Sailing Around The Whitsunday Islands

Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
Trip End Apr 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
On the Tongarra Sailing Boat

Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sleeping was not easy in the long  long coach journey especially as we kept stopping every three hours and when we arrived, we were both absolutely exhausted. To rub salt in the wound, it was hammering down with rain and couldn’t have been darker, more overcast or more miserable, so the weather matched and emphasised my mood that morning. We actually didn’t want to go on our booked sailing trip around the Whitsunday islands later that day as we knew if the weather was bad, it would be a complete waste of money. On top of this, I was probably the second most tired I've ever been in my life, couldn’t form decisions and had a proper miserable grump on. They wouldn’t let us switch the trip to Saturday when the weather was actually nice so we just had to grimace and bear it.

The guy in the travel agents said i could grab a couple of beanbags and sleep in the corner which i literally had no choice but to accept, otherwise I felt I would experience the phenomenon of Narcolepsy. An hours sleep really sorted me out and allowed me to smile once again. That sorted out the grumpiness, this just left the weather.

We boarded the boat under solid grey skies and full on rain, forcing us to have our introductory talk indoors rather than up on deck. There were only 9 of us on the boat as a few others switched to another boat at the last minute, but this worked out really well having a small group of really sound people, giving us loads of space and LOADS of food.  The two crew guys were really sound too and did a great job of keeping our spirits up through the abysmal weather. We spent the first day sailing out to the Whitsunday islands through torrential rain and stormy seas. This was far from what we had hoped for, but we made the most of it by wrapping up in bright yellow waterproof storm jackets and standing up on deck, getting pelted by waves and tapping into the goon which was left over from Fraser Island.

Waking up in the morning, our hopes for a brighter tomorrow were washed away with the waves on the ocean of despair, as we emerged from the cabin into a 100% overcast sky and pouring rain. Due to the weather, the crew re-arranged the day a little and took us snorkelling first, while it was raining. Due to the storms, the sea was really murky and we couldn’t  see much at all, but it was nice to become accustomed to being in tropical seas without constantly thinking about sharks and jellyfish.

We then set sail for Whitehaven Beach, which is one of the nicest beaches in the world... apparently.  I think its rated number 8 in the world. I literally had no idea what to expect, as i had avoided looking at any pictures so stepping out onto the lookout platform on the hill overlooking the rolling pure white sands and Sapphire blue seas was breathtaking. The Sand here is something like 98.8% silica, so its pure white and always stays cool, even under the baking sun, which thankfully had just begun to shine, turning into an amazingly hot and sunny day. Just as everyone from the other boats were leaving after a rainy morning on the beach, we were just arriving as the sun was coming out. This beach holds the purest sand in the world and also that largest concentration of Silica sand in the world and it was immediately evident why this place was rated so highly.

Going for a stroll around the winding shoreline i could see clearly that this was not just a haven for people, but for wildlife too. There were shoals of fish swimming peacefully in the shallows, then when i waded in to get a closer look, i realised i was paddling with 2ft Lemon Sharks about 2 metres away. The whole bay, protected by winding pure white sand dunes was serenely calm, making it easy to see that it was teeming with brown Stingrays, swooping gracefully under the surface like flocks of underwater birds. If approached carefully, they would let me get within a metre before swooping off into the deep blue distance.

Every few metres I walked along this winding coastline presented me with fascinating views and awesome sights. If heaven was actually a place on earth, it would be here. This  beach easily rates as the best I have ever seen and I honestly don’t think I will ever find a better beach. This completely humbling experience will be with me forever.

After returning from perfection, through the forest filled with a million gigantic marsh flies that followed us in hordes and were landing on us in their hundreds ready to bite, we re-boarded the boat and set sail again. We headed for a small island which apparently has the largest concentration of the most deadly snakes in the world. But thankfully we wouldn’t be approaching the land, just snorkelling through the coral reefs offshore. This was a really full on experience, as I'm not too comfortable in the water with things swimming around me, and the water had cleared up now to be perfectly clear so we could see all of the millions of fish swimming around us. The coral reached so high, that at points we were literally grazing over the top of it, which freaked me out a bit, as I didn’t want to get stung by anenomies. When the first person shouted “Jellyfish!!” a wave of panic rippled through the group. A girl had been stung by a jellyfish despite wearing a full body wetsuit to avoid this exact thing. From then on, we began to spot more and more jellyfish, with one of them swimming right past my face. The cold began to set in, making me tremble uncontrollably and although the coral and fish we saw were amazing, I was pretty happy to get out of the water, away from the jellyfish and into the sun to warm up.

Sailing back to the bay to anchor up for the night, we watched the sun set over the islands and then sailed in the last part of the journey under the full moon. This was incredibly peaceful laying on our backs up on the deck watching the celestial display of millions of stars, with nothing but the gentle sloshing of water to hear. Very peaceful. More Goon ensued that night and we slept up on deck, although i retreated indoors after a few hours of waking up every half an hour and after the bell on top of the mast started clanging incessantly.

In the morning we set sail to a perfect snorkelling site, where we were allowed to feed the fish, so the swarmed around us in their hundreds, allowing us to touch them. There were so many varieties of fish, the water was calm and clear, and the coral was a safe distance away to avoid an unwanted collision, so I felt a lot more comfortable in the water today and enjoyed this snorkelling adventure a lot.

On the long cruise back to mainland we sat with our feet dangled over the front of the boat, kicking the waves as they passed, enjoying the sun and peaceful passage through the beautifully turquoise sea. I got to sail the boat for about an hour too which was good fun and very relaxing.  This whole sailing trip had been perfect. To go from such disappointment to everything working out so well was such a welcome surprise. From start to finish, it had been amazing, with the wind and rain adding to the experience, so that we were that much more grateful when it finally became sunny. It had been so blissful and I'm so glad I got to experience it and that Marie did too. Along with Ayers Rock and Fraser island, this has been the best experience of my adventure so far. Each of these three events has been perfect and has been amazing in its own unique way. I honestly cant decide which one is my favourite, so they all take first place in my mind for the most amazing things I have ever done.

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