Airlie Beach and Whitsundays: Swimming with Finding Nemo's friends

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Oceania » Australia » Queensland » Whitsundays
September 9th 2012
Published: September 12th 2012
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The overnight journey was event less and we arrived at Airlie in the morning, allowing plenty of time to check in the boat, leave our packs at our hostel and grab some alcohol before boarding our catamaran just after lunch. We were introduced to our fellow ten travellers and two crew. We hadn't known what to expect really, whitsundays is on every backpackers list but also on most Australian's to do list, we chose a non party boat, of which there were not many.

So we expected a group of older people and only bought alcohol so we had something of a distraction, but we were pleasantly surprised to be amongst our own, all twelve of us were early twenties and either backpacking or working with the one year visa. We hadn't afforded the private room and were gutted to realise the table we were all congregated at would be our sleeping quarters along with two others and the two crew! Ah well as long as we could get some sleep it wouldn't matter!

We all sat out on the deck as our skipper, Nick, informed us that we would be sailing all afternoon and no activities in the water meaning we could all enjoy an afternoon beverage! We supped beer and enjoyed our fairly smooth sail through the reef past several of the 74 small islands that make up whitsundays. We passed a school of dolphins that got us thoroughly excited! It became a little too choppy for Lauren after two cocktails so she lay down on the seats until we had some healthy snacks watching the sunset, dinner was a fantastic a Thai green curry with salad. We chilled out on deck for a while chatting amongst friends before settling down to bed.

An early morning, the only issue sleeping in the saloon the first person up meant everyone up! After breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal and croissants we were taken in the little tug boat to the island home to Whitehaven beach. We had to move quick as a big boat of 60 passengers were getting ready to anchor! We headed up to the view pint of the lagoon when Lindsay at the front exclaimed there was a snake! Lauren quickly asked if it was really a lizard but we all saw with our own eyes it was a snake! Hurrying past, screaming inside, we quickly moved through the rainforest and relieved to get to the top! Unfortunately the day had started pretty gloomy and it wasn't altogether that impressive but onwards to the beach! We reached it and six of us spent the morning exploring, having a thousand silly photos and wading in the water between sand flats even having fun taking shots of passing sting rays! We clambered over rocks and fairly large colonies of crabs before we reached a secluded part of the beach. The day fully brightened up and we felt like we were in paradise. We soaked up the sun for over an hour and washed our jewellery in the sand as it is 99% silica.

We knew we were being spoiled and no beach would ever come close to this again! Ben and two girls, Lindsay and Felicity, wanted to swim over to more sand as the tide had started to come in but Lauren, Gus and Jess thought it was further than it looked and pretty deep. Most of the water across the whole beach and bay was clear tourquoise but for a small stretch here it was pretty dark! Onward they swam which they admitted was further! They walked about a bit but as they had to come back, Lindsay was sure something was in the water, having convinced her to swim back Ben saw something jump as they climbed out- although he swears he doesn't know what is was! We headed back to the main beach, comprising 7km and not your usual narrow beaches but huge stretches of sand, and decided we would quickly go back to the viewpoint as the sky was so much clearer! It was definitely worth it, passing a lizard and an iguana and we all had our breaths taken away as we saw the same view as before but with such clear skies! It was simply stunning and we saw a few rays below in the water and got some fantastic photos.

Back at the cat we sunbathed on deck before having a salad buffet that was very tasty. Deciding we would all sink as we snorkelled we had eaten that much we suited up as its stinger season! We took to the water and oh god it was so cold! Thank god for the suits! We had a good old snorkel absolutely astonished by the clear water and amazing coral reef. We knew the Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world seen from space but this was even more that that! We thought the water in Thailand was clear, it wasn't a patch on this! We saw many a fish from Finding Nemo even the coral Nemo sleeps in breathing underwater. Then we heard a shout "Turtle" we flipped as fast as we could and came up close and personal with the sea turtle, so much bigger than we had imagined! Our very own Crush! We duck dived for some underwater photos with him helped by Erica, the hostess of the cat. He was as dozy as they are represented, something to do with the food they eat making the effect of cannabis!

We headed back after an awesome time and got warm in the onboard hot tub! We had some biscuits and decided right there this was the life! We sailed a little more before coming to another popular snorkel place. But by popular we mean one or two other yachts nothing like a crowd or anything! We decided we would take the opportunity to go in the clear kayak! Most guys went snorkelling again and we joined them in the kayak! Lauren taking photos and Ben paddling. The coral was fantastic again through the kayak although there didn't seem a such marine life beyond that. Back at the cat we went in the hot tub with drinks in hand with another perfect sunset!

Dinner was lasagne and salad and then we headed outside for a cheeky game of Ring of Fire! Well anyone who has played this tends to know how it ends! We managed to convince Erica and Nick to join us and we had an absolute blast with stupid drinking rules the highlight having to drink under your own leg, then under someone else before having your drink being force fed by someone else! More rules were as crazy with someone nominated as monkey running pointless errands and general causing a menace but at least we couldn't get in trouble in the middle of the ocean! With sore heads we retired to bed before another early morning.

The cure for the ensuing hangover- early morning snorkelling! We got some hopefully great shots with our disposable camera and couldn't believe how shallow the water was making us very close to the coral which can be fatal if you cut yourself deep enough! Ben saw a jelly so we retreated for breakfast and showers! The rest of the morning was chilling out on deck making our way far too quickly back to the port!

The rest of the day was a chill out for us, checking in at the hostel, a fairly decent place for the price and grabbing a cheeky McDonald's, before some well earned rest while our washing dried. We headed out for dinner intending to meet the others as rugby was being played but we got distracted by a restaurant. We had another fairly expensive meal but it was so worth it! Ben had a gorgeous Angus burger but Lauren's was the highlight, lamb with sweet potato and pumpkin plus homemade mint sauce. But the lamb was cooked on volcanic hot rock so she could cook it to her perfection, she caramelised the veg and it was delicious! Dessert was ice cream and treats on the opposite- ice cold rock! We headed for an early night before our long day trip north to Cairns, our last long distance journey that would be the beginning of the end of our love affair with Australia.

Things of note:

Whitehaven is the beach to go to and we completely understand why!

There are two main islands here, Hamilton and Hayman, the latter you cannot go to without reservation at around £1000 a night, you can only dock if someone is seriously sick and even then only the sick person can get off, even the staff move through underground tunnels so as to not spoil the illusion, they have an adjoining island that was blocked from building on and home to a world class golf course.

The boat had blue lights to attract fish at night and it was stunning with loads of little silver fish swimming around.

We swam with fish as long as two foot long, if you had told Lauren that before she left she would have laughed into next week, same said for walking past a snake!

The cat we were on wasn't that elaborate yet it cost £500,000, Ben better get working hard as he wants one but he thought only cost about £50,000!

What would we do differently:

We would have loved a longer trip but perhaps the lazing on the boat would have bored us, and a private cabin but in the end that probably wasn't worth the extra money!

Thefts: 1 our towel got blown off the deck we think as it went missing as we were leaving!

Near Misses: 0 we saw plenty of wildlife but all seemed pretty tame!

Fallouts: 1 as Lauren accused Ben of not securing the towel on hence the thing blowing off!

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