How you going guys?!
I am back safely from my 48 hours at sea aboard the catamaran PowerPlay. What an amazing experience! Consider yourself forewarned, you might need two cups of coffee for this one cause it’s a biggie!
Before we get started, the Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands, discovered by James Cook on “Whit Sunday” back in the late 18th century. Today it’s popular for sailing, diving/snorkelling, beaching and fishing. There are four resorts in the islands, most of which are very classy and cater to the rich and famous. Most people come to the Whitsundays to do a boat trip. Its northern Australia, basically the rainforest, so, you can imagine it’s humid, and about 30 degrees.
We departed at around lunch on Saturday, and we were immediately met with lunch and snacks aboard the boat, a sure sign of a good trip in my books. Our group was about 18 people, plus two hosts (Lily and Jaz), and our skipper (Damo). It was so multicultural, which really added to the experience. We were the only two Canadians, there was a girl from California, two girls from England, one from Ireland, one from France, a couple from Argentina, two girls from Israel, and a big group from Switzerland. And we were all basically doing the same thing-travelling the east coast, all in different forms. This meant we had lots to talk about, and many travel tips to share.
After we left Abel Point Marina, we sailed for about two hours to get to a dive/snorkel site off of Hayman Island. The Whitsundays is home to the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. You had the option to do an intro scuba dive, or a regular dive if you were certified, or snorkel. The site was described as “the aquarium of the Whitsundays” as it featured a balance of fish and coral. While I was a little hesitant at first, I opted to do the scuba dive. When we pulled up to the site, we hopped into the zodiac (known here as the tender), and Damo drove us over to this older, larger boat which basically hangs out at the site and waits for people to rendezvous with it. Once on board that vessel, we signed our lives away, and got an intro to scuba lesson. Our instructor had been diving since he was 12, and he made me feel a little more ease.
Then it was time to gear up. I was already wearing a wetsuit, and I was given flippers and goggles. Then, I had a weighted belt strapped around my waist. Next, I waddled over, and was sat down in front of an inflatable vest, oxygen tank and respirator contraption. I was belted into that. By the time I had it all on, I could hardly stand up! I worried that I would sink to the bottom and never be heard from again.
Finally we checked our respirators and marched to the back of the boat. We were told to jump in. I’ve never been so nervous, all I could think about was going through the ice with your skidoo suit on. I checked my respirator again, decided to have faith in my equipment, and took the plunge.
I floated to the surface! Yay!
We spent the next half hour exploring the many fishes and corals, at a maximum depth of about 10m. I seen some parrotfish and a Maori wrasse. Some of those clams which are like part coral. I also met Bubbles and all his friends, and a whole school of ones that sort of look like Flo. They could have been Sargent Majors, but I’m not sure. (Yes, I am referring to Finding Nemo characters). I also found Nemo! In an anemone.
After our dive, we returned to PowerPlay for afternoon tea, and began to head for where we would spend the night. This was the Nara Inlet on Hook Island. We had a lovely barbie for supper, which consisted of chicken, salad, rolls, etc.
Afterwards, we had apple scroll for dessert, and Damo gave a presentation on where we were, the history, and talked about some of the creatures we would see on Saturday’s snorkel, and trip to Whitehaven. We spent the rest of the night having a few hands of cards, it’s amazing how that stuff is universal. We also managed to attract some fish with the blue lights on the boat. The phytoplankton come to photosynthesize near the light, which attracts little fish then bigger fish, and sometimes dolphins and sharks!
Bed time was interesting, as we figured out where the “hot showers” were, and where we would be sleeping. The hot shower was a spray head facet, in the bathroom stall, as the floor had a drain. Limit of 1 minute. So basically just a de-salt rinse! We slept in a cabin downstairs, because when we booked we were a little nervous that it would be a wild party and we may have wanted space. It actually wasn’t a wild crowd, everyone was very chill, just looking to have a fun time. So, if we had known this, we would have opted to sleep in the galley as a giant slumber party. It was a lot cooler up there. Next time!
Sunday morning brought an early rise (6:30am), and fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast. Yum! We headed off for Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island.
We landed off of “Shit Beach”. I wish it had a prettier, less profane name, however, I am merely reporting facts, and that is what it is called. It’s rocky and small, and it’s in Tongue Bay, which is where the boats all come to dock. You then get on Whitsunday Island by tender.
Once on the island, there’s a short bush walk to a lookout and White Haven Beach. I took my pictures on my real camera, and my laptop is in storage in Sydney, so I’ll just have to do a gallery of missed photos when I get back to Sydney! I can tell you that we seen a “baby” golden orb spider (I dare you to look it up. The baby looked pretty adult to me!) and some goannas (iguanas). The view from the lookout was just incredible. So many swirling blue colours, mixed with white sand for kms. The sand is 98% silica, so it is incredibly white, and reflects so much light it doesn’t get hot.
We stayed down on the beach for an hour and a half. There was a few showers of rain, but it didn’t matter because I spent the whole time in the water anyways! Unfortunately I had to wear a stinger suit the whole time, but the water was less than waist height for a nice ways out so it meant you could swim, float and frolic away. The waves were much smaller and Florida-like than what we experienced in Surfer’s Paradise. I did see a stingray, and even though I knew it probably wouldn’t hurt me, I swam away from it without too close a look in case I gave it a fright.
Back on the boat, lunch was barbie chicken legs, ham, veggies, buns and salad. I have to say that after a few days of eating out, this home style cooked food was just so refreshing and nurturing.
After lunch Damo took us to a snorkel site for an hour, to look at some fish! So many fish!!! There was several parrot fish, and silver ones, and of every size. They don’t mind you at all, and they’re very curious. I had one swim right up to my face and make eye contact with me through my goggles. I got to swim along with them, and there was so many schools, it was just incredible. We also got to get up close and personal with a Queensland Grouper, whose name is Priscilla.
Read carefully: Priscilla had a mate, whose name was George. George was super friendly and curious with divers. People used to pet George. People use sunscreen and have other chemicals on their hands which aren’t good for fish. George got a facial cancer not unlike that of the Tassie Devil, except not contagious, and George died. He was 3 m long 😦 The interesting part, besides the lesson in don’t pet the fish, is that Queensland Grouper are hermaphrodites. So when George died, Priscilla being the largest fish of his harem, began to change into a male. She/he is now more colourful, and getting bigger, and will take over the harem! This is actually true. How interesting is that?
Before I knew it, I had spent an hour with my face in the water, and it was time to sail for where we would be spending the night. We headed back for Hayman Island, and found a cozy, calm inlet. We had some nachos (made on Doritos) to tie us over before supper. We also had the option to go for a swim or a paddle board off the boat, but I felt like I just got dry, so I passed, and just enjoyed the sunset and a game of Uno!
Supper was barbie steak and sausages, with feta, salad and glazed carrots.
After supper we just hung out, and had a chat. Most people were early to bed, but I got into a yarn with the girl from France, and we had a late night over glasses of goon! We were sat out on the back of the boat with the blue lights, and it was incredible! There was little swordfish type fish, and a whole school of small silver ones in a ball. The dolphins came and had a lunch, but we couldn’t see them very well, as they were further out. Giant trevalla came, also called GTs, and wow, they move fast! If you shine a flashlight on a school of fish, they come from nowhere like lightning and munch up their snack. Later in the night we also had lemon sharks, which are really little sharks, and they were closer to the blue light, so we got a good look as they circled their prey, pretty cool.
I think the highlight of the whole night though was the stars. Oh my god. I know we have good stars at home, but we don’t get the Milky Way like that. It was like a whole cloud, behind the stars, which was just glowing and sparkling. Our stars don’t sparkle like that. These were so close! It was every Australia Instagram picture I’ve wanted to experience since I’ve been here.
This morning we were up at the crack of dawn, literally, at 6am. Breakfast was fresh fruit salad and yogurt and cereal, and I was in a stinger suit, in the tender by 6:30am headed for a morning snorkel. Today we highlighted coral. There was light yellow, golden yellow, and florescent yellow. Purple, and pink and orange. Coral that waved like seaweed, coral that grew like bony coral, coral that grew like mushrooms, and coral that grew in great balls. It was a forest of coral. And each coral had fish living with it, its own little ecosystem. It was incredible. (I think the coral fascinated me even more than the fish to be honest).
Damo kept watch for hazards from the tender as we snorkelled, and dragged up back into it after an hour so we could head for Port of Airlie. We had lamingtons for morning tea, and I finished Go Set a Watchman from the back deck. It was a perfect way to finish a wonderful trip!
If you’re ever in the Whitsundays, one of these sailing trips is so worth the time and funds to include in your trip. I really cannot encourage you enough to do it!