Travel Notes: Whitsundays, The Reef and Uncle Brian’s

Looking off the deck of the Clipper at night

Whitsundays

After pressing hard for three straight days, I woke up the morning after Fraser Island with the flu. As in, devastating. Not moving flu. As a result I have promised to take better care of myself. So far I’ve lived up to it.

I had 48 hours to recover before Whitsundays, 12 of which would be spent on an overnight bus. Rally time. 

The Whitsundays is a collection of 74 islands off the east coast of Australia, on the outskirts of the Great Barrier Reef, and one of the most popular yachting destinations in the southern hemisphere. It’s pretty common for visitors to take a Whitsundays sailing cruise while traveling up or down the coast. So, I did that. And lucky me, I was on the ATLANTIC CLIPPER.

After a seriously rough 48 hours, I walked up to the Whitsundays docking area two minutes before the deadline, weary from the overnight bus, disheveled, running on acetometaphin, ibuprofen and vitamin C+ (different from C-, Parker), sweating lightly, and mildly panicked that I was about to ‘miss the boat’…literally. I had to turn it on quickly though as there were about ten of my new best friends from Fraser Island on the same vessel, and they all knew by then that Chris Healy is perpetually fired up. They spotted me approaching.

AHH YEAAHHH!!! It was a ruse…I was not feeling nearly as well as I sounded, but it worked. Fist pumping ensued.

The CLIPPER is known as the “party boat” in the Whitsundays. While everyone was packing boxes of goon, I was packing a fresh supply of pharmaceuticals. I vowed not to drink on the first night, but did bring a just few beers for the second night. It was interesting observing without being part of the action.

Essentially we cruised around the islands for three days, anchoring at night and sleeping below deck. The Clipper can sleep 53 passengers plus seven crew, but we only had about 40 total, so there was plenty of room. That didn’t seem to help the temperature though, as it was miserably hot in the cabins.

The crew was fantastic. They prepared all the meals, guided the activities and really made it fun for everyone.

We stopped on several different islands, including some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world (not my claim, yet), and anchored up each day for snorkeling and diving. While I am SCUBA certified, I hadn’t dove in at least 15 years and didn’t have my cert card. Nonetheless I was able to talk the crew into it and got to do two dives.

Getting back underwater again was splendid – the feeling of weightlessness and being in another world, breathing where you shouldn’t be breathing – it’s like being in space. I think. Even so, the dives were not extraordinary. They were great and all, but this was the Great Barrier Reef, I thought I was going to be blown away! Visibility was just ok, the wildlife was cool but nothing amazing (all I wanted was to see a damn shark), and overall it was just good. Didn’t matter though, I still loved it.

Also included:

Ridiculous games at night, awesome photos, biggest spider I’ve ever seen, pull-up contest, Elvis, gainers off the top deck and a spirited rendition of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket by yours truly.

Whitsundays: highly recommended.

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Passions of Paradise

Passions of Paradise is the name of the vessel that I took a day trip on out to the Great Barrier Reef, another 1000 bus hours later. A long ride out, two dives about the same as the days previous, sweet vessel and awesome crew, but nothing incredible.

Looking overboard from the Passions of Paradise

What did strike me most about this trip was a book I read through on the way out and back. Sharkwater (which is actually a movie; a picture-type book was made to summarize the film). Please pick this up; it’s a very important. It actually made me sick.

Every year, sharks kill an average of five people in the world.

Every year, humans kill over 100 million sharks. Most of these are killed for shark fin soup, a delicacy in many Asian countries. In this case, poachers catch the shark, cut off its fins, then throw it back into the water where it sinks to the bottom and suffocates.

The number of sharks in the world has decreased by 90% in the past 30 years.

If sharks become extinct, the entire oceanic ecosystem will eventually be destroyed. If the oceanic ecosystem is destroyed, humans will ultimately follow. Really.

It is a travesty what is happening in our oceans, and it’s not just sharks, it’s hundreds of species of fish and whales that are also being decimated. We are destroying this planet, and we know it, and yet we are letting it happen. It’s sickening.

I don’t often lobby for environmental, social or political issues. But if you have ever trusted me, or considered anything I’ve ever said to you important or worthwhile, please visit this website: http://www.sharkwater.com/

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Uncle Brian’s 

Uncle Brian’s was an inland tour exploring the mountains and rainforests of Queensland. There were about ten of us from some combination of Fraser Island and the CLIPPER and some new friends as well. Mountains, rivers, lakes, volcanoes, water slides, more gainers, man-stacks, a platypus, and the single-strangest (and yet outstanding) tour guide I’ve ever met or that probably exists, Cousin Brad. Thanks bro, you made the day. Fabulous day trip and one of the highlights of Australia.

The Uncle Brian's Family

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For the sake of catching up I’m going to wrap up Australia here.

The night of Uncle Brian’s I met up with all the friends I’d made over the past week for a few drinks at the lively club/bar at Gillingan’s hostel. Had a great time for a couple of hours before saying goodbye. It continues coming to this; and will certainly continue coming to this. There are so many great people in the world. And you never know if this is the last goodbye. But we’ll come back to that another time.

The next morning I flew back to Sydney (after a debacle at the check-in desk for Jetstar Airlines, where I had to unpack my bags, put on most of my clothes, and hang my gear off of my person in order for my pack to meet the weight requirement…or pay $80 to check my bag! F*%& you guys by the way), arriving in the afternoon and checking into my hostel for one night.

I spent that evening and the following day resuming my exploration of Sydney, which, by the way, is a spectacular city. Loved it. I also got to meet up with Callum, my hostel-mate from two weeks previous. We had a great chat over a beer, sharing travel stories and talking about kangaroos, among other things. Did you know they can jump 12 meters? Seriously. Another great guy I hope to connect with somewhere down the road.

Sydney Airport: I’m OneWorld Sapphire, baby. Know what that means? Free access to the airport lounge. Not only that, but I…mistakenly…walked into the first-class lounge (instead of business-class), and after chatting with the gatekeeper for a minute, what do you know? He went ahead and shouldered me into the first-class lounge anyway. Fine dining, top-shelf, all you can eat, drink, or order, no tab. Free internet, heated toilet seats, and damp, warmed washcloths….this is the life. Big thanks to you, guy, for the stellar move. I promised him I’d pay it forward.

It was a welcome bit of rest and relaxation before boarding for Tokyo.

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3 Replies to “Travel Notes: Whitsundays, The Reef and Uncle Brian’s”

  1. Wanted to see a shark? Oh you are a brave man. Sorry hear you were sick and glad you made it to the ship in time. Love reading these adventures.
    Best wishes Mate
    Dave

    Like

  2. Another great post! Did you have a hard time deciding whether to use “dove” or “doven?” because I know you thought about it 😉 Your photos are fun, it’s an adventure just following along!

    Like

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