Great Barrier Reef: Take Two

Because when you live a short flight away from the world’s largest coral reef you can’t visit just once.

DSC_0180

When my mother and sister in law were in town last month we decided to take them to see the reef for themselves. Our first trip was last September and we stayed at southern part of the reef in the Whitsundays. We took a large boat out the Great Barrier Reef for a day trip and docked on a barge called Reef World and spent the day there. Travis thought it was cheesy but I liked it. You can read more about that here.

SO this time we decided to head out from the city (town?) of Cairns and take a smaller dive boat to the reef since 3/4 of us were going to be diving most of the time. I am not allowed to dive due to previously explained ear problems.

DSC_0185The three divers post-dive, Trav’s hair is my favorite ever.

The weather was not on our side from the moment we landed in Cairns and that morning it was rainy and cloudy as we pulled out from the dock. They started passing out sea sickness pills almost immediately which is never a good sign. The waves were pretty intense (our cups were literally sliding off the table) and I was pretty relieved I decided to take the tablet after all. After an hour or so of rocking through the choppy seas, the boat stopped and they told the divers to start getting ready because we were at the reef.

DSC_0173I let out a sigh of relief that I wasn’t about to hop in that scary water when they called for all the snorkelers (there weren’t too many of us) to assemble and start getting ready. Snorkeling in choppy water is a serious workout and luckily the coral (and a giant turtle friend I made) helped distract me from the waves tossing me about.

Unfortunately being the lowly snorkeler I did not have GoPro privaledges and could not document any of the cool fish or coral I saw, including one that looks like it has a bow on its tail. So you will have to just enjoy their dive pics which were mostly selfies of Travis (don’t worry I weeded through them for your sake). The clouds during the first couple dives apparently made it difficult to get very good visibility down at their level.

GOPR0751
GOPR0705

GOPR0712

GOPR0718

GOPR0719

GOPR0760

We found Nemo!

After the first couple of dives, they moved the boat to a new spot and the sun came out from the clouds. The third dive they said was much better with the sunlight shining through. I did not, however, opt for a third snorkel as I had exerted more than enough energy fighting the waves the first two times.

IMG_2278
Just a little windblown…

After doing both the large boat/barge day trip and the medium sized dive boat option we were able to compare the pros and cons of both. As a diver I could see the benefit on being on a purely diving vessel because they got more dives in than they would have on a more crowded ship. As a non-diver I preferred the options to do other things besides just snorkel, such as lay out or visit the underwater deck (all of which are available on Reef World). Also, the kid in me liked pulling up to Reef World and feeling the excitement of being somewhere so famous, it may be cheesy but it worked on me.

Now we just have to work on trying out a third option- staying on a live aboard sail boat off the coast of picturesque Whitehaven Beach.

Yacht-Whitehaven-Beach-420x0

Click for Source

I have a feeling that might become the front runner if we ever actually do it. 🙂

Whitsunday Coast Part 2

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.

IMG_0489As 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. IMG_0485We 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.

boat

Click for Source

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.

  IMG_0490

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.

IMG_0494

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:

Reefworld

Click for Source

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:

Click for Source

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.

Click for Source

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.

IMG_0508In case you were wondering where we were exactly, Travis screen shot our location on google maps. He loves doing that.

IMG_0491Here we are at the end of our Great Barrier Reef adventure. IMG_0498

IMG_0609

IMG_0506

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.

IMG_0600

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 🙂

Whitsunday Coast Part 1 and an #HonestInsta

Before I begin a recap of our weekend getaway with breathtaking views and crystal clear water I want to show you a glimpse into our real, everyday, not picture perfect life. My friend (and blogger) Ali does a thing on Instagram called #honestinsta where she shows photos from her everyday life that may not be pretty or “instagram worthy.” I love that idea because we all know that nobody’s life is as perfect as their instagram feed makes it appear but sometimes we forget and it’s nice to know that other people have days without the perfect #ootd or imaculately plated meal.

Well here is my #honestinsta taken the morning we left for our mini vacation.

IMG_0458Rewind to the day before this picture was taken. It was Wednesday and I was packing, cleaning and getting ready for our trip. I was in the middle of doing laundry in our laundry room (which also doubles as our master bathroom) when the door on the washing machine got stuck. That’s the washing machine to the right of Travis and our shower to the left. There’s not much room to get in there and pull. I tried for approximately ten (maybe five) minutes with no success, so I did what I do with everything else in my life and I decided to wait until Travis got home from work to fix it.

Well Travis is super strong and opened it right away (after I remembered it right before we went to bed) but then water started gushing out of the machine onto our floor. After multiple google searches and a helpful Bristish you tube tutorial we thought we had successfully drained the machine. We patted ourselves on the back, threw in a test load and headed to bed.

Sure enough I woke up to get ready to go to the airport and walked into the bathroom to the above picture. DIY fail. As I mentioned in our apartment hunting post the units here are all privately owned. Which means we couldn’t just call the maintenance man to come out and fix it. So here I am, Monday morning, still waiting to hear back from the apartment leasing company.

Alright, so now that you know the Alkek life is not all beaches, koalas and sunshine I will tell you about our weekend at the Great Barrier Reef.

We arrived at Airlie Beach on Thursday around lunch time. Airlie Beach is a town on the mainland that is easily accessible to the various Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef. We figured that would be the best home base for us. Our plan was to check in to the hotel and then spend the afternoon lounging on the beach since the next two days were fully booked with excursions.

Our hotel room was actually an apartment that Travis had booked. At first I was skeptical of the place after reading mixed reviews online. After aimlessly walking around (and up and down hills) around the building that needed a fresh coat of paint, I was still not sold. BUT we walked into a very clean, nice apartment with this view from the balcony…

IMG_0460

I have never seen water so blue. It was gorgeous. We changed and went to go to the beach.

That’s when we found out that Airlie Beach doesn’t have much of an actual beach.

We were very confused. We did find this one sandy bank.

IMG_0511 IMG_0464

But nobody was on it. Everyone was at “the lagoon” which we found was just a man made beach and pool like Streets Beach in South Bank or the Cinco Ranch Beach Club in Katy. Only there were some topless sunbathers, I don’t think they have those in Katy. We spent the afternoon laying by a fake beach with a real beach only meters away. We were glad the we had booked trips for the next two days. Airlie Beach is cute little backpacker, port town but not much past that.

IMG_0479

It does have some beautiful scenery though. After our low key afternoon we headed back to the apartment to enjoy a beer and watch the sunset from our balcony.

IMG_0480

At dinner Travis ate the Australian plate (crocodile and kangaroo) while I ate a sub-par steak. I think the reason we were told KC’s is the best steakhouse in Airlie is because it is in fact the only steakhouse. Also, we waited over thirty minutes for our check, sometimes I miss a tipping culture.

IMG_0483

After an interesting start to our trip, we went to bed excited for the next day’s adventure of scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2 to hear how I conquered another fear and checked something off my newly created “30 before 30” list. You can click the “Follow” button at the bottom of this page to get e-mail notifications of new posts or follow along on Blog Lovin’ (my newest addiction) the link is also at the bottom.