Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Whitsundays



The Whitsundays are a group of islands just off the North East Coast of Australia towards the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. Much like Fraser Island I did a 3 day/2 night sailing trip around the islands so I could see what this place was all about.

I choose to do the eco tour of the islands. I am not really sure why it was an eco tour and when I asked the captain why this tour was an eco tour he just said it was because they gave us a bit of information about the island. I didn’t really understand this and thought it was just as environmentally friendly as any of the other trips I had done and didn’t see how telling me about fish made it especially ‘eco’. I was a bit confused, but accepted it never the less.

The boat had 20 or so people on all from various parts of Europe. First thing we did was get checked into our cabin. At this point I was still travelling with Paul and Laura so Tommy and I shared a cabin at the very front of the boat with them. It was all very cosy with not really too much room to move but I thought was pretty cool sorted out my stuff and then headed out on deck to get to know some of the people I would be spending the next 3 days in very cramped conditions.

One of the reason I wanted to do the 3 day sailing trip was that there was the option to do some snorkelling round the various coral reefs scattered all over the area. I had been wanting to do some more snorkelling after my first snorkelling experience in Thailand. This time however there was the added danger of jelly fish and other stingers so I had to wear a very flattering stinger suit to protect me neck to ankles from any possible stings. Something else I didn’t really appreciate so much at the time when I was in Thailand was how warm the water was, as the water around the Whitsundays was absolutely freezing. As the cold is my mortal enemy this spoilt it for me a little bit but the snorkelling was still quality.

The first site we went to had so many fish at it was crazy. The second snorkelling site on day 2 would have been totally pants were it not for the massive turtle I stumbled across swimming about the reef. It was huge and I followed it for a good few minutes trying not to intimidate it too much just encase it ate me. The third site didn’t have as many fish but had so much different types of coral it was awesome. I also took my camera out with me here as I borrowed a girl’s underwater pouch. So the video at the top here was taken at the third site we went to. There was the option to go to a fourth snorkel site but by the time we got there I had warmed up nicely in the midday sun and was fairly snorkelled out for the day so thought I would sack it off and just lie in the sun. Paul went out and by the sounds of it, it was pretty awesome but he said it was possibly the coldest he had ever been. So I think I made the right decision.

The trip was almost split into 2 parts. The first day and a half was just sailing around, firstly sailing around to the snorkelling sites and then once we had done all the snorkelling we sailed to Whitsunday Island to spend a few hours around what can only be described as paradise.

Whitsunday Island was well worth travelling half away around the world to see. It had the softest whitest sand and perfect crystal clear waters. I spent 3 hours paddling in the water sitting in the sand and playing catch with a Mr. Potato head. I then went for a walk around the water to try and find some sharks and stingrays which I did but I could never get that close to them as they were quite scared of me and kept swimming away. It was so nice and I spent a good half hour sitting in the shade under a rock looking out over the place thinking how nice it was and also whether or not I would ever come back here. One downer to the 3 hours spent there was that I managed to slash the bottom of my foot open on the rocks. While it was only a little cut it stung like an absolute bastard and continued to sting for the next few days thanks to all the salt water all over the place.

After the few hours in the water one of the crew took us on a short walk around the island to a lookout point on the island as well as take us to a few point of interest along the way pointing out tree, animals and various aboriginal things. At one point the guide stopped us to point out an ants nest that had been made from a few leafs stuck together with something. He then went on to say how these ants were a good source of vitamins for the Aboriginals back in the day as Ants produced vitamin C or something like that so they would often crush them up with a bit of water for a little vitamin drink. He then said how they also taste like lemon sherbet. He then picked one of the ants up and told me to lick it. Slightly apprehensively I gave the ants arse a little lick and it tasted exactly like lemon sherbet. It was well nice and the group spent the next few minutes licking ants’ arses. So as well as eating snake in Vietnam I have also tried Ant in Australasia.

The nights were spent sitting on the deck sipping cheap wine and looking up at the stars. I had made the decision not go on a ‘party boat’ as I had paid the $400 to see the Whitsundays and not spend my time getting pissed and sleeping in till 12 everyday, I can do that at home. So the nights were fairly chilled, maybe a little too chilled as it was lights out at 10.30, you could stay up if you wanted but kept being told ‘shhh’ by the sleeping crew every so often.

The definite highlight of the trip for me was that I somehow managed to get the drive the boat for a whole hour around the Whitsundays. The boat was a sailing boat but when there was no wind the captain obviously had to switch to the motors. It was towards the end of the last day of the trip and while I was getting changed after Whitsunday Island everyone got the chance to go up one by one for a photo opportunity steering the boat. It must have been because I went up last but when I went up for my photo I just ended up steering the boat for the next hour while the captain give me a quick lesson and the odd tip as to what to do while occasionally disappearing leaving me to my own devices. It was amazing and I was literally sailing the boat off into the sunset. I couldn’t believe I was getting to drive this massive 17.5 meter yacht around the Whitsunday’s. It was pretty easy and I was surprised to find that the boat had it’s own special sat-nav telling it where to go as well as how deep the water beneath it was. After I had sailed the boat I asked where I had driven around and as you can see from the little map it was at the top end of the Islands around Cook Island. I took the boat to the place we were going to drop anchor for the night and the Captain did the last little bit and brought the boat to a stop. It was quality.

Unsurprisingly The Whitsunday’s was a brilliant. Not only was it absolutely baking giving me a much needed fix of sunshine it was also beautiful. At times I did feel very seasick so probably won’t be jumping at the opportunity to go on a sailing trip again however a few minutes stating at the horizon normally sorted this out. However I have some great memories of the Whitsundays and is a definite highlight of my time in Australia.


4 comments:

  1. Awesome pics Rob!
    Wish I was still traveling!
    Bex!
    xxx

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