (with really good fresh coffee thank god) as we cruise to our first destination, Whitehaven Beach. We approach on the opposite side of the island when the tide is still very low, it makes maneuvering the tender in a bit tricky but Luke is a star and we make it first out of all the other circling boats. We hike a short way up to the viewpoint over the other side of the island and get to see what we came for. Whitehaven Beach is known for its white swirling sands. The sand and the aquamarine water entwine making serpentine shapes that twist their way up a 7 km channel that narrows into the distance. It’s beautiful and unique and something I have never seen before.

After viewing the beach we get to go down to it and spend a pleasant couple of hours relaxing and exploring. The sand consists of 98% pure silica which gives it its bright white colour. Apparently local rocks do not contain silica so it has been suggested that the sand has been brought here from elsewhere over millions of years via sea currents. The silica sand does not retain heat so we can walk around barefoot without scorching the soles of our feet which is nice, and it is also fine enough to polish up my silver jewelry. Unfortunately a couple hours after leaving the beach I discover to my dismay that I have been bitten by quite a few sand fleas, my nemesis as I learned in Thailand at one point not too long ago.

Back on the boat (and itchy) we cruise to our first snorkeling spot, not far away at all. We are provided with lightweight wet suits as it’s jellyfish season and with Australia being home to 2 of the world’s most dangerous (sometimes deadly) stingers you want to wear these. It’s my first time wearing one and I wriggle into it with difficulty. Once encased we take to the water, it’s nice though not the best snorkeling I’ve ever done, that honour lies in the Perhentians and at Gamut Bay in Inodnesia. However it is lovely to see the fish and other creatures and the wetsuit makes me even more buoyant than usual so it’s pretty easy going to just toodle along. When I finally get out of the water I have my first experience of the water rushing out of inside the wetsuit, quite a bizarre sensation, one I imagine must be like having your water break when pregnant, a surprising gush.

We hit up a couple more snorkel spots that day and they are better than the first though the current is stronger so it’s harder work and then we find another safe harbour for the evening. A few beers, some more fantastic food and another amazing sunset ensue. Luke sets up a strong flashlight to shine down into the water in the hopes it will attract some fish for us to look at. At first only very small fish appear, then slowly slightly larger ones come, probably eating all those small fry, and then bigger ones again. This dance of consumption continues, the fish getting progressively larger and larger, some of them are almost 4 feet long, swooping and diving through the beam of light we have cast. We watch, enthralled, for quite some time until finally the early start today and the promise of another one tomorrow sends us off to our cozy bunks.

On our final day we get another quick snorkel stop in and then head to a large sandspit where we will spend the morning exploring, snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding. There is also a chance we’ll see turtles here, something that all of us are pretty excited about. We all attempt to paddle board and when we suck at it the boards turn into a lazy way of snorkeling, we lie on top of them, 3 to a board and while one person paddles (sitting of course) the other two hang off the side hitching a ride, masks down, we’re on a turtle hunt. We do end up seeing some but only from far away when they poke their heads up out of the water to draw air, we paddle and swim furiously to get to where they were seen but by then they were gone so no real luck. But we have fun, lots of laughing and are surprised when our time is up and we have to head back to the boat. Sailing back to Airlie Beach we are all very happy with this trip, it was comfortable, the food and company was great and Luke and Lauren were fantastic at what they do and fun to boot.

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From Nusa Lembongan I head back to Bali and then get myself up to Padang Bai. I’m planning on heading to Lombok from here in a week or 10 days so it’s a good place to rent a motorbike and head out to explore the north of Bali. I’m a little worried about not having that International Drivers License but after some research online and a short, friendly discussion with the local police here I decide to risk it, even if I do get stopped it’ll likely not cost me more than 50,000 rupiah (about 5 dollars). So with my big pack between my knees and my little pack on my back I aim for Tulamben. I’ve read that there is a wreck from WWII just a few meters offshore and I want to snorkel this as I haven’t seen a wreck before.

It’s a beautiful drive up the coastline, I pass through villages, drive up and down curvy mountain roads and see plenty of rice paddies. I relish in the freedom of driving myself around by moto. Upon arriving in Tulamben I find a nice little spot to lay my head and meet 2 brothers from Hawaii and one of their girlfriends. They’re on a surf/dive trip around Bali and together with the guys who work at our guesthouse we make a big bbq fish dinner and sample Dua (not sure about the spelling). It’s a local alcohol that smells strongly of old fish, and tastes suspiciously like it as well. The taste lingers in your mouth long after you drink it. It comes beautifully packaged in a 3 gallon plastic jug, and at only about 5% alcohol content you need to drink a lot of this foul substance to feel any affects. I decline my second glass and opt for beer, being a girl I can get away with this, but the guys are not so lucky and one glass is constantly refilled and passed around the table in swift succession. The language barrier becomes less obvious the more we all drink and it turns into a fun evening.

The next morning I head out to rent some snorkel gear and go see this wreck. As the wreck is only about 10 meters away from shore and in approximately 4 meters of water I can just walk into the water from the shore. Easier said than done, it’s a windy day and the waves are crashing in. To make matters more difficult the beach is made up of baseball sized rocks. Valiantly I manage to get my fins on while being pummeled in the surf and almost losing my bikini top. Barring a bit of bruising on my shins I’m fine and make my way into the deeper water. There are a lot of divers around the wreck, obscuring my view with the bubbles from their tanks, plus with the water so choppy the visibility is not great, really I can’t see much of the wreck, if I didn’t know it was there I would probably have missed it. Figuring that this is not so awesome I head away towards where I have been told there are some really good coral formations. I swim and swim, battling current and waves, for over 20 minutes and find…nothing, just rocks. Exhausted, I am not a strong swimmer, I throw in the towel and drag myself out of the water. I spend 10 minutes hopping along the really hot, black rocks back to return my gear, soles of feet bruised and burnt. Oh well, mission attempted anyways.

Batur Volcano, seen from the eastern coastal road near Tulamben, Bali.

May 19 – 26, 2012.

Pualu Perhentian Kecil, it’s the small island and it’s beautiful. I spend a few days on my own, sun tanning, reading, eating well and I did meet a couple of lovely women from New Zealand but I was trying to keep it low key as those boys have been tiring me out. To restate a fact I keep having to learn, 40 year old people need to pace themselves a wee bit more then 20-somethings.  The boys join me and we get great bungalows on the middle path of the island, between the 2 beaches, long beach and coral beach.

At night we hang out on the beach, sitting around low tables in the sand smoking Shisha (hookas) and drinking “Monkey Juice” and coke. It’s Darraugh’s birthday while we are here and cake is not available so we buy him a deep-fried snickers bar and stick a bunch of candles in it, he was pretty pleased/embarrassed, the entire restaurant sings happy birthday to him.

We shell out for a snorkeling trip which is freaking amazing, the most beautiful coral I have seen so far, many little Nemos (clown fish) hiding out in sea anemones, giant clams, parrot fish and countless other things that I can’t name. We see a giant turtle, she’s probably about 30 years old and it’s one of the most blissful things I’ve ever experienced in the ocean, I could have watched her for hours… gliding along the bottom and then coming up for air, her head poking up out of the water just long enough to catch a glimpse of her without the distortion of water, I loved it.

I also swam with a shark, yup me, and a shark, in the same water not 4 meters from each other, I can’t believe it either. To be fair it was a so called “vegetarian shark” (that’s a joke I think), a black tip shark, over a meter long. I knew there was a chance that we would see sharks in this certain area we went to and quite frankly I almost didn’t make it into the water at all, but those beautiful boys were angels and surrounded me all sides as “bait” while we went looking for the sharks. We didn’t find any at first and the boys were pretty disappointed, I didn’t mind so much honestly. So we started heading back towards the boat, we kind of separated a bit at that point and then Julian came racing up to me, I heard him yelling “shark” through his snorkel and I literally almost jumped on top of him with fear. But he held on to me and showed me where the shark was. I was fascinated and terrified at the same time. My eyes were huge, my heart was racing and my breath was fast, I couldn’t let go of his arm, he let me hang on tight, god bless him, and we followed the shark as it meandered along the ocean floor about 4-5 meters away from us. Julian let me set the pace as we followed, never pushing me to get closer then I felt comfortable with, he was the perfect host and I cannot thank him enough, it was most definitely an experience I will never forget.

The Perhentians were perfect, crystal clear water, white sand, etc…I could have easily stayed longer and probably would have but it was a school holiday, all the guesthouses filled up for the weekend so we got kicked out of our rooms, forced onwards, and we were splitting up, heading in all different directions.