Archives for posts with tag: Whitsundays

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 Alice Springs I fly to Cairns. I’m in Queensland now and it’s much more up to date here then it was in the Northern Territories, there are healthy food choices and stores actually stay open past 8pm and on Sundays. I spend almost a week here and see absolutely nothing. Sometimes it just happens that way. I hung around the pool at the hostel, met people, drank wine (oh sweet glorious wine) and just basically chilled out.  My impression of Cairns is not fantastic though, too touristic and I don’t find that the women that live and work there are very friendly to me, they are to the guys I mention this experience too, but not to me. I don’t get this, I’m nice and friendly and I tip well so really what’s the deal? Nowhere else in Australia did I experience this, I won’t take it personally though, there is no point. This is a party city, a big drinking, clubbing, hook up scene complete with bar brawls, half naked women, and an awful lot of rugby players, not my deal at all. I’m killing a bit of time here because I don’t want to rush south too quickly or I’ll catch the cold weather. But, eventually I get restless and start on my journey south.

My first stop was in Townsville where I planned to spend the night before I could get over to Magnetic Island. Once on Magnetic Island I find a hostel and settle in for a few nights. I meet some people and we play trivia one night in a bar and win! I guess all that useless information in my brain IS good for something. Also I get to hang out with lizards, snakes and birds, I’m even allowed to cuddle with a koala!

Back to Townsville and then a bus to Airlie Beach. I spend a couple days doing research to decide which boat I am going to travel on to see the Whitsunday Islands. There are so many to choose from it’s overwhelming, such a variety of information and options and price ranges. Do I want the party boat, no. Do I want good food, yes, but it’ll cost me. Do I want to dive, big no. Do I want to go to the Great Barrier Reef or just stay on the inner islands, hmmm not sure, need to do more research. Do I want 1 night, 2 nights or 3? Do I want a sailboat or a motorized boat, again, don’t know. I do finally make a decision, choosing to go with a group called iSail Whitsundays and I think I made an almost perfect choice. Just check out this boat that I got to spend 2 nights on!

Australia 2012 219