Are you hitting the East Coast of OZ? The Whitsunday Islands located in Airlie Beach – a MUST DO destination! Hands down... My most memorable place in Australia!
Whether you want to dive, snorkel, sail, relax, become a glorified sun goddess/god or get your party on, there is no shortage of options of things to do in Airlie beach and of course visiting the famous Whitsundays is top everyones list.
I, of course wanted to experience it all! Lucky enough, I was able to get one of the last spots on 'The Atlantic Clipper' - a 2 day / 2 night sailing tour ! I was more than excited as I'd heard only good things about Atlantic Clipper while travelling. (Bear in mind to book ahead otherwise you could miss out.)
With looks of a pirate ship, 3 levels, 52 people, jacuzzi spa on the top deck, 2 water slides, snorkeling and scuba dive options with all inclusive food, taxes and equipment... What more could you ask for, right?
I was set to depart on Thursday afternoon. I showed up at the meeting point at around 2pm and was instantly greeted by travellers about my age from all over the world armed with grins ear to ear, cartons of beer and goon sacks. This was definitely promising a memorable trip!
"ALL ABOARD" was yelled and we were instructed to take off our flip flops and come aboard - Introductions were made by all the crew & they then jumped into the standard safety briefing and "rules" of the ship, adding in naughty & inappropriate but hilarious commentary - it was a good laugh! A good sense a humour is a must have on this trip - don't forget to pack it!
After listening to the briefing that Steve gave (one of the clipper crew), we all got the OK to pop open some beers and start mingling. The usual "Where are you from?", "How long are you in Australia?", "Are you heading North or South?" questions were asked! Just when my tummy began to rumble, we got the call for dinner at 6pm, delicious fish and other complimentary side dishes were served! Nom nom nom!
The first night was chilled & relaxed. Drinks were passed around, a few drinking games played and the exchange of travel stories & new friendships made! Good company, drinks, a sky lit up of stars on the ocean... Amazing! We even had a humpback whale & her baby come and say hello! The crew said we were very lucky as it was the end of whale season! It was a wonderful show!
Then it was lights out on the boat and the alcohol was locked up at midnight, so most people dispersed at that time and went to bed. I know I did, as I was quite tired & a little tipsy!
Singing a Fijian Song at the top of his lungs - Steve gave us a good wake up call - At 6:30 am! Not what I expected but very entertaining and much better than a typical alarm clock! We started the morning with a good breakfast of toasts, cereal, tea, coffee, fruit, etc. and from there we were off to visit the famous Whitehaven Beach. We saw turtles in the distance on our way form the ship to the beach and were told to look out for dolphins as they were seen earlier in the morning by the skipper!
We were taken by a smaller boat, in groups, to reach the beach. Once on the beach, we followed the path to the bush walk until reaching the Hill Inlet Lookout.
If you have not seen Whitehaven Beach from the lookout, you need to rethink your agenda immediately! Most places you see in pictures don't look as amazing in real life, Whitehaven Beach is an exception. It is heaven on Earth. One of the most beautiful sights you will ever see, even when cloudy it's still majestic!
After taking 100 photos we headed down another pathway that leaded to the beach - there we were shown a natural shark nursery and went spotting for stingrays! We hung out on the beach for a couple of hours, playing in the water and creating funny group photos. We spelled out the CLIPPER with our bodies (well, we tried to anyway!), built pyramids, did some gymnastics moves, and had wheel barrow races... some of the photo's even looked like we were jumping out of vegemite jars!
After epic beach time we boarded the boat again and it was time for lunch. Then came to my favorite part, scuba diving! I am not a certified diver and have only gone a handful of times in my life but this was definitely what I was most looking forward to. We went to Luncheon Bay where we spent about 4 hours doing water activities. They took us in groups of 4 for the intro dives and had us waist deep in water practicing different basic skills and then we were off. Just as awesome as I had hoped it would be!
6pm - Dinner Time again! We over-indulged in mountains of special recipe spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread... The alcohol locker was unlocked and everyone started to enjoy a few too many drinks! Little did I know just how loose it was going to get on this boat! HAHA! I will spare the details, but just imagine 50 drunk 20 something year olds competing in lap dances, sex position competitions, and more, it was a blast!
I witnessed some really funny encounters and definitely took some pictures that can't be shown in this article. The games went on for a few hours and in the end after many drinks we crowned the 'king & queen of The Clipper'! Leave it to your imagination what they did to beat all the other backpackers in these wild competitions - but I hope you are not shy of a little nudey rudey!
I headed to bed a bit early as I really wanted to go for a second scuba dive in the morning and did not want to be hungover. Also laws regulate no drinking 8 hours prior to diving and we were scheduled to go at 7:30 am.
Another 6:30 am wake up call to one of Steve's wonderful songs and I was up and out of bed. It happened that I was the only one on the boat who wanted to partake in the second dive that morning, so I was lucky enough to basically have a private guided tour by one of the awesome crew / dive instructors and this spot was definitely better than the first! The second stop was at Blue Pearl Bay off Hook Island. It was magnificent! There were all sorts of underwater "mazes" as they called them. Massive coral canyons and underwater caves of sorts. It was one of the most amazing things I've ever got to do, especially since I am so new to diving. I felt like it was a scene in a movie. Such a cool experience!
After a few hours of snorkeling and chillin' out on deck it was time to sail back to Abel Point Marina. We did get to catch a glimpse of a few whales on the cruise back home! When we got back to the marina in Airlie Beach it was time to say our goodbyes, thank the crew, and exchange contact info, mostly Facebook, with our new found traveling friends.
But it didn't quite stop there... That night they had planned a get together for everyone at Phoenix bar. Everyone who was still in town went out for one last night of debauchery in Airlie Beach.
All in all, the Atlantic Clipper was a great experience. I had so much fun! I highly recommend it to anyone who is passing through town and has a few days to explore the islands.