WHISKED OFF TO THE WHITSUNDAYS

Friday 24th February 2017

Seventy-four islands of crystal waters and azure skies, are home to the thriving fringing coral reef of the famous Great Barrier Reef, in North Queensland Australia. At the epicentre of these islands lies Australia’s No.1 beach with some of the purest, finest and whitest grains of sand you’ll ever soak your toes in to: Whitehaven beach. Above you soar eagles and below lies another world teaming with a myriad of marine life. Giant hump-headed Maori wrasse slide past you, while shoals of yellow tailed fusiliers bounce off your forehead, and during season, families of humpback whales frolic amongst its bays. I was lucky enough to call this idyllic paradise home in 2015, and with my best persuasive techniques, I hope this article inspires you to visit their blissful shores or even make this dream become your own reality.

During my days working for Whitsunday Catamarans as a hostess and deckhand on a twelve metre catamaran, I spent my time on one of the whitest beaches I’ve ever set foot on, watching dolphins play off the stern of the boat every night, snorkelling the stunning coral reef of the Great Barrier Reef, watching the most spectacular sunsets, and making life long friends from all over the world. I was getting paid to share one of the most desirable tourist destinations in the whole of Australia. Having recently returned to North Queensland and the Whitsunday’s, I had forgotten how incredible this place really is. Maybe I began to take it a little for granted….!

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7km’s of some of the purest white silica sand in the world, make up the famous stretch and swirls of Whitehaven beach and the hill inlet. Despite the strong Australian sun scorching down, you’ll notice the soft squeaky sand is cool beneath your feet, with it’s 98% (approx.) white silica content absorbing the heat. Not only does the sand feel like flour between your toes, but it works as a natural exfoliant, leaving your skin baby soft. My favourite area of Whitehaven beach is the northern section with a far from usual expanse of sand when the tide is low. In the crystal clear shallows that swirl round into the famous hill inlet, you will find mangroves and a playground for juvenile lemon sharks and sting rays. Wading through the water, that is actually a few degrees cooler than surrounding waters, I shared my time with graceful rays at my feet. Back on the sand, is home to millions of blue soldier crabs scattered across the less crowded parts of the beach. Although this beach is voted No.1 in the whole of Australia, it never feels that busy; there have even been times I have spent with my passengers, with the whole beach to ourselves. Walking over to the left hand corner of the beach, nestled amongst the rocks and trees, is the hidden pathway to Betty’s Beach, a beautiful getaway that not a lot know of.

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Climbing up through the bush to the strategically placed boardwalk, Hill Inlet lookout provides that breathtaking postcard perfect view that everyone is itching to clap eyes on. On the short 10 minute walk from Tongue Bay’s anchorage, this shaded relief hosts Goanna lizards and giant golden orb spiders. Even though I have probably visited Hill Inlet’s lookout over 50 times, I am never under-whelmed by it’s spectacular display of aquamarine sand swirls that are unique every single time the tide produces this natural piece of art. It is not entirely known how this pristine sand was produced, however researchers are led to believe that it was the prevailing sea currents over millions of years that dragged this sand continuously in and out of the inlet of Whitsunday Island, producing this fine sand with no impurities, that is rumoured to have been used by Nasa to develop the lens of the Hubble telescope.

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Beyond the famous sands of Whitehaven are another 73 islands, with the best selection of reef life found in the north. Hayman Island, home to one of the most exclusive resorts in the world the ‘One and Only’, is also home to what we name the ‘aquarium’ of the Whitsunday’s: Blue Pearl Bay. One island south of the there, Hook Island, has bay after bay of pristine snorkelling destinations such as Mantaray Bay, Luncheon Bay, Langford Island, Caves Cove, False-Nara, Stonehaven, and my favourite, Mackerel Bay. It is here that, in my opinion, the Whitsunday islands come to life. You can expect to see resident Humpheaded Maori Wrasse ‘George’, as well as rapid giant trevally, black and white tipped reef sharks, clownfish nestled amongst anemone, yellow tailed fusiliers, bottle nose dolphins, humpback whales, and our best friend, the green turtle.

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At night time, once we find our anchorage and safe haven, the waters are still and the skies full of the most dramatic panoramic display of the solar system, I have ever seen. We often found the underwater lights attracted dolphins and sharks on the hunt for squid and fish lingering in the light. With my swag pitched out on the billowing nets on the front deck, I fell asleep in complete serenity under the stars, and often woke to spectacular sunrises and the sounds of the first whales breaching on the horizon.

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Although there is are multiple ways of reaching this idyllic set of islands off the mainland of Australia, the best way of experiencing all of this for yourself is to get out on the water and spend a few nights ‘aqua-camping’. Not only do you experience the best the Whitsundays has to offer, but your adventure comes with a mixture of countries and continents all under one roof, enriching your trip even further.

I may be biased, having lived and loved in the Whitsunday Islands for over a year now, but I have the experiences to back me in saying what a magical place this really is. I have seen it all over the last year; there have been ridiculous highs and all time lows to my life on the boats, but I have the most cherished memories and lifelong friends because of it. Yes it was hard to believe that I landed such an incredible job in paradise only 2 weeks after arriving in Australia, however that was down to the determination to live such an amazing lifestyle that this place was offering. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my life would consist of calling a catamaran home for a year. Dreams really do come true.

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