We woke to our last Whitsundays Sunrise and had a Full English Breakfast before heading out on our kayaks. Once again we spotted turtles poking their heads above the sea level before dipping back down again. We saw sting rays dart about the sea bed in front of us and avoided stepping on them as we settled at the beach for our final hours in the Whitsundays.
I tried my hand at Paddle Boarding and then managed to slice my foot open on a rock whilst hunting for crabs which has ruled me out of trekking for a while. I did find some crabs though!
All in all, the Whitsundays has been one of the best experiences of my travels to date and I’d highly recommend it to anyone. In particular, I cannot recommend Summertime, our vessel, highly enough. The crew, diving, food and hospitality has been second to none and I’d be back in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
Once back on Airlie Beach we met up with our tour group and enjoyed a few last beers before we went our separate ways. It was truly an experience to treasure.
Although me and Hattie had both agreed that diving was a luxury we couldn’t afford, once we arrived at the reef we realised we’d been kidding ourselves. It would have been sacrilegious to come all the way to the Mecca of diving, and just snorkel. We wet-suited up bright and early and I jumped into the first dive.
The coral was as amazing as you’d expect. There was such a diverse range of life that I didn’t know where to look. I’d seen tropical fish before but the reef itself was absolutely incredible. Then came the moment I’d been waiting for as the lead diver motioned towards a large creature about ten metres away.
I’d finally swam with a turtle, a Loggerhead Turtle to be exact, much rarer at shallow depths compared to the Green Turtle. It was a dream come true and I spent the rest of the dive in absolute bliss.
Once we’d surfaced I gave my diving gear to Hattie as she prepared for her Discovery Dive, then headed off for a snorkel. The visibility was much better at these depths and I could easily find the specific things I wanted to see. First up I found a Cinnamon Clownfish, not your typical ‘Nemo’ but a good find all the same.
Afterwards came the Maori Wrasse, a fish that dwarfed all the other and demolished coral with its pneumatic drill of a mouth. I kept a safe distance from this one!
Unfortunately, my second full dive came and went without and major sightings, and I was even more annoyed that the other divers had seen Reef Sharks and Barracudas. I set off again with my snorkel to the deeper parts of the reef in search of another turtle. After an hour of persistence I found what I was looking for.
I dived again and again, swimming alongside it and trying not to lose the Green Turtle. Eventually he went too deep and I lost him in the poor visibility but I’d regained that ecstatic feeling and it remained for the rest of the day.
Once again, we were blessed by an incredible sunset and lay back and enjoyed the view. We definitely enjoyed the best the Whitsundays had to offer.
The morning finally arrived and we headed down to the harbour. The Whitsundays had been our most anticipated place in Australia so needless to say we were pretty excited. On the advice of my former boss, we had decided not to go on the standard booze cruise that most backpackers do and splashed out a little on more of a luxury boat. From the stories we had heard, we were more than happy to pay the little bit extra and actually be able to remember our time in the Whitsundays, rather than return to land with nothing but a massive mind blank and a hangover from hell. From the moment we set off it became apparent the decision was spot on.
Our boat, Summertime, was absolutely stunning. An old Crayfishing boat, she was a decent size for the twelve tourists on board and even came with a hot tub, kayaks, diving equipment and of course, an Eski to keep the ciders cold. However, our first day would spent on Whitehaven Beach, notorious for its white sand and aqua waters.
It was truly the most spectacular beaches I’d ever seen. We swam in the surf for an hour or so, playing with the sting rays and baby sand sharks. We were even fortunate enough to see a giant marble ray which are rare enough as it is, but this one stuck around for a good half hour, completely unfazed by the backpackers surrounding him from all sides.
Afterwards we relaxed on the beach and had some fun taking perspective photos, much like the Salar D’Uyuni in Bolivia, although the use of Vegemite was definitely unique to Australia.
Finally, as the sun began to set, we headed back to the boat and sailed towards our anchoring point amongst the islands. On the way the boat normally has the opportunity to take sunset photos and tonight was different in that regard. However, the sunset we ended up seeing was nothing short of epic. With all the photos we managed to take, you would think that no one put their cameras down. The reality was that it lasted for a full hour and only got better and better as the sun slowly disappeared.
The trip had started by exceeding all expectations we had of it. The Dolphins cruising around the boat as we went to bed only made things more surreal.