I stood in crystal-clear, ankle-deep water, stunned into reverent silence by a vivid rainbow stretching across the sky and reflecting on the green water. I had been following the path of a giant sea turtle that had been sunning itself just a few feet from where I had waded into the water when the rainbow distracted me.
“Dolphins!” came a cry.
I wheeled to my left to see half a dozen dorsal fins cresting out of the water about 20 feet away.
“Is this even real?!?” I shouted ecstatically.
The Whitsundays had welcomed us with quite the show.
We had boated out to a place called Langford Reef, just across from the posh Hayman Island and only 30 minutes from the Airlie Beach marina. We were testing the sea-worthiness of our boat for a two-day adventure that was due to start the next day, and snorkeling at the reef was the way we decided to test it.
The reef itself was alive with color – chartreuse and lavender and vivid green, with striped, spotted and sparkling fish darting throughout the coral. But when we decided to relax on the spit of sand that stretched out behind the reef, we were treated to a turtle, dolphin and rainbow show.
The following day dawned brilliant and warm (well, chokingly, tropically hot is probably a better word), and back to the Marina we went to start wending our way through a few of the 74 islands of the Whitsundays.
Once out on the water, the overwhelming humidity was washed away by the wind that whipped past us and the warm salty spray that occasionally made its way over the side of the boat.
Our first stop was a sheltered bay that was home to several dozen sea turtles. Once we’d cut the motor and started drifting, their little heads kept surfacing around us every 30 seconds or so. Occasionally they would dive, and their whole shell would surface for a moment before they disappeared into the depths with little more than a bubble to show they were there.
After that we went toward Whitehaven Beach, which at low tide was mostly above water. We dropped anchor on the large spit of squeaky-white sand that jutted out, marveling at the formations that the water had made in the pure silica sand. Having gotten sunburned enough for one day, we decided to head toward our accommodation for the evening on Long Island, which was still a good distance away. We stopped to top up our fuel and were treated with the sighting of a pod of porpoises.
As we neared Palm Bay, our eyes widened. It looked like a deserted island paradise – a beautiful golden beach dotted with little huts and palm trees and… not much else. It had once been a resort that had been abandoned by the swish franchise that had built it, but since the huts were privately owned, they decided to leave it with a skeleton staff and have it be self-catered accommodation. Thus, it had all of the trappings of a 5-star resort (swimming pool, lobby, beachfront veranda, free use of kayaks, huge dining room) but none of the money-sucking aspects of such a resort (pricy bar and restaurant, staff to tip, etc.). Within minutes my sister and I were both saying how much we needed to bring our entire family back to this place.
Our ‘room’ was a two bedroom beachfront hut with a kitchenette and amazing front porch. We sat on the porch with glasses of wine and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over a stunning and broody sunset before we went to the BBQs to cook dinner. Rather than have a late night, we opted to get up early to watch the sun rise on the other side of the island, a short 10 minute walk from where we were staying.
After watching the sun rise, we hopped back on the boat to catch Whitehaven Beach at a higher tide, which was a spectacular sight.
A little more snorkeling at the reefs off the islands (with a couple of visiting turtles!) and were Airlie bound again, a little worn out but thoroughly enamored with the Whitsunday Islands.