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Published: January 15th 2008
So, the greyhound delivered us (on the 8th Jan) to Airlie Beach after 10 hours on the road... we were pleased to find it was a little drier than in Cairns where a monsoon had hit just as we were leaving! On our first night we found a nice little Mexican restaurant where we had 'all you can eat chilli' for $8 ... and of course a jug of sangria! We met up with some friends we'd made in Cairns (Ian and Beavan) for a few beers in the bar at our hostel and 'Mama Africa's' or 'Safari's' as Sel insists on calling it!
On our second day we went down to the lagoon, had a wander along the beach and went into numerous tourist info places to find out about trips and get weather forecasts... we decided to stick around for a few days in the hope that the rain would clear (hmmmmmmmmmmmm). As V has been to the Whitsundays before and seen the view from Hill Inlet and Whitehaven beach as it looks on the postcards we didn't want to be disappointed! A last minute improvement in the weather forecast encouraged us to book a trip out to
the reef for the following day....
We were on the bus to the harbour at 7.30am and on the boat ('eye-spy') soon after - and managed to get a seat on the sun deck on the very top... it was actually sunny!!!! On the way out to the reef we stopped off at Daydream Island and Hayman Island to drop off and collect passengers, and after about 3 hours we arrived at the pontoon at Knuckle Reef. We chose ourselves a sexy stinger-suit - see photos! and went to get kitted out for our dive! This was gonna be Selina's first ever Scuba dive, and V's second, so were pretty excited and maybe a little apprehensive! It was really well set up so we could practice breathing on a platform in the water under the pontoon. We asked about jellyfish and they assured that there weren't any stingers around - and the instructor picked up a jellyfish that was swimming near us so we could touch it! We were both pretty proud to have held a jellyfish! We then had to sit on a ledge and all of a sudden we were off, being guided by an instructor ...
The coral was incredible (better than V had seen before) - so many different shapes - some really spikey, others like boulders, and lots of different colours - we really liked the bright blue one! The fish were pretty amazing too - very inquisitive! After a bit of a tour round the coral, our instructor let go of our hands and indicated that we should follow the group in front of us... so we started swimming... or we tried! I think I (V) had a bit too much air in my jacket because I was floating up which made things a little tricky! And then i got caught in a slight current... i didn't realise how much I'd moved upwards and all of a sudden I surfaced with the instructor, then another instructor appeared too and told our instructor to get back down straight away - at this point i'm thinking 'where's selina and the other 2 girls we were with?' and Sel was thinking 'where the hell is everyone?' - quite a scary moment there! It wasn't long and we were all back together again with the instructors dragging us along. Phew! After a bit more swimming around
we surfaced under the pontoon and couldn't believe that our 30 minutes had gone so fast! Definitely a major highlight of our trip so far!
Still in our sexy wetsuits we went for a bit of a snorkel and couldn't resist the slide off the pontoon into the water! We also managed to fit in a trip on the glass bottom boat and had a look in the underwater viewing platform under the pontoon. So we managed to get some photos of fish and coral... as you'll see! On the way back to Airlie Beach we saw Dolphins and Sel was lucky enough to see a turtle!
Back at the hostel it was apparent that the factor 30 wasn't enough for V's skin against the aussie sun! Oooops - a little burnt!
The following morning we popped down to reception - as we had on previous days, to extend our stay... to be told that they didn't have space for us and we had to leave - right now! A rude awakening! We packed up and went on a hunt for somewhere else and ended up in another backpackers place - a little cheaper but it was
so dark and everyone in our room seemed to just sleep so we were forever rumaging in our bags in the dark! Not fun!
Anyway, later that day we found an opal shop where we spent a while gazing at lots of stones while the shop owner kept dropping and dropping the prices... unfortunately Airlie Beach was full of backpackers, so no nice rich guys to buy us opals!
After waiting for the weather to improve (apart from the day of our reef trip it'd been dull and rainy) we decided we couldn't wait any longer and booked our Whitsunday Islands boat trip. Well, we picked the worst day of them all! It rained almost non stop - we were gutted! But we made the most of it, went snorkelling at Mantaray Bay where there were loads of fish, including the dopey looking Maori Wrasse! Which is massive with a flat ugly face! And there was quite a lot of coral there too. On Whitsunday Island itslef we walked up to the lookout to see Hill Inlet - I can't explain how gutted we were with the weather! So we're gonna go back - next time we happen
to be in Australia - and would advise anyone else to go in July - August time when the sky is clear and you can see all the patterns the sand makes under the water! (The way V saw it in 2004). We had a wander along Whitehaven Beach - famous for its very fine, white, silica sand before jumping back on the boat to Airlie Beach. Having checked out of our hostel that morning we were a little homeless and had to shower by the lagoon - before hopping on the greyhound again... to Hervey Bay!
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