We're so close we can almost taste it!

Trip Start Apr 30, 2011
Trip End Dec 08, 2011

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Booked up our Whitsundays Trip!!

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's 7am and we arrive in Airlie Beach. To be honest we were expecting the worst.  We'd heard a few horror stories from other travellers who had already passed through about the kind of crowd it attracts and the perils of staying in hostels here. Joe and Nathan (our fellow Bristolians) even checked out of their dorm here at 2 in the morning because they couldn't bare it any longer. We thought we'd go to the relative safety of the YHA, hoping we wouldn't find ourselves resorting to having to check out in the early hours of the morning too! But to be doubly sure, we gave the dorms a miss and checked into a private room.
Our plan was to try and book a tour up soon after we arrived. Despite the coach journey being better than we thought, the Aussie coaches have nothing on the South American ones when it comes to over night travel! We were pretty knackered, but were hoping to get on a tour that afternoon, or if not the day after. By this point, we only had a couple of weeks left, so didn't have much time to hang around in Airlie Beach. 
We headed straight up the high street, and there were just tonnes of booking agents to choose from. We'd heard that the booking agents make a fortune from selling Whitsundays trips by adding their own huge profit margins on each trip. This isn't exactly surprising, but we had a rough idea of what a standard trip costs, and its frustrating when you know they are adding at least $150 per person on top of that! Despite that, we were hoping we might be able to get a good last minute deal, or get the agent to come down in price. 

 We went into one agent that our Lonely Planet had recommended. We told the lady in there roughly what we were after, but were too late to get on any trips today. She showed us a lovely boat that was leaving in a couple of days, but it was $400 for a 2 day/2 night trip. She told us she would normally charge $485 for this trip, but we didn't want to commit, it being the first place we went into. Another reason we didn't want to immediately go for it was that we had decided that we ideally wanted a boat that went out to the Outer Reef. Bill from Flashpackers had told us that most of the boats just go out to the 'standard' reef. But because of the numbers of boats that flock to The Great Barrier Reef, and have been for years, and the number of people that get into the waters wearing suntan lotion, deodorant, perfumes etc, it means that the waters now are far from clear, and actually means when you are diving or snorkelling you don't get to see very much because the water is too cloudy. But he told us that if we managed to get on a trip to the Outer Reef, we would massively see the difference in the water quality, and once underwater, would be able to see as far as the eye can see. The reason being that the Outer Reef is simply much further out, and many of the trips don't have time to get all the way out there on a 1 or 2 day trip, so the water and corals there are fairly undisturbed. 
Next we headed to an agent that the girl in the YHA had recommended to us. She had said the guy there can sometimes do quite good deals. By now we had more of an idea of what we wanted from our trip, and when we told him we wanted a trip for less than $250, and that we wanted to go as far as the Outer Reef, he told us that narrowed our choice down to 3 boats! At least that should make our decision easier!
We dismissed one of the boats straight away. as it was just too expensive.That left us with a catamaran called the Emperors Wings, and a sailing boat called The Anaconda. He was trying to sell is the Anaconda from the start, as he told us it was his 'friend' that run it. When we weren't convinced, he just kept dropping the price down. He even started throwing in a free dive each! At this point we were talking $325 for a 3 day 3 night trip. Knowing that when things sound too good to be true, they are (!) we questioned him about the boat further. He assured us it was not a party boat (something we told him we didn't want) and that there was lots of room on board. We managed to get it out of him that it cost an extra $20 each to hire a wetsuit, but he insisted there was no need to wear a wetsuit a the waters were not that cold this time of year. Yeah right!
We then enquired about Emperors Wings. Slowly, this price came down too, but he was very dismissive of it, and kept telling us why we should go for the other one. We didn't trust this guy very much, so we told him we needed to mull it over and that we would go and grab a bite to eat. This of course we didn't do, and headed back up the high street again. We randomly came to a stop outside another agent, and a nice guy came out and asked us if we needed help in booking a trip. Again, we explained we wanted a trip that went to the Outer Reef, and he laughed and said that narrowed it down from hundreds of boats to just 3. We went inside and he showed us the same 3 boats as before. We explained that we had just come from up the road, and what we had been offered. He looked at us and said, "You guys don't want to do The Anaconda. It's the biggest party boat going and you'll wonder how you ended up at the school disco. It's also very cramped. You're much better suited to The Emperors Wings." Well, that was that then! He continued to explain that he had done a trip on The Emperors Wings himself with his girlfriend, and that they absolutely loved it. He said it was a beautiful boat and had plenty of space on board. It was also a great boat for diving and snorkelling, as much of the trip is centred round that. We immediately took a liking to this guy, and wanted to book our trip through him as he'd been so helpful. We told him we'd been offered the trip for $385 for the 2.5 day/3 night trip. And we had no idea if this was a good price or not! He sat behind his computer for a while, calculating some prices, and then said that if we'd been offered 385 for the trip, then to hurry and take it! He explained how the agents work, and how they calculate their profits. He told us that the absolute minimum they can walk away with is 10%, and if he was to offer us the trip at $400, he had already dropped below his 10% requirement. The price in the official brochure for this trip is $585, although we doubt many people actually pay this, he had no idea how this other guy was able to offer it to us for the price he had! He told us to check that the reef tax was included, and if it was then to not hesitate to book it. We were actually a little bit gutted, because we wanted to book through him, but the fact the other one was cheaper meant the decision had been made.
We headed back to the first guy as promised, and he looked very pleased to see us. However not so much when we told him we wanted to book up the Emperors Wings! We checked that the $385 included everything, which it did. So we booked up. Only problem was that it didn't leave until Tuesday, and came back Friday morning. But we were too tired to care by now. It would give us a couple of days in Airlie Beach to relax, and then hopefully have the time of our lives on the Emperors Wings. We paid him $60, and then headed over the road to pay the balance in an official looking office. We received our itinerary and left feeling very happy and also slightly smug that we had got our trip for the price we had! 
Later that day we bumped into the very helpful nice chap from before. He wanted to know if everything had gone ok with booking our trip, and if the price did really include everything. When we said we had booked it up, he was very pleased for us, and said the other guy must have shot himself in the foot because he can't have thought we would have gone for it when the other deal he was giving us for The Anaconda was so good! We had thought this too, but if it wasn't for this chap, we probably wouldn't have gone for it in the first place. We thanked him for his advice and honesty too, because he didn't have to be so kind. After all, he didn't once try to be sly or try to convince us to book the trip through him instead.

We spent the rest of that day and the following day walking round Airlie Beach and relaxing by the man made lagoon (Ironically Airlie Beach doesn't actually have a beach!) Our trip to the Whitsundays was leaving at 1.00pm Tuesday, and returning at around 8.30am Friday morning. Unfortunately our coach to our next destination of Mission Beach was leaving at 9.00am, and we didn't want to risk missing that one. So we booked a coach for the Saturday leaving Airlie Beach at 7.00am. We booked a dorm for our return, packed a small bag to take with us, and put our backpacks into the hostel storage. 

Off we went to start our sailing adventure round one of the seven natural wonders of the world!!

Blondie and Beardy.x  
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