Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef
Tuesday 23rd December
We woke up early, drove/buggied across the island and hopped upon our very own helicopter that would take us half an hour west of the Island to “Reef World”. I know what you’re thinking. Reef World? Sounds a bit…commercial? It is pretty much exactly that. A place that makes seeing one of the most incredible wonders of the natural world more accessible to the masses. A (relatively small) pontoon out on the reef that once housed a research facility, now plays host to hundreds of keen tourists that visit every day via a string of purpose-built boats. You can be dropped off, spend the entire day there and are later picked up and taken back to dry land – unless of course you choose the “camp out” option, meaning you spend a night on deck under the stars.
Naturally and unashamedly we opted for the “alternative” trip. By getting a helicopter there and back, you find yourself sharing the space with no more than ten others and are well on your way back before the first boat-full has made it out of the bay. Result!
I’ll admit I was a tad nervous when suiting up ready to get in the water. I’m not much of a fan of being in open water, not knowing what is swimming around below me. However as soon as you get in the water, you forget about everything. Well, besides how to swim. You find yourself completely surrounded by SO many different species of fish. How nice to see them up close and personal, rather than in an aquarium. There was a tonne of plankton floating about in the water, which made visibility a tad “cloudy” and it was rather choppy, the waves acting like hurdles to bob over so as to allow yourself a proper view of the reef…but none of that mattered. Not really. I was swimming out at sea, in warm water, surrounded by tropical fish, overlooking a segment of the Great Barrier Reef. Armed with my waterproof camera, I was set.
Words can’t really describe the experience…nor do photos do it justice…breathtaking, incredible, mesmerising…and by correct use of the word…awesome. Due to the water filtering the sun light, most of the red, green and orange colours were washed out. No worries though, as this just made the blues and purples stand out even more.
When we were done snorkelling, we hopped aboard a semi-sub which – thanks to the high tide – was able to go over some sections of reef to give the non-swimmers (and those of us who hadn’t quite had enough) a chance to see the coral and fish close up. A crash course in coral types was had, along with a mini game of “identify the fish“. I technically won, seeing as they were indeed, all fish. It was at the point that we also found Nemo!! Who wouldn’t want to see clownfish when visiting the barrier reef?! I’m just a big kid really.
An assortment of fresh fruit, cheese & crackers, biscuits and mini muffins was included in our excursion, along with two complimentary bottles of bubbly, though we saved most of it for later.
Hopped back on the shuttle “boat”/platform with 4 short railings and a motor, back to our helicopter. Our return flight took us further down the reef, eventually giving us a birds-eye view of the heart reef and, later, Whitehaven beach. I also saw a mantaray gliding through the waters below. Ahh-mazing.
We arrived back at the apartment in time for lunch – some of which was shared with the local cockatoos. The sign says not to feed the birds, but Dad dropped a tray of crackers on the floor of the balcony and…well…they would have ended up in the bin…and I’m 100% sure other people break that rule all the time so there. Made for some great photo ops, though I called time on the whole thing when one cocky bugger decided to play tug of war with a pizza box. No one steals leftover pizza from this girl. #I’llneverbeasizezerobutIreallycouldn’tcareless
The rest of the day was very chilled, to keep in line with the rest of our time there. Lou and I nipped in to “town”/the marina to have a nose in some of the shops there. After demonstrating her exquisite parking techniques, she added to her previous purchase from the island’s sculpture studio with the purchase of a silver turtle necklace, whilst I chatted to the store owner about job prospects on the island. This could become a reality you know! We then went for a drink at our go-to Italian, where I sampled the watermelon and white chocolate Martini, before being used as a guinea pig once again for their Christmas Peach Sherbet. I can only say I’m happy to help.
We may or may not have accidentally left the key in the golf buggy whilst on our walk. I’ll let you decide.
Our evening was spent as a family watching the sunset from the yacht club, before going for a delicious seafood-filled meal at a new restaurant on the marina. More ice cream definitely featured somewhere today, but I was/still am too chilled to remember exactly when.
Wednesday 24th December
Our final morning on the island was spent at our favourite view point where we stopped for a coffee and sat, taking in those spectacular views for the last time. Soon after, we drove down to the marina for breakfast.
Sadly all good things come to an end and before we knew it, we were on our way back to the airport. I say airport, there’s one building sectioned off to facilitate the different areas: check in, security, departure lounge…there isn’t even an arrivals lounge, you just get off the plane, walk through some doors and you’re in. Fortunately we didn’t have too long to wait before our flight back down to Sydney. Any longer would have been torture…none of us wanted to leave!
Still, on the plane we went. Two hours later we were back in NSW headed towards luggage collection and preparing to collect our hire car before driving north to Port Stephens to spend Christmas with my Gt.Uncle and Aunt.
Hamilton Island, you were a dream. I will make it my mission to visit again whilst I’m here in Oz, whether to work to just play.
See you again,
For the first half of our Hammo stay, click here!