When people think of Australia, quite a few people first think of the Great Barrier Reef. When I was a kid, I knew nothing of the big cities or Uluru, I knew only of the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. I never thought I’d actually make it there myself. Many people make their way to Airlie Beach and use it as a hub for “Sailing Whitsundays” over two or three days. There are only two boats, however, that will take you all the way out to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Having known someone who went made the trip a few years back and loved it, I booked myself directly onto the Anaconda III.
This 3 day, 3 night sailing Whitsundays journey began outside the Barcelona restaurant at Abel Point Marina around 7pm. It took about an hour for all of us to check in, get our room assignments, and grab a proper wetsuit for the duration of the trip. 5FT Tip: If you’re about my size, definitely contact the company in advance and ask for a kids wetsuit, because the XS wetsuit was ginormous on me!
Like most boats, the rooms are tight. Really tight. They were manageable nonetheless, and I was surprised to find that each room had it’s own ensuite bathroom. I was expecting one public toilet per gender, like when I sailed through the San Blas Islands last year. I was pleased to find that this was not the case. We did not, however, have working air conditioning in our room, so make sure you pack light PJs!
Dinner wasn’t served the first night, as we settled into the boat late, but we were still served light snacks of cheese, crackers, veggies, and dip. It was a mellow night on board the Anaconda III, and while we sailed to the Hook Passage, I had quite a lovely time doing yoga at the bow of the boat.
Each morning we woke up to breakfast being served at 7am. Breakfast consisted of cereals and granola (with cold milk, which is always nice), apple juice and orange juice, fresh fruit (changing daily), and bread with jams and peanut butter.
We didn’t spend any time in Hook Passage, but instead sailed over to the famous Whitehaven Beach. The crew on Anaconda III allotted us a solid 2.5 hours to enjoy Whitehaven. With white sands and beautiful blue water, this was paradise. The best part? For the first bit of the morning, we were the only people on Whitehaven! Because we set sail early, we beat all of the day trips to the beach.
There’s a short walk to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach on both sides; the guides say it’s a soft walk and can be done barefoot, but we all agreed that it would have been more comfortable had we been wearing flip flops, er, thongs. 5FT Tip: Be sure to bring your wetsuit to the beach if you want to go for a swim. In stinger season it’s important to protect yourself.
After a lovely morning on a gorgeous beach, we were served a very fresh lunch. Our chef, Clementine, made us huge sandwiches stacked with all kinds of meats and veggies to our liking. One thing I noted was the fact that she handled all of our food while wearing gloves; I loved knowing that not only was our food fresh, but it was kept entirely uncontaminated too!
We lunched while sailing to Luncheon Bay. Here, we went on our first snorkel. It was great to finally get in the water and swim with some fish! Quite pretty indeed.
Around 4pm, snacks were put out. Clementine made scrumptious cheesy garlic bread alongside veggies and crackers as well.
Once everyone was on board, we sailed to Stonehaven for a beautiful sunset before dinner.
We had dinner of chicken breast with pesto pasta and salad, followed by a cookies and cream cheesecake for dessert. Yum!
We set sail around 5am toward the Great Barrier Reef and anchored at Bait Reef. We woke up, and quickly popped ourselves into the water. The current had us drifting a lot, and I had trouble getting my bearings, but in the hour we spent snorkeling, I saw a sea turtle, some jelly fish, and a ton of other fish.
After hopping on board and sunbathing some, we devoured our much-needed lunch!
Our second snorkel of the day was on the opposite side of our boat, on the Outer Great Barrier Reef. On this reef, it’s more common to see sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish, and bigger fish. My snorkel buddy and I stayed in the water for quite a bit of time in search for sharks, and I’m pleased to report that we saw two Bull sharks! Unfortunately the water was quite murky and we were being thrashed around in the current, so I couldn’t get any decent shots. Murky water and the most aggressive shark in the world made for an interesting combination…but it was, nonetheless, fantastic!
After a minor bout of sea lice, we decided to take a brief break after our hour of snorkeling before jumping back in the water in search of a sea turtle. Sure enough, twenty minutes later we found our sea turtle! It was a good day to be at the Great Barrier Reef, despite the roughness of the water.
Relaxation ensued for the rest of the day as we set sail to Blue Pearl Bay for the night. We watched the sun go down and enjoyed freshly marinated (and BBQ’d!) fish, homemade mashed potatoes, salad, and garlic bread. It was an extra stuffy night inside our cabin, but knowing it was our last night aboard, it made sailing Whitsundays a bit more bearable.
We were up early to get one final snorkel in before we set sail to Airlie Beach. Our snorkel at Blue Pearl Bay was, hands down, my favorite snorkel of the trip. There were swarms of colorful fish in the water, and you couldn’t get away from them if you tried! It was here that the staff of Anaconda III fed the fish, and it was here where Craig (one of the deckhands) threw fish food at my head. Let me just say, I have never been so fish slapped in my life, and I loved every moment of it.
Fish were smacking my mask, swimming into my snorkeling, sliding over my hands, knocking into the back of my head…everything. There was even one little fish that was late to the game, swam directly at my forehead, and nibbled at my hair!
I even managed some pretty fabulous selfies with a fish 3/4 my size…
It was the perfect end to a great few days of snorkeling, and an absolute blast! A group of dolphins even sent us off as we set sail…
We soaked up the sun aboard the Anaconda III for the last time, enjoyed a final lunch together, and said our goodbye to the beautiful islands as we pulled into Airlie Beach. Sailing Whitsundays is most definitely not to be missed!