Airlie to bed
Next stop: Airlie Beach. Airlie Beach is another constructed town that relies purely on tourism and its reputation as the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. The Whitsundays are a collection of islands a short way off the Queensland coast, believed to be the tips of mountains that have since flooded. The town itself is nothing much, although it does have a beautifully constructed lagoon even bigger than the one at Cairns and the weather has been significantly better than it was at Cairns – oh, and there are drunken backpacker style nights out to be had.
The trip I chose to go on was the Reefdive ‘Romance’ boat, a mix of sailing and diving which had gone on standby (definately something to watch out for if travelling at the moment as a lot of boats/trips aren’t getting that busy so a lot are dropping rates last minute). The boat itself is getting a little bit past its prime but seemed to survive just fine to get us out to Whitsunday island to see the beach voted “Best beach in the world” by readers digest readers… and it is quite nice indeed. The whole beach is stunningly white silica sand, constantly replenished from an undersea crevice that throws up volcanic silica for some reason. Very beautiful indeed, although the fairly high number of tourists prevents it from being my favourite beach ever (Culebra just off Puerto Rico has that privilege at the moment).
From there we sailed round to moor just off Harvey Island, a private resort island that is far from cheap. On the way we saw a couple of humpback whales – in fact they came right by the boat but I missed most of this by running downstairs to get my camera – d’oh! In fact we saw truckloads of whales on this trip at varying distances, and again I got to hear whale song underwater – which I’d first done at the Yongala – an amazing sound to listen to although you do have to stop breathing a bit to really hear it which is about the most dangerous thing you can do while diving. Well worth it though. The dives at Blue Pearl bay were nothing special, other than stressing me out because my camera fogged up completely when I entered the water – oh, though did get to roll backwards off a rubber dinghy to get in the water for the first time which was great fun. Just after we got out the water from our night dive we saw four manta rays circling round under the bow of the boat before swimming off – another amazing sight.
From there, at the unthinkable hour of 4am, we heading out to the reef for three more dives starting at 8am. The reef dives were much better than the bay. Again we say manta rays on the surface, but managed to miss them underwater by about 10m – bugger. Did see lots of sharks, turtles (loggerhead this time) and huge cod as well as my first barramundi cod which are strange fish indeed. It was around this point that I passed 24 hours, a full day, under water… not bad going having only learnt to dive a month or so before.
We headed back to moor at Blue Pearl Bay again that night and awoke the next morning to perfectly flat seas and more beautiful weather. A few dives later and we headed back to Airlie Beach for more drunken backpacker bars…