Life doesn't get much better than this

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

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Where I stayed
Wings Diving Adventures
What I did
Toured the Whitsunday Islands
Dived and snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We checked out of our hostel, and set off for the marina. A 20 minute walk later and we arrived. There were already a few people there, so we sat down and waited for the crew to show us where to go. A short while later an Essex geezer named Richie introduced himself and explained that he would be our host and lead diving instructor. We filled out a couple of medical forms, said if we would be diving or not, and, as is now standard, signed our lives away!
At 1pm we all walked towards the catamaran where before we were allowed on, we had to put our flip flops in a bag. No shoes on the boat! We all sat down around the tables, where there were platters of wraps and crisps waiting for us. The crew then all introduced themselves as we pulled out of the marina and towards The Great Barrier Reef! There was a captain, a skipper, the chef, 2 divers, our 'host' Richie and 23 'guests'. On the way, we were shown our cabins where we would be sleeping. There would be 8 people in our cabin. There were 2 double beds and 4 bunks. Although it was very cramped, and there was only really room for a few people at a time in the cabin, our bed huge and was probably the biggest of the whole trip. Very strange considering we were on a catamaran!
We sailed for a couple of hours, and then moored at our first spot, several meters away from an island and a small beach. The experienced divers all went off on their first dives of the trip, Ritchie took out some beginners, and the rest of us jumped into the water and started snorkelling. We had decided we would do just the one scuba dive, as the trip had cost us enough money already! But we didn't want to 'waste' our only dive in the murkier waters on the Fringe Reef, so asked if we could do our dive the second day, when we would be in the Outer Reef. We had fun snorkelling though, and stayed in the water for about half an hour. After that we were too cold and had to get out! We saw lots of beautiful fish and lots of coral. At some points, the coral was so high you had to be careful not to swim into it or kick it. We stayed moored in this spot for a couple of hours while everyone did their own thing in the water. We then sailed for about 3 hours to move closer to the famous Whitehaven Beach, which we would visit early the next morning. 
Despite most people bringing lots of alcohol on board and planning to have a bit of a party come the evenings. So after Richie went through all the pictures and videos for the day, it was an early night for everyone as we had an early start the next day to try to beat the crowds to Whitehaven Beach.
It was an interesting night's sleep! It was very strange being rocked to sleep on the waves, and having them slapping against the boat about a metre from your head!

The whole boat was up at 0700 the next morning (though the crew were up much much earlier) and after breakfast we jumped into the speedboat which took us right up to the island. The group then trekked for around ten minutes up to a view point to see the jaw dropping views of the beach. A quick walk down through the bush, and there we were. The famous and breath taking Whitehaven Beach. The sand is very pure and is made of 98% silica, which gives it its very white colour. In fact, Nasa has used the sand to create special telescope lenses. It squeaks when you walk on it, and is great for polishing up silver jewellery! 
The beach was amazing. The sea water was crystal clear and on the walk around the small island of sand we were on, we saw stingrays swimming in the knee deep water we were walking in. Further up to the end of the beach we spotted a small shark in the waves. Sadly we only had about an hour and a half on Whitehaven, but we spent the time soaking up some of that good old Aussie sun and taking lots of photos to remember it by

Back on the catamaran, we headed off further out into the Great Barrier Reef. About 3 hours later, we made it out to our destination: The Bait Reef. This is where the diving got more serious, and we got our first ever chance to dive. We did a few skills off the back of the catamaran under Richie's supervision. We then took the speedboat out over to a section of the reef that wasn't deeper than 12 metres as it was our first dive. We entered the water backwards off the boat, and followed Richie down into the blue. The reef was like nothing we had ever seen before (apart from maybe a certain Pixar film starring a fish named Nemo.) Everywhere you looked there was something new to see. Everything was alive and colourful. The detail in the coral was incredible and it felt like we were a part of a completely different world. It is so strange to think all this goes on under the surface of the water! Before long, it was time to surface. We headed back to the boat with huge smiles on our faces. As the sea wasn't too warm, a bunch of us warmed up in the on board jacuzzi! Whilst we were relaxing on board, the experienced divers headed out for a night dive.
Once again, everyone was really tired so an early night was had. But not before Richie's evening slide show of the day's diving photos and videos. (We'll be uploading these soon, we're still waiting on our underwater photos!)  We stayed moored out on the reef that night where it was extremely choppy. Made us realise that we were lucky with the first nights conditions!

The next morning we were up at 0630 for breakfast and a change of location. We worked our way round to another point on the reef called Paradise Lagoon. It was here Chris did another dive and was the only one in the group who got to swim with a turtle! On this dive, they also did some cave swimming.
After lunch, we moved locations again to a point called Manta-ray Drop off. It was here that we both went snorkelling. It was a great place to see the reef as it was less than 2 meters below the surface of the water. There was a lot more colour to be seen here, and just hundreds of fish. There were lots of gorgeous rainbow parrot fish, dory fish, and many many more. We even spotted a reef shark just a few feet below us! The nice bit about this part of the reef is that the current was very strong, so carried us right back to the boat! Straight after our snorkel, Chris couldn't resist going for one final dive (solo with Richie.) The thing is, which each dive you do, the cheaper they get. They also throw in a free t-shirt, so most people can't resist that memento! They saw more turtles, and several large reef sharks. The minute Chris and Richie were out of the water the skipper had the boat heading as far back to Airlie Beach as we could get before dark. It was very windy, so we had the sails up for the first time on the trip. About 4 hours later we moored up near Hamilton Island. We had dinner, went through all the pictures of the trip, and headed out to the back of the boat to see what fish we could spot under the blue LED light off the back of the boat. Soon enough, a dolphin showed up! It hung around for a long time swimming round the boat and generally showing off and enjoying the attention

The next morning was our earliest start, as we had to be back in Airlie Beach for 0830. We all sat on the deck and spoke about our amazing time out on the Whitsunday Islands and the Reef. We met some really great people and we're so lucky that we got to do this trip. The Wings team were all great and it was definitely the right trip for us. 

We can now say we've seen one of the seven natural wonders of the world up close and personal!

Blondie and Beardy. x 
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