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Journals from James Cook University, Australia

2011-04-23 Sailing in the Whitsunday Islands!

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Sam and I on the Langford Island sandbar; our catamaran anchored at Whitehaven Beach; Sam and I on our catamaran; the crystal clear waters of Whitehaven Beach

Having nine days off for mid-semester break, Sam and I decided to spoil ourselves by taking a vacation down to the beautiful Whitsunday Islands! Right after our last class on Friday, we rode a Greyhound bus eleven hours to Airlie Beach. We arrived at 11:30 in the morning, so we had plenty of time to explore the town and the lagoon, which is like a huge public swimming pool overlooking the ocean. We stayed in Airlie Beach until Monday afternoon. During that time we ate our meals on the beach looking at the gorgeous blue water, sun bathed at the lagoon, and saw some of the native wildlife, such as the Kookaburra.

At 2 PM on Monday, we left on a catamaran for a two night, three day sailing trip. We really lucked out with the weather. We were in a little shop in Airlie Beach and the store owner told us that this was the first weekend in months they had seen the sun. The first day of our sailing trip, we sailed straight to the island we were going to be spending the night on. It took about 90 minutes to get from the mainland to South Molle Island. The resort was situated right on the beach and since it was still closed to the public because of the wet season, the entire island was empty except for the 22 people on the sailing trip. We stayed in an ocean view, 5-share bungalow with another couple from London and a woman from Sweden. After settling into our rooms, we were taken on a 30-minute bush walk by one of the staff members at the resort. When we got to the top, there were amazing views of water on both sides of the island as well as a gorgeous sunset. That night, we had a wonderful steak dinner at one of the resort’s two bars and went to sleep for an early start the next morning.

The next day, we had breakfast with some of the island’s native birds. There were about five Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and fifteen Rainbow Lorikeets surrounding the picnic tables begging for food. The Lorikeets were actually standing on the tables, landing on peoples shoulders, and stealing food off of plates and out of hands. These little 6-inch tall birds were causing quite the scene. We left for our first day of snorkeling and sailing at 8 AM. We sailed through countless islands to reach our first destination of Catamaran Cove off of Border Island. The water was so blue and clear we could see the reef from the boat about 200 feet away. Because of the high stinger (jellyfish) risk everyone was required to wear a full length Lycra stinger suit. As soon as Sam and I were suited up, we jumped off the catamaran into the water. We swam the 200 feet to the reef and spent about an hour snorkeling. We saw the most colorful fish and coral! It was so relaxing to just float in the water and watch what swam by.

After we got back on the boat, we had a buffet lunch as we sailed to our next location. We went to Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This beach was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. It was absolutely breathtaking. There was a four-mile stretch of perfect white sand that could be seen miles offshore and the water was so clear, you could be chest deep and still see your feet. The first thing we did on the island was hike to the famous lookout point with four other people from our group. This lookout is where the majority of the Whitsunday Island postcard pictures are taken. The hike was quite the adventure as we saw our first Australian snake! We heard some rustling in a tree and looked up to see what kind of bird it was. To my horror, I was the first to see that the noisy animal was not a bird but a massive snake. It was about as thick as one of my legs and curled around one of the tree branches. Later we found out we had seen a Brown Tree Python. The lookout was unbelievable. We had an amazing view of the entire beach and the ocean looked like it was made up of eight different shades of blue. After returning to the beach, Sam and I ventured out to a sandbar right off the coast, where we were just feet away from two stingrays. We took some amazing pictures and I will never forget how clear and perfect the beach was.

 

After returning to the resort, we had a delicious dinner at the bar. The next morning, after we left South Molle Island for the last time, we sailed for an hour to Langford Island. At low tide there is a gorgeous sandbar that stretches out from the island with a reef about 6 feet away. This was the best snorkeling we have done in Australia yet! Sam and I were able to swim with seven sea turtles. Luckily, we had an underwater camera, so we even got pictures with one of the turtles. The fish and coral were so unbelievable it was hard to get out of the water. After snorkeling, we explored the sandbar and saw a couple of stingrays swimming out past the reef. After spending two hours total at Langford, we sailed two hours back to Airlie Beach. Sam and I had the most amazing time sailing from island to island and were also able to meet some great people.

 

Amanda Contreras 

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