Driving down the east coast to Townsville is not really the most exciting thing to do. Miles of sugar cane fields, some little towns not really worth stopping and the road doesn’t actually run along the coast but rather a few kilometres inland. The only exception is the turn-off to Mission Beach where you find golden sand and blue water. When we arrived in Townsville it was just about time to torture our van ‘Think about’ up the steep road to the top of Castle Hill from where you have a beautiful view across Townsville. After sunset and a huge dinner we went for a little walk through the centre and guess who was yelling down from a balcony: Adam, one of the guys from Newcastle we had met in Darwin. We joined him and his mates from Newcastle James and Steve to play some cards and went out to a pub to watch soccer and play some pool.
Not really willing nor able to drive back up Castle Hill we stayed in the car park in the middle of Townsville for the night and went for a swim in the Rockpool in the morning.
Further south lies the little town Bowen where they recently shot the movie ‘Australia’ and someone had recommended Rose Bay as a nice beach. In fact we would have loved to spend more time there than just two hours! It was really beautiful, a little beach surrounded by rocks. They even had chalk marks on them and I was very close to get my climbing shoes out … But also for people who are not such mad climbers it’s definitely worth a stop! We on the other hand had to catch our boat the next morning and therefore had to be in Airlie Beach the same night.
Airlie Beach is a bit like a small version of Cairns: Heaps of backpackers and tourists. But it offers one thing that Cairns doesn’t have: the Whitsunday Islands. 74 Islands, mostly uninhabited (there used to be Aboriginals but they all got killed. There’s actually some rock art on the islands which can’t be translated ‘cos there’s noone left of the tribes that used to live there. Another sad fact about such an amazing place!) and of course there is Whitehaven Beach, voted the world’s second-most beautiful beach.
Our boat was a catamaran called ‘Wings’ with focus on diving and snorkeling rather than partying all day and night. The crew consisted of Skipper Harry from NZ (love the accent!), Kat our hostess and the diving instructors Nic and Flo. The group of 25 was a colourful mixture of young and old, single and couple, and lots of different nationalities.
Weather conditions were perfect and while we shipped towards Hayman Island the crew gave us a short briefing of what we had to expect – basically an awesome trip.
At Blue Pearl Bay we stopped for a first snorkel and dive. Surprisingly I really enjoyed diving although the corals were way less amazing than up at Cape Trib.
We stayed in the bay for dinner and the night and when I woke up the next morning Harry was already racing to our morning destination Mantaray Bay where we went for another dive and spotted the local hero George the big Hump Headed Maori Wrasse. There’s actually a funny story about those fish, wanna hear it? Thought so but I’ll tell it anyway. So usually in one hunting area there is a group of them with the oldest and biggest being the alpha-male and the rest female. As soon as the old one dies the oldest female takes his place – and turns male! Clever decision I reckon. Anyway, the second dive was already much nicer so I decided to go for another one in the next bay. We dove through the tunnel of love and visited Nemo city (yes I found him!). On the way back to the boat (once again I was first to run out of oxygen so the dinghi picked me up) we spotted a turtle so I jumped back in and followed it for a while, snorkeling close behind it. An amazing animal!
Later on the same day we went on land to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach and it is in fact a really stunning view. We spent a couple of hours at a more secluded part of the beach, away from the masses. Later, back on board we had another great dinner before hitting the sack anchored in Cave Bay (Some keen German girls went for a night dive with Flo but that was licensed divers only).
7am the next day I was back under water again, the last dive and actually the best of all. Equipped with a bigger bottle for some extra air we drifted with the current past towers of corals and saw another turtle (the other group even saw a reef shark). A great finish for a great trip!
On the last few miles Harry set sails but we made about ten metres in 10 minutes due to the lack of wind. Nevertheless it was an awesome trip with a great crew on a nice boat.
We finished the night off with a dinner at Rumbar in Airlie Beach and a few drinks with Karin and Flo in one of the bars (do I have to mention that I bumped into someone I had met way earlier?).
Back in bed it still felt like the floor was shook by the waves …