Friday, February 10, 2012

The Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef

We've just returned from three days of sailing on a catamaran through the Whitsunday Islands and out to the Great Barrier Reef.  Lots of snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and relaxing.  Thanks to several of you for recommending that we visit the Whitsundays - we can't imagine having missed this spot!

Our catarman the Emperors Wings

This was my first time on a small boat overnight and only David's second (the first being a bit less comfortable on the M/Y Amigo in the Galapagos Islands)!  We were hopeful that we would feel well during three nights on the boat including more than 24 hours on the open ocean, but it was a smooth trip. It was hot and humid weather, and after seeing our bunk on the first day, I'll admit I was a bit concerned that I might be sleeping on deck every night.  But it turned out to be really comfortable - A/C helped!

On the deck of the Emperors Wings - a beautiful view of the moon behind us

The Emperors Wings is geared very much toward snorkeling and scuba diving in both the Whitsundays and at the GBR. David hadn't been scuba diving for about ten years, so he knew he wanted give it a try.  I was just about positive that I wouldn't be trying scuba - I have always had a fear of it, mainly the idea of being deep under water and not being able to come up as quickly as I wanted because of the pressure changes.  But after Richie, one of the dive instructors, promised me we wouldn't go so deep that I couldn't come right up whenever I wanted, I thought it might be worth a try.  After learning the key scuba skills, David and I suited up for a dive with Richie and two others from our boat.  Our first stop was a patch of sand on the ocean floor where we all circled up and Richie got some pictures.  At that point I relaxed and just focused on how cool it was to be breathing easily underwater.  I wasn't expecting to be quite as amazed as I was with the experience.  Snorkeling is something I have always enjoyed, but scuba is different - you are swimming among the fish and coral, not just looking at them from the top of the water. I kept getting this feeling that I had been introduced to a whole new world.

Scuba diving at the Outer Great Barrier Reef
Sara scuba diving at the Outer Great Barrier Reef

We did one more scuba dive the following day and many snorkels in between. The coral and fish were spectacular.   Highlights were a starfish seen at Whitehaven Beach, a stop in the Whitsundays, and sea turtles and reef sharks at the GBR.  On our last night we moored just off of a resort on Hayman Island and watched about five dolphins that hung around our boat for most of the evening.  They were using the blue lights under our boat to their advantage to hunt squid for dinner - quite a treat to see!

The whole experience was pretty unforgettable, surrounded by a great group of 22 other passengers from all over the world whom we really enjoyed getting to know!


The Outer Great Barrier Reef
A sea turtle at the Outer Great Barrier Reef
David snorkeling at the Outer Great Barrier Reef