Swimming with Turles

Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
Trip End Dec 22, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, June 12, 2013

At this point I was changing modes of transportation and instead of flying it was time to endure the pleasures of traveling by greyhound coach and start my journey down the East Coast. The first leg was a long 12hr drive from Cairns to Airlie Beach.  Two names places were the "r' is silent which throws me off quite a bit.  Anyways arriving into Airlie in the early evening I wasn’t too impressed as it was pretty quiet and the main road was all dug up with fences everywhere.  My hostel of choice was also un-impressive but I should have expected as such when the description in the Lonely Planet for the place is barely one line and reads “Central, and reasonably quiet".  A quick walk down the main drag and a peak at the beach in the evening which took me all of 5 mins made me wonder how I was going to pass the time.  With daylight and fresh eyes in the morning, the waterfront was much more appealing and discovered a lagoon area for swimming and sun bathing and a boardwalk path winding it’s way from Airlie Beach over to Cannonvale, a distance of about 3km.  Taking my time as there was nothing much else to see or do, I walked the path there and back, taking in the ocean views, views of the Whitsunday Islands, caught a glimpse of a small green sea turtle swimming in one of the bays and marveled at the many shipwrecks dotted along the way.  Apparently there had been a pretty bad storm 3 months ago and many of the boats moored in the bay got pushed to shore.  Most had been recovered but the few deemed un-recoverable remained.  This I learned from an older gentleman named Ken who invited me into his office (a covered picnic table with views of the Whitsunday Islands) to have a bit of a chat as I was making my way back on my walk.  He pretty much told me his life story in about 20 minutes and gathered that this is how he now passes his days away; talking to anyone who is willing to stop and listen.  After treating myself to a late lunch at a sidewalk café back in town, I finally got some inspiration to work on my blog and thought I’d be further inspired with a nice cold pint by my side at the popular backpacker’s bar Magnum’s.  Discovering I could also snag some free wifi, I decide to go for another pint but as it was now happy hour, the price of a jug was 60 cents more than a pint.  You do the math and hopefully you got the correct answer.  While sitting in the bar for a few more hours nursing the jug, getting my fill of wifi and people watching I was starting to understand the saying “Airlie Beach is a drinking town with a sailing problem”.  And speaking of sailing that’s exactly what I spent the next day doing, well sort of.  Being picked up before 8am in the morning we made our way down to the marina to the board the Derwent Hunter a 60 year old tall ship that has had a very full life from fishing boat to research boat to fame and fortune by acting as the “Pacific Lady” in a hit TV series called “The Rovers”.  Over the last 20 years she been giving overnight tours (www.tallshipadventures.com.au) to the Whitsunday Islands and now retired to doing day trips to the same.  After relinquishing our shoes for the day and getting the necessary safety briefings we were heading out of the harbour towards the islands.  Once out of the harbour, a few of us were called to help hoist the two main sails. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t at its best with a low overcast sky threatening rain and so made for a breezy voyage but stayed warm with hot coffee. After about 2 hrs at sea we moored close to a small island called Black Island very near to the much more famous Hayman Island.  Issued with wetsuits to protect against jellyfish stings, flippers, mask and snorkel we were ferried to the island by dinghy to embark on some snorkeling.  Seeing a green sea turtle from the dinghy I had high hopes for this snorkeling spot and while I didn’t see any turtles underwater I did see plenty of other sea life .  The coral of many different colours was full of all kinds of fish, my favourite being the rainbow coloured wrasse and the various coloured parrot fish.  We had an hour for snorkeling but I went back to the island after about 40 minutes to explore a bit of the island itself and to try and warm up a bit as the sun was starting to peak through.  Back on the boat it was a short ride over to our second snorkeling spot along the Langford Reef.  If it hadn’t been for the “guarantee” of seeing turtles I probably wouldn’t have snorkeled again because it was just too cold for my liking but getting a chance to swim with turtles was not something I was going to pass up so tried to ignore the cold and plunged in once we get ferried to the beach.  And I definitely wasn’t disappointed as I was able to hang out with four different green sea turtles.  One was much bigger than the other three and I was able to swim with him/her the longest until he finally settled at the bottom of some coral for a rest.  I hovered for a while thinking he might take off again but then finally had to say goodbye and move on.   Such a beautiful and amazing creature is the turtle of the seas and was so happy to see some in their true habitat and get up close and personal.  Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the seven species of sea turtles with the green being the most common.   Once back on the ship and out of the wetsuit it was time for a delicious smorgasbord lunch and then sail back to Airlie Beach.  Thankfully the sun and blue skies had finally made their way to us and made for a very enjoyable and relaxing voyage back. I helped crew on the way back hoisting and taking down one of the main sails.  Back on land I decide to walk back to town instead of taking the complimentary bus so said goodbye to the few folks I befriended on the ship and made some tracks.  It’s been a really low-key relaxing couple of days here in Airlie beach but not sorry to be moving on.  I’m sure there will be more relaxing days to follow.
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