Sleeping at the Great Barrier Reef

by Petra Bucheli

Saturday / Sunday 5th / 6th May 2012

On Friday we flew from Sydney to Hamilton Island. The tourism is booming on this island since a few years and there are some very expensive hotels to stay. We just stayed shortly and walked to the tourist center and enjoyed the lunch. Then we went with the ferry to the mainland. In Airlie Beach we let us drive to the hotel and then went to fetch the vouchers for the different tours we booked. Airlie Beach is an ideal spot to discover the Whitsunday region and the many tours which can be made here. The quite small center is full of travel agencies. We wonder how so many may survive here. I was already in 2007 here an I liked the region. And so I suggested to Konrad to stay a few days here.

On Saturday morning we were picked up in the hotel already at 7 o'clock and brought to one of the many harbors. By ship we passed the many islands of the Whitsundays and we drove to the open sea. The catamaran was rocking heavily as it did not have a big draft. Thanks to my medication I could stand the torture, but Konrad who normally does not suffer seasickness had problems. After an hour we got close to the reef and the waves got closer. At the reef the waves were gone.

Arrived on the Hardy Reef we were shown the room for the night. Up to six guests can stay overnight on the pontoon. We changed cloth and went to the first snorkeling tour. They had quite many diving googles, even corrected ones. Konrad rented one, else he would not have seen very much.

After Konrad checked how that works with the snorkel we enjoyed three times the underwater world. In our two-day package there was also a led snorkeling tour. A group of four was brought by a small boat to another part of the reef. From there we slowly swam back to the pontoon and Erin, the biologist explained the underwater world. It was very interesting, beside different fishes and corals we also saw a turtle. It did not let itself be disturbed from its lunch. It was shortly before full moon and thus the low tide was rather strong. Suddenly the reef was looking out of the water.

Shortly after 2pm the ship went and only very few people stayed back on the pontoon. Some of them went by helicopter back to the mainland. Two couples arrived in the late afternoon by helicopter and went snorkeling. We went by boat to the waterfalls. Right, there are waterfalls in the sea! The reef forms a lagoon and the water level was higher inside and flew like rapids over the reef. At the second, a bit bigger waterfall we surfed a bit on the waves. As we had sufficient fuel we went further to the sand beach. In the middle of the reef there is a sandy strip which looks like a beach. We could not get onto it, as it is too far in the reef. We enjoyed the view of the different colored corals and once we saw a clown fish, better known as Nemo!

Back at the pontoon the moon was raising and the sun setting. It was very beautiful. Below the stars we got a very rich dinner and we enjoyed the evening atmosphere. As they had some lights outside, we even could see the fishes in the chamber below the water. There was also a fish which was three meters ten years ago. We guess it grew a bit since then.

After a restful night the alarm clock went off at 5:15 as we wanted to welcome the sun. First we saw the moon disappear slowly into the sea. On the other horizon it got lighter and lighter and very slowly we saw the sun and its first rays. After a cozy breakfast we jumped into the water. I thought it will be cold, but it was pleasantly warm. We snorkeled four times until the ship came. The most beautiful is it when we were out alone.

On the way back the ship was rocking quite strong and Konrad stayed outside. As I had a seat below the air conditioning I endured the trip without problems. We came back to Airlie Beach with many nice memories.