I wrote this two month ago when M and I were on a journey back to where the last incredible three months first began – Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands in northern Queensland, Australia.
The weekend promised to be an exciting adventure, full of in-your-face and face-your-fears types of thrills. We boarded a bus at the Townsville Magnetic Island Greyhound station after a lovely ferry ride replete with snacks of salad and SunChips (and of course a couple glasses of delicious Riesling to wash it down). The bus headed due south, back to our formerly decided and spontaneously departed hometown of Airlie Beach.
The best part of the weekend? Aside from a measly bus fare and hostel fee, it’s was all free!!
Thanks to Max’s great work with YHA hostel Bungalow Bay Koala Village, we are going on a “famil,” where Max gained useful information about the day sailing trips he sells at work. Since I am his partner, his contact at the cruise company offered to comp my tickets as well. A huge thanks to Haylee and her team at Cruise Whitsundays for setting the weekend up for us!
Day One: Great Barrier Reef Adventure Boat
Off to a bit of a late start, Max and I ran frantically down Shute Harbour Road from our room at Magnums Hostel. We arrived at Abel Point harbor just in time to check in and collect our tickets from the Cruise Whitsundays kiosk. About twenty minutes later and we are gathering our two bags and walking down the ramp onto the three-decked cruiser. Immediately I took a pill to prevent seasickness and settled down with a few biscuits and coffee for breakfast.
The crewmembers were very friendly in welcoming us on the boat and as we drifted off toward Hamilton Island we received a handful of helpful safety tips and information about the rundown for the day. We stopped very briefly to pick up more passengers from their resorts on Hamilton Island and started to make our way out to The Great Barrier Reef.
This specific tour takes you to a remote area of the reef where they house Reef World, a floating facility of fun! Docking our huge boat next to the Reef World, we disembarked onto the buoyant jetty where we gathered the necessary supplies for the day: fins, snorkels, masks and stinger suits! For those who don’t know, Australia is home to two of the world’s deadliest jelly fish, the Box Jellyfish which is huge and quite hard to miss, and the scarier of the two is the Irukandji Jellyfish, no bigger than your pinky nail.
Before diving into the activities we decided to have a look at the underwater observatory, where we saw lovely striped and brilliantly colored species of reef fish. After spending some time admiring the underwater haven, we opted to have an early lunch and get the freshest of the food.
Back at the original boat (it stays connected the whole day so you can hop back and forth as you wish) we filled our plates with the lunch buffet: Chickpea salad, potato salad, cous cous, fresh mixed greens, roast chicken, fruits, and best of all – fresh shrimp! Although the food was not made for a five star restaurant, it did the trick – a full tummy of food and one Pure Blonde lager later I was ready to dive head first into the crystal clear waters of the snorkeling trail below.
As many of you know I am terrified of the ocean, but I was a brave soul and jumped right in and followed Max until we found ourselves over the reef surrounded by many species of fish. We explored until we began to get pulled by the current and were advised to head back to the boat. When we got back to the boat we had to try one of the novelty activities of this trip – sliding down a waterslide into the Great Barrier Reef. Had you told me I would be doing this two years ago I wouldn’t have believed it!
We fell fast asleep in the warm rays of sun on the trip back to Airlie Beach, and awoke to afternoon tea and headed happily back to our hostel. After grabbing a few beers and a yummy steak dinner at Beaches Bar on Shute Harbour Road we fell fast asleep.
Day Two: The Camira Sailing Adventure
The next day was also arguably the best. We were headed out on a trip with the lovely staff of The Camira, a bright purple, sleek and spacious sailing catamaran that boasts some of the fastest speeds of all the world’s commercial sailing vessels. She can reach up to 30 knots, and we were lucky enough to feel some of that power, but more on that soon.
The Camira is very different and gives a much more exclusive and intimate experience to passengers. As we took our shoes off upon boarding we got to know the handful of staff by name straightaway. Morning tea was served immediately and we sailed off to Daydream, one of many islands in the collection of the Whitsundays. Picking up only a handful of passengers using our portable dinghy, the sails were set and we sat back and relaxed as we headed for one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
Whitehaven Beach, infamously known as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beauty of this beach lies within its pearly white banks of sand made of nearly 100% silica, making it so fine it feels like baby powder between your toes! Building a sandcastle proved a challenge with sand so soft, so I decided to bury Max instead (even that was difficult because the sand kept slipping off of him)! When the hour long stop was over we headed back to our boat and were greeted with two welcomed treats: food and booze!
We piled our plates with the sizzling meats fresh off the barbie (cooked on-board by one of our fabulous crew members): steak, local mackerel reef fish, sausages and chicken! Pair that with a glass of white and Max and I were full on ready to take a nap – but not before the best part of the day! We once again put our stinger suits on and hopped into the tiny dinghy, which took us (terrifyingly) into the middle of the ocean along an uninhabited island to snorkel. Having to hop out in the deep water, I took a deep breath and held Max’s hand as I dipped my head down to see what was beneath.
Am I ever glad I did! There were beautiful big reef fish, pinks and purples and bright blues that were happily scurrying along around us looking for food without a care in the world. Luckily I got some great pics so I don’t have to explain the rest to you:
On the ride home we had the thrill of a lifetime – we caught the outskirts of an incoming storm and as the wind filled our sails we really built up a lot of speed. Our crewmembers urged us to go outside to enjoy this unique sailing experience. Ignoring the icicles running through our bodies from the strong gusts, Max and I stumbled clumsily along the top of the boat onto the trampolines on the front and plopped down violently as we reached a high speed of 21 knots. The trampolines, unfortunately, are made of criss-crossed material, which definitely lets water through. We were squealing with delight as we continued to hit waves and went flying around the trampoline. Ten minutes later a sopping wet Max and Kelly crawled happily back to the cabin, full of adrenaline.
The Camira was amazing – I highly recommend this to anyone looking for an adventurous and unique experience in the Whitsundays.
Again, a tremendous thanks to Haylee and crew for all of their help and we look forward very much to taking future trips with Cruise Whitsundays.