Saturday, 25 July 2015

Whitsunday Islands

Following on from my whistle stop jaunt on Magnetic Island it was now time for me to travel to Airlie Beach ready for my Whitsundays adventure. For the next three days I would spend my time on the S.V Atlantic Clipper with 54 other people whilst we sailed around the Cumberland Islands, or the Whitsundays as most people know them as thanks the the largest island in the chain, Whitsunday. 

After setting sail we took to the waters for a few glorious hours under the baking sun whilst lapping up the views; miles and miles of rolling waves reflecting the shimmer of the sun, with the horizon interspersed with greener than green islands like the backbone of a underwater sea creature coming up for air. Once we had reached the resting spot for the night, in a pass between Whitsunday and Hook Island it was time to don the not-so-flattering wet suits, skid down the slide and into the royal blue waters beneath us. Little did we know that this area was a haven for sharks at certain points of the year - perhaps had we known that we wouldn't have been so eager to dive in! 

The next morning, after an evening of good food, a few drinks and games, we were off to visit world famous award-winning Whitehaven Beach. The sand here is 98% silica and is so pure that it is actually protected meaning to knowingly take even a grain away would be illegal. 

*Fun fact: The only time sand has ever been removed was by NASA for use in satellite dish reflectors!* 

We went to the northern end of the beach where Hill Inlet is where the tide shifts the sand and water to create a beautiful fusion of swirling colours. Although the weather wasn't that great, the sand was still almost luminescent in its purity and the water crystal-clear. Not a bad place to spend the morning! After spending some time there, the next stop was Hayman Island which is the playground of the rich and famous. The afternoon was spent snorkelling in the bay with, at times, a mere meter between us and the reef. Even though I scuba dived in Cairns, the view will never get old and it is so fascinating to observe reef life and to appreciate the beauty of nature. The fish are naturally inquisitive so, within the safety of the shoal, they followed us around as we floated in the current and at one point we were the central focus of around 100 different fish with one brave fish even nibbling at my bare foot! 

That night as we were sat above board clinging onto the last of the day's warmth, a feeding frenzy took place right by the side of the boat! Five reef sharks, all around 1.5 metres in length, were hunting a small shoal of fish and we had front row seats. It was absolutely fascinating to see from above how perfect their hunting tactics were in order to maximise the catch. Irrespective of our misconceptions about sharks, there is no denying the fact that these predatory animals are incredibly smart. This went on for around ten minutes then, with all the fish snapped up, they withdrew back into deeper waters. The evening then progressed into final-night celebrations with party games, music and fancy dress! 

As we made the journey back to Airlie Beach the following morning, I took the time out (whilst sat in the jacuzzi at the front of the boat!) to appreciate the natural beauty and restorative peace that my trip to the Whitsundays has offered me. The adventure has allowed me to indulge in some quality time spent in Australia's backyard learning about the history of the country, the fragile natural world with which it epitomises and also how we act in order to ensure the future of this amazing place is preserved.