Sailing the Whitsundays

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October 9th 2009
Published: October 10th 2009
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Upon arriving back from Fraser Island we jumped on an overnight bus for the gruelling 13 hour trip up to Airlie (pronounced early) Beach for our departure point to the Whitsundays. There are many boats sailing from Airlie Beach so we had decided to wing it and try and get a good standby rate for a boat or one of the island resorts when we got there. We didn't have our heart set on sailing partly due to previous sea sickness and also because most of the boats are maxi yachts, involving pretty cramped conditions, but when a travel agent proposed Whitsunday Magic it seemed like an excellent idea and we couldn't refuse the offer. Whitsunday Magic is a beautiful tall ship with plentiful space, a large sun deck, private ensuite cabins and a restaurant/bar area indoors. It was a bit pricier than the other ships but Sarah had fallen in love at first sight and Joey just couldn't disappoint her so they set sail for a 3 day, 3 night tour.

The Whistsundays are a group of 74 islands off the coast of Queensland discovered by Cook on Whitsunday sometime around 1770, although there had been an aboriginal presence for many years. They are a popular holiday spot for Aussies, who normally stay on the islands, whilst all the tourists cruise around them. They are fringed by the Great Barrier Reef so have excellent diving/snorkelling opportunities and some of the islands are home to beautiful white sandy beaches.

We were welcomed aboard late afternoon of our first day by our 6 crew members (including a dedicated bar person, always good) and met the rest of the people on our boat. There were 26 others, an engaging bunch, and it seemed we were on a bit of a love boat with 3 honeymooners and 2 engagements on board! Soon after the introductions the first of the many eating opportunities began (we had breakfat - contiental and cooked options, morning tea - i.e. cake, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner each day, heaven) and the food certainly was of a very good standard, an excellent marriage of good ingredients and good cooking. The evenings on the boat were generally very leisurely, with a cocktail or glass of wine during happy hour (starting at 5pm) followed by more eating, drinking and merriment of the Uno (a card game) variety.

On our first full day we hit the reef. We started off going for a snorkel before doing an introductory scuba dive. As some of you may know Sarah actually has her PADI but as she hadn't taken her card and did it 6 years ago so couldn't remember what to do (not recommend when breathing underwater is required) she joined Joe on the intro dive also. It was a good experience but Joe is not sure he'd do it again, wasn't so very keen on the breathing underwater thing. In any case you get to see so much just snorkelling here that you aren't missing out. We saw loads of different types of fish including parrot fish, butterfly fish and anemone fish (think Nemo) plus lots of vividly coloured coral. We stopped for lunch after which most other people went for another dive or snorkel, but we took the opportunity of a quiet boat to get a prime sundeck spot and do some more sun worshipping.

On the second day the main focus was to visit the world famous Whitehaven Beach. You may recognise it from photos showing crystal clear blue waters swirling over sand banks. It is reportedly the second best beach in the world, due to the high silica content of 99%, which meant that it gleamed sparking white like a diamond ring. In the morning we docked in a bay home to sea turtles, of which we glimpsed a few, to go to a lookout over Hill Inlet to see the beautiful swirling sands at one end of the 7km beach. Luckily for us the dust clouds from the storm (which shut down Sydney - think it was in the news back home) lifted overnight so we could actually see the view, which had been largely obscured for much of the previous few days. In the afternoon we sailed to the other end of the beach to actually have some time on the beach. It was a very special, beautiful place.

On the last day we literally set sail, with both Sarah and Joe having a go at hoisting the sails, which we can tell you is no mean feat, on our journey back to Airlie Beach. We were very sad to leave the Whitsunday Magic, it was a truly brilliant and memorable trip, so relaxing and enjoyable with stunning views, great company, wonderful food and attentive staff. Totally worth the few extra dollars, and potentially our favourite time of the whole 5 month trip.

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