Sunday, November 22, 2009

Whitsunday Islands, Australia

I spent four of the best days of my life on a sailing trip around the “I-ran-out-of-superlatives-to describe” Whitsunday Islands on the Queensland coast of Australia, in between Cairns and Brisbane. In fact, with all the places I have traveled to, I rate the Whitsunday Islands on my “top ten list”.

Why? Well, imagine sunny weather, cool breezes, glacial-blue waters and 74 welcoming islands. Top that off with warm water temperatures and coral reef and one has got a recipe for paradise. The coral reef there is a fringe reef while not technically part of the main Great Barrier Reef, was far more superior to it. For the first time in while, I saw vibrant, colorful coral and schools of multi-colored fish. My highlights include swimming amongst schools of fish and observing the color changes of the fish as the sunlight shone at different angles. I also observed a stingray, turtle and dolphins! Moreover, I got the chance to observe large fish in action as I fed them bread. Lastly, my CS host Joe caught a dead toadfish (poisonous to eat, though).

The trip itself was amazing. There were the six of us--me; my host and caretaker of the boat (Oceania) Joe; Mark, an Aussie; Maura, an Italian CSer; and Jane and Fran, a pair of German twins. We sailed on the Oceania, a 52-foot sailboat. I played skipper for part of the trip, steering us to safety. Each day, we would go for a swim, a snorkel and an R&R session on the deck. I especially enjoyed sleeping on the deck with the cool breeze brushing against my face, while gazing at a sky blanketed with stars. Then in the morning, I would wake up to the most beautiful sunrise and be surrounded by the cleanest water in this world.

One very special place in the Whitsundays is Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This is perhaps the world’s longest and whitest beach. The silica-derived sand was so soft and pure, providing a gorgeous contrast to the different blue hues of the water. We also hiked up a peak for unparalleled views of Whitehaven Beach, the sea and a lagoon with swirls of the white sand. This is probably one of the world’s “top ten views”.

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