Over the heart reef

by Petra Bucheli

Tuesday 8th May, 2012

Now it is the time to realize my Christmas present for Konrad. With a small plane we went to a scenic flight. First we flew over Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach which also look gorgeous from above. Passing some small islands we went out to the Great Barrier Reef. We flew over the Hardy Reef where we stayed overnight. But now we could see how big it really is. The highlight was flying over the heart reef, a small coral formation on Hardy Reef, not much bigger than the plane. Back on the mainland we went to the bus stop, but unfortunately the bus was just gone and we would have to wait another 30 minutes. On the same flight was an elder couple which passed by car and asked us if we would like a lift. We accepted with many thanks and thus had a bit more than an hour left in Airlie Beach. After lunch we went by bus to the airport which is 40km outside. With a stopover in Brisbane we flew back to Sydney.

Whitehaven Beach

by Petra Bucheli

Monday 7th May, 2012

Today we slept a bit longer as the tour started not so early in the morning. With a boat we went into the Whitsundays. We sailed to the Hill Inlet and walked up to a lookout. Here we had a wonderful view over the bay and Whitehaven Beach. From far the combination of white beach and turquoise sea looks gorgeous. Now we went there and stayed there for two hours. We used the time to swim, to walk, lay on the beach or to enjoy the lunch prepared by the crew. Attracted by the nice smell came more and more big lizards. Some of the animals were surely about 1.5 meters long. They are not dangerous as long as you do not get too close. Back on the boat we went to a bay where we had some time to snorkel. Unfortunately I had bad goggles and thus often water in the eyes. But I had the opportunity to let Konrad listen to the sound of coral eating fishes. As were back to the hotel just before sunset we could enjoy the last rays from the balcony.

Sleeping at the Great Barrier Reef

by Petra Bucheli

Saturday / Sunday 5th / 6th May 2012

On Friday we flew from Sydney to Hamilton Island. The tourism is booming on this island since a few years and there are some very expensive hotels to stay. We just stayed shortly and walked to the tourist center and enjoyed the lunch. Then we went with the ferry to the mainland. In Airlie Beach we let us drive to the hotel and then went to fetch the vouchers for the different tours we booked. Airlie Beach is an ideal spot to discover the Whitsunday region and the many tours which can be made here. The quite small center is full of travel agencies. We wonder how so many may survive here. I was already in 2007 here an I liked the region. And so I suggested to Konrad to stay a few days here.

On Saturday morning we were picked up in the hotel already at 7 o'clock and brought to one of the many harbors. By ship we passed the many islands of the Whitsundays and we drove to the open sea. The catamaran was rocking heavily as it did not have a big draft. Thanks to my medication I could stand the torture, but Konrad who normally does not suffer seasickness had problems. After an hour we got close to the reef and the waves got closer. At the reef the waves were gone.

Arrived on the Hardy Reef we were shown the room for the night. Up to six guests can stay overnight on the pontoon. We changed cloth and went to the first snorkeling tour. They had quite many diving googles, even corrected ones. Konrad rented one, else he would not have seen very much.

After Konrad checked how that works with the snorkel we enjoyed three times the underwater world. In our two-day package there was also a led snorkeling tour. A group of four was brought by a small boat to another part of the reef. From there we slowly swam back to the pontoon and Erin, the biologist explained the underwater world. It was very interesting, beside different fishes and corals we also saw a turtle. It did not let itself be disturbed from its lunch. It was shortly before full moon and thus the low tide was rather strong. Suddenly the reef was looking out of the water.

Shortly after 2pm the ship went and only very few people stayed back on the pontoon. Some of them went by helicopter back to the mainland. Two couples arrived in the late afternoon by helicopter and went snorkeling. We went by boat to the waterfalls. Right, there are waterfalls in the sea! The reef forms a lagoon and the water level was higher inside and flew like rapids over the reef. At the second, a bit bigger waterfall we surfed a bit on the waves. As we had sufficient fuel we went further to the sand beach. In the middle of the reef there is a sandy strip which looks like a beach. We could not get onto it, as it is too far in the reef. We enjoyed the view of the different colored corals and once we saw a clown fish, better known as Nemo!

Back at the pontoon the moon was raising and the sun setting. It was very beautiful. Below the stars we got a very rich dinner and we enjoyed the evening atmosphere. As they had some lights outside, we even could see the fishes in the chamber below the water. There was also a fish which was three meters ten years ago. We guess it grew a bit since then.

After a restful night the alarm clock went off at 5:15 as we wanted to welcome the sun. First we saw the moon disappear slowly into the sea. On the other horizon it got lighter and lighter and very slowly we saw the sun and its first rays. After a cozy breakfast we jumped into the water. I thought it will be cold, but it was pleasantly warm. We snorkeled four times until the ship came. The most beautiful is it when we were out alone.

On the way back the ship was rocking quite strong and Konrad stayed outside. As I had a seat below the air conditioning I endured the trip without problems. We came back to Airlie Beach with many nice memories.