15 July 2012

Paradise: Found

28 - 30 June -  I owe a huge thank you to TripADeal.com.au for introducing me to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands! I'd never heard of this gorgeous chain of islands in the Great Barrier Reef until I purchased a deal for a 2 day/2 night sailing adventure aboard Tongarra. Tongarra is a bright red catamaran that caters to backpackers looking to have a good time in the islands.

Of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, we hopped on land at just one - Whitsunday Island - to have a relaxing morning on world famous Whitehaven Beach. After about a 9 hour trip from Airlie Beach on board, we anchored for the night just offshore so we could be the first ones on the beach the next morning. It was worth it! This 7 Km long beach has the purest silica sand found anywhere in the world - 99%! The next purest is also found in Australia, and is just 75% silica. Beyond being gorgeous, it has many benefits for us beachgoers:
1. It doesn't get hot, so you can stand in one spot on a hot summer day without burning your feet! a definite NEED in the Aussie summer!
2. It's a natural exfoliant. Sit down in the shallows, grab a handful of wet sand and scrub away. My feet felt amazing after my little spa treatment!
3. I'm told it polishes gold and silver jewelry better than any product on the market. While I didn't have any jewelry with me, others tried it and left with rings and bracelets that looked new.

 After a morning on the beach, we swam back out to the boat and motored over to our first snorkel spot. There was a bit of reef, tons of little fish, and a resident Maori Wrasse - commonly known as a Napoleon Wrasse in the northern hemisphere. I stayed in the water for about an hour just checking out the fish. I really wished for SCUBA gear, but soon enough; I'd be diving in just 2 days on the outer reef!! That night was a great party. Most of my fellow sailors had just finished the school semester and were traveling up the coast from Brisbane to Cairns. We drank, we danced, we played games, and we laughed. We laughed a lot. I made some great new friends, some of whom I hope to see when they go back to Brisbane! The next morning was our second snorkel - which I slept through!! No worries though, I'm told it was cold, there was a strong current, and not many fish. The first snorkel site was better according to the others, so I didn't care that I got some extra sleep instead! Then we just had a relaxing cruise back to the mainland. The crew did put the sails up for a bit, but there was literally no wind the entire time. They say "good weather, shit sailing. Shit weather, good sailing." I prefer the good weather, so I was pleased with the trade off! I did get to drive the boat for a bit as well which was exciting even though we were just slowly motoring along. An excellent 2 days, well worth the trip up from Brisbane. Great crew, fun people and an all around sensational time.

UP NEXT: SCUBA diving the outer reef!!

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