Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sailing the Whitsundays!

Today we returned from an amazing 3 day adventure sailing around the Whitsunday Islands!

The ship that we were lucky enough to frequent, the 'Solway Lass' really sold itself. Built in 1902, the 127ft tall ship has been in both world wars, battling for both sides at some time, or other as a Q-Ship. It has been sunk by a mine, re-floated, seized by the Germans, re-seized by the Brits, renamed and rebuilt 3 times!! It is literally a living memory of a bygone sailing era!

First stop for us was Whitehaven Beach which is on Whitsunday Island itself. A short guided bush walk took us up to a viewpoint. The photos will speak for themselves. Along the way we snacked on green ants (which taste of citrus) and steered clear of the huge (harmless*) 'golden globe' spiders that lined the route. Down on the beach the white silica sand was squeaky and cool under foot, and in the water we swam with sting rays and lemon sharks!! Great start!

(*We have learnt that when Ozzies say harmless, all they mean is non-deadly. They still bite!)

Over the trip we managed to get loads of snorkeling in! At first we were skeptical as we got sized off for our stinger suits (As it's Jelly Fish season) and the water was full of pretty big 'stingers'! But, apparently it is the ones that you can't see that you need to worry about! Box jellyfish were pretty rare in the areas we were, and irukandji (ear-ah-can-gee) are the size of the nail on your little finger so we decided it's not worth thinking about those!

Emma did hit some bad luck when a Blue Bottle jelly fish draped it's tentacle across her face! Ouch!! The bugger with stinger suits is that, if you do get stung, the chances of it being on your face/hand are pretty high! (A dutch guy had one wrapped around his hand-Niiiice). We put it down to character building. ;)

We snorkeled maybe five or six sites along the barrier reef and each one was surprisingly different from the last. We saw sting rays, lemon sharks, giant turtles, many jellies, and countless fish that we struggle to remember the names of! Most of the cast of Finding Nemo made an appearance for us, including the amazingly friendly Elvis, and Nemo himself. Very lucky for us Bruce (Great White Shark) didn't turn up and spoil the party! "I'm having fish tonigghhht".

As well as the marine life, the coral was spectacular and we had to make extra sure our feet were well clear of the clams as they snapped close when we swam past. This was especially the case in Blue Pearl Bay. The clams were huge! Blue Pearl Bay was where I sneaked off for a first time scuba dive down to about 14m. The visibility was incredible, and I had to muscle my way through a school of Jelly Fish. They were pretty harmless though, as we discovered after picking them up and passing them to each other like a hot potato!

In the evenings, we made the most of the 50ft Tarzan Rope Swing, and the cheapest bar out of Airlie Beach. We found that they went fairly well, hand in hand! The trip came with many memories and here are a couple of our favourites...

-Helping hoist the 10 huge sails to the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean.-Seeing a giant turtle eat a jelly fish. Who knew?
-Looking across a stunning Whitehaven Beach.
-Meeting such a plethora of personalities and great people! (We met people from USA/Canada/Mexico/Denmark/Columbia/France/Spain/OZ/NZ!!). We now have pretty much unlimited accommodation on offer if we decide to take another gap year!

I think it goes without saying that we whole heartily recommend this trip out of Airlie Beach! It has been an experience that has far exceeded our expectations.

Now we are heading South where we hope the crazy flooding across the Bruce Highway has subsided! Wish us luck!!