Airlie Beach: that guy at the party that was invited because he has a boat. His sunglasses tan is as distinct as his love for the sea and all things water related.
When trying to think of how on earth I was going to try to describe what seeing the Great Barrier Reef was like with words, this memory came to mind:
I was about ten, and I got my first pair of glasses. I'll never forget the drive home from the eye doctor, it was like I had been transported into an entirely new world. Everything was so vivid with such distinct outlines. I had left a dull, fuzzy life and woken up in a new vibrant universe. Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef was the second time in my life that I felt this same kind of acute stimulation.
I was immersed in the GBR when I went to the next stop on my Aussie journey, which was Airlie Beach. This town is a huge tourism hub because of its close proximity to the Whitsundays, a cluster of 74 islands right in the middle of the famous reef. I stayed in a hostel in Airlie for one night, and then boarded a sailboat for 3 days and 2 nights to explore the waters!
Side note: one thing you should know about me is that I get motion sick from anything from a game of ping pong to swivel chairs. Needless to say, I was a bit anxious to see how I fared for three consecutive days at sea. Let me tell you, when we returned to Airlie Beach on that third day, I surprisingly did NOT want to leave the boat. I wanted to become part of the crew and stay in the Whitsundays forever. I was completely enraptured by my surroundings that I actually don't remember if I felt queasy or not; that's a huge testament to just how magnificent this place is.
I booked my sailing trip on an 82 foot maxi yacht with OzSail, and over the course of 3 days all fifteen members of our group got to learn how to sail as we navigated from island to island. We anchored along the way to snorkel, bush walk, and search for Nemo. Spoiler alert: we found him!
Our skipper took us to the best stops:
Whitehaven Beach- the sand is 98% pure silica, it's the whitest I've ever seen by far!
Blue Pearl Bay
Blue Pearl Bay was my favorite, it's where we found Nemo and I also swam along side a loggerhead turtle for about half an hour. Despite the ongoing crisis in the GBR having to do with coral bleaching, the parts of the reef I got to see were breath-taking (and that's not just because my snorkel had a leak).
Booking this trip to see the Great Barrier Reef was as smart as those who bought tickets for Kobe's last basketball game or Derek Jeter's last at bat. Generations to come are sadly not likely to see this natural wonder so I urge those who want see it for themselves to go now.
On that note, travel agencies will be adamant about renting an underwater camera for your Whitsundays trip. Notice that, unfortunately for you, I don't have any pictures of my time under water. I suppose it's ironic to not want pictures of something that has such imminent mortality, but I honestly feel like my experience was that much better because I didn't rent an underwater camera. Sometimes I feel as though cameras can be a barrier between you and your environment. Snorkeling sans photography allowed me to explore with wide eyes and no inhibitions.
Plus, I don't think I would have been able to keep up with that turtle for half an hour if I had a camera in my hand. (They're surprisingly speedy in the water!) I wouldn't trade the memory and connection and I made with this underwater world for any pictures or videos, that's for sure.
Favorite person I met along the way: Lucy and John squared. I met two couples on my sailing trip to the Whitsundays, one couple being from Wales and the other from England. Both girls names were Lucy and both guys names were John. Weird right? They were a fun bunch, so much so that I didn't even mind being a fifth wheel!
Fun fact: Our boat crew consisted of four Aussie blokes. They were somewhat lewd but in a humorous way, sort of like Amy Schumer. I talked with one of the guys, Harley, a good bit and at one point he randomly asked me if I liked the movie Finding Nemo. I took the bait, no pun intended.
He proceeded to tell me something about Nemo and his dad that was a total game changer. Clownfish, like Nemo, are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they start life as once sex and then switch later on.
That's all I'm going to say about that. If you want to preserve your Pixar innocence just stop here and don't think about that fun fact too much. If you want to be mind blown, this link will explain what my fun fact means in terms of the plot of Finding Nemo.
I must say Harley's way of explaining this theory was a little more explicit than this article. All in all, my sailing trip to the Whitsundays certainly changed my perspective in more ways than one.