Pimp my backpack; pushing the boat out (literally) for a catamaran adventure in the stunning Whitsundays – before Cyclone Debbie struck!

Sometimes, to keep some sanity when you’re travelling, you have to substitute another cheap room, cheap dinner, cheap beer for something a bit more luxurious.

In the Whitsundays, a beautiful collection of islands on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, our time had come.

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Our adventure happened nearly three weeks ago in nearly unbroken sunshine, a far cry from what the area is currently going through dealing with Cyclone Debbie.

We’re thinking of the crew of our boat and places we visited on the mainland at Airlie Beach, and hope they can repair their shattered businesses quickly.

We thanked our lucky stars we missed the carnage and have blue skies rather than 100mph winds as memories.

Escaping┬áthe backpacker lifestyle for one weekend only, we channeled Duran Duran in the ‘Rio’ video, bought an inexplicable amount of wine and beer and boarded our first ever luxury catamaran!

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Our adventure couldn’t have been possible without our good friends Chirag and Nigel (who moved to Brisbane three years ago.

Chirag had been Chris’s landlord in Birmingham (as well as agony uncle and self confessed brother-from-another-mother).

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They had visited the Whitsundays before on a larger boat with more people, less space and virtually no shade, so for our visit we spent a bit more for three nights on board an eight berth catamaran with private rooms and bathrooms.

And thanks to our super knowledgable skipper Dave, chef and deckhand Rachel and our four guests in the high seas, we had a weekend to remember.

The trip went a bit like this; board catamaran, eat, star gaze, drink, snorkel, eat, explore an amazing uninhabited island, eat again, lounge on the deck, paddle board, eat again, spot a turtle coming up for breath, snorkel again, relax on one of the world’s best beaches, experience an incredible sunset, break out the wine, stargaze, chat in to the night with our new found friends. Sleep, repeat.

For three days! It doesn’t get much better!

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Most Whitsunday trips follow a well-worn path, so we didn’t expect complete solitude and isolation, but our smaller, quicker vessel with fewer guests gave us more opportunity to chart a more individual course and escape the giant tanker-style day trips.

So each night, Skipper Dave would roll out the map and offer us a few options for the following day. We felt like proper sea farers!

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The three day trip allowed us to snorkel five times at some of the best shallow spots. At first a full moon made visibility poorer and the tide higher.

But as that subsided, each snorkel revealed more and more vivid coral in fluorescent colours, moving almost hypnotically in time with the sea currents, barely a few feet from the surface.

It was by far the best coral we’ve ever seen; the dozens of tropical fish swimming around them felt like an amazing added extra.

This trip didn’t include diving (others do; do your research if that’s a priority), but Chris was really keen to do some, so our amazing skipper Dave arranged it through another boat. Dive the barrier reef; life-goal ticked off!

We also got to try paddle boarding in one of the calmer bays; James almost came a cropper with his notoriously terrible balance but just managed to stay upright! Chris and Nigel made it look easy.

No Whitsundays trip is complete without a trip to Whitehaven beach, consistently voted one of the world’s best.

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The sand is pure white silica (although slightly less pure than on Fraser Island’s Lake McKenzie, we’d wager!), flanked by forest on one side and turquoise waters on the other.

It’s a well-worn spot for visitors, but it’s so long it’s easy to find a secluded spot.

Our smaller tour group also meant we were amongst the first to look out over Whitehaven at first light, as the Hill Inlet revealed the swirls of sea and sand that’s made it famous.

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After sailing for the day, night time was all about food and booze, the latter of which was BYO; red rag to a bull time for us!

40 cans of beer and cider, three bottles of prosecco and four litres of wine isn’t excessive for four people for three nights, is it?! We polished it off anyway!

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Our final shout out goes to our catamaran buddies. Mother and daughter Barb and Jen are from Canada and husband and wife Alistair and Lesley from the UK (Alistair grew up in Stoke; Lesley is Cornwall through and through!).

We shared lots of laughs, lots of drinks, and lots of card games!

And then there’s the food – we were fed constantly! All prepared fresh, we had breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner each day.

Top marks go to Rachel who seemingly never stopped either cooking or washing up all weekend!

These trips don’t come cheap – the Getaway 2 is at the top end of Whitsunday trips.

But once you factor in all of the food (fresh fish, steaks etc), activities and three nights’ board amongst such beautiful surroundings, it all seems worth it…

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