We woke up bright and early Friday morning ready for our Great Barrier Reef adventure. I was actually terrified because part of the “adventure” was scuba diving- something I have never done before and never had any intention of doing.
As I explained in my Bridge to Brisbane post, I like to play things safe. My husband however does not, so he signed us both up for an intro dive at the reef. We arrived at the Cruise Whitsundays port a solid 30 minutes before our boat left (6:30am) and I proceeded to order food off of the lunch menu because girls gotta eat. We then boarded the large boat/home for the day. There were plenty other tourists and families from all over the world accompanying us on this journey. We met a lovely American crew member who explained to me that they literally hold your hand on the intro dive and the majority of their clientele are terrified at the beginning. I later overheard a pre-teen talking about diving with her mom and that made me feel a little better. My nerves began to calm and I actually started to get excited. It also helped that I convinced Travis I needed an overpriced massage on board before I could possibly be expected to scuba dive.
The Cruise Whitsundays boat was nice and roomy and included concessions and a bar. They served tea, coffee and fruit for breakfast, a delicious seafood lunch and afternoon tea with biscuits all included in your trip. All of the crew members were enthusiastic and friendly even at the end of the 11 hour trip. We had a great experience with them.
The Whitsundays consists of 74 different islands, one of the most popular is Hamilton Island with has multiple hotels and restaurants. In fact, this is where Oprah stayed on her trip to the Whitsundays. In case you were wanting to map your Whitsundays vacation after her, Tourism Whitsundays actually has her itinerary here. This would definitely be a great place to stay if you want to spend more time on one island.
The Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300km and is so large it can be seen from space. The portion we went to was The Hardy Reef. Our boat pulled up next to Reefworld (which I was really disappointed to find was just a pontoon and not an amusement park). Reefworld looks like this:
It had a massage room, diving and snorkeling areas, tanning deck, underwater viewing areas and a lot of other things you can read about here. We were scheduled for the first time slot of diving, which didn’t give me much time to get nervous. We got all suited up and hopped into a small pool area to practice breathing and whatnot with our guide. At first I kept thinking I was doing something wrong because I felt like I needed more air and wanted to come back up. After I realized that was just normal and that I needed to focus more on exhaling- I was ready to go. Once we dove down into the reef, I completely forgot about breathing or tanks or anything else.
It was incredible. There were all sorts of fish and creatures that you only see on tv or in magazines. They were gorgeous. It was so crazy how close they got to you and how many there were all around you. We even saw a giant Queensland Grouper that looked like this:
The only problem I had was as we started to go deeper I couldn’t get my ears to pop. This didn’t surprise me because of my lifelong problems with my ears and the artificial eardrum in my right ear. It didn’t bother me as long as we didn’t go too deep. There was a photographer down there with us but we didn’t pay for the pictures so we are going to pretend this is what we looked like.
Before we knew it, it was time to come back to the surface. We spent the next hour or so snorkeling in the same area. I have never been a big fan of snorkeling but this was unlike any other snorkeling experience I have had. You could see a lot of the same coral and marine life that you could while you were diving. The only reason we finally got out of the water is because we (mostly me) were starving.
Here’s a picture I took from the boat of people snorkeling at the reef.
We got back into Airlie around 6pm. As exhausted as we were, we went back to the apartment to get ready for dinner. This time I consulted trusty Trip Advisor for my dinner choices. Mr. Bones was ranked #1 in Airlie Beach (the previous nights choice was #18 and came after a couple places connected to convenience stores) so we thought it was a safe choice.
It was a tapas and pizza restaurant with really cute decor. We got the arancini for an appetizer and the lamb pizza for dinner. Mr. Bones did not disappoint and I would definitely check it out if you are in the area.
I will be posting Wednesday about our final day in the Whitsundays where we saw the most breathtaking views I have ever seen in my entire life. Tune in then 🙂