After leaving Cairns we had a long coach journey southwards on the east coast to Airlee Beach. From here we were going on a 2 day sailing tour of the Whitsunday Islands the following day.
On arrival to Airlee Beach we were amazed as to how built up it was. We thought it was going to be a really small town with a couple of shops and bars like on the west coast. Instead it kind of resembled Newquay with loads of bars, restaurants & fast food places spread along a main street. We arrived late on Sunday so we only had time to get showered, make dinner & pack a bag for the following day before we went to bed.
Monday was an early start again! We thought your meant to have layins when travelling but we never seem to get one! We were picked up out side our hostel and driven to the harbour where we met the other 20 people on the tour, the crew and the boat - Maxi Siska. She was another ex racing boat that held many records all over the world so she was very smooth and capable of very high speeds, although not on the 2 days we were on her as there was no wind, much to the delight of Helen but the dismay of the fish as they weren't going to get fed!
We set out from Airlee Beach harbour to Lanford Island which took around 2 hours. Here we anchored just off the island and went snorkelling. This was very cool as we got to finally see some turtles! The first one we saw was just sat at the bottom of the sea looking up at us letting a fish eat all the algae off of his shell. The second one however was happy to let us swim with him and that was awesome! Their so laid back when they swim just gliding along in the water with no care in the world, occasionally going up for air. You could definitely see why they were portrayed as really laid back characters in Finding Nemo. We also saw more fantastic coral here as it was still in the Great Barrier Reef & we saw loads of different types of fish.
From Langford Island we sailed to Dumbell Island where we again went for another snorkelling session. By now the tide had gone out so we got very close to the coral and it was fantastic to see the different colours, shapes and sizes. There was also a lot more fish here that didn't seem bothered at all by us and were quite happy to let you swim right by them.
Back on deck the crew decided that we would stay here the night so we dried off, watched the sunset, had a 1 minute shower each (as there's only limited water on board) and tucked into the feast that was prepared for us. After tea, cakes and biscuits we headed to bed, although we didn't manage to get much sleep! We had the bed as the very front of the boat so every single wave that lapped up against us caused our end of the boat to sway from side to side and up and down. There were also some very strange noises coming from the boat so all in all it was a very restless night.
In the morning we pulled up the anchor and sailed to Tongue Bay were caught the speed boat onto land. We then hiked up a hill to Hill Inlet Lookout which gave fantastic views across Whitehaven Beach. Whitehaven Beach is absolutely picturesque! The pure white sands and turquoise seas make it look like paradise! The sand is also that pure that you can polish up your jewerly and it comes out gleaming! Unfortunately the tide was on its way in so we didn't get to see all of the sand banks / islands that makes it a popular postcard photo but it was still very spectacular. From the lookout we headed down to the beach where we chilled out and went for a walk. We spotted numerous small reef sharks and many fish, and there was apparently a stingray about but we didn't see it. After a couple of hours here we boarded back on the boat and started out journey back to Airlee Beach. They tried to put the sail up a couple of times but the wind was that weak that for some periods we just seemed to bob up and down on the same spot!
Back on land we had a much needed shower to wash off the masses of suncream we'd put on and had some dinner before meeting up with the others at a bar for a few drinks. We managed to do much better than we did in Perth and felt fine after 4 or 5 beers so it looks like we might actually get to remember New Years afterall!
The following day was our last day in Airlee so we caught up on some much needed washing - we were down to our last clean tops, shorts & underwear! We also fulfilled the traditional English tourist thing to do in Oz by buying a Dijaridoo!!!! It was cool though as we got to decorate it with the story of our journey so far so its very personal to us! Oh by the way Mum & Dad, its being posted to your house so you may recieve a large package in the post in a couple of weeks time! No Dad it not your birthday present!
Anyway we are now down in Hervey Bay after a very long & uncomfortable journey yesterday & last night.
Hope everyone is well!
Gavin and Helen