Thursday, July 21, 2005

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach
Originally uploaded by scottydadog.
I'm afraid I need to retract what I said in an earlier post about Oz beaches being so good. It's certainly true of the beaches around Sydney and the Central Coast...but someone was having a laugh when they named Airlie Beach! It does have an inshore lagoon area with some sand but I think it should be renamed Airlie No-Beach in order to comply with trade descriptions...

The major redeeming feature is the fact it *is* the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. Daytrips abound to the various islands in the group, many of which have resorts developed on them. I decided to visit a few, ranging from the very good (Daydream Island; great meals and hot spas!) to merely good (Hamilton Island; very dated architecture but the most fun place to hire a golf buggy :-D). The highlight of course would be returning to Whitehaven Beach on a beautiful sunny day for a swim, an Oz BBQ and a game of frisbee on that amazing white sand - if only every day was like that!

Further out from the Whitsunday Islands lies the Great Barrier Reef itself. Floating pontoons are moored next to coral reefs, reached by high speed catamarans in about 2hrs from Airlie Beach. From these pontoons you can snorkel in (fairly) unspoiled reef amongst a myriad of colourful tropical fish. In addition glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles staffed by marine biologists give excellent insights into the reef and the ecosystems. This was where I decided to try my first scuba dive - and it was phenomenal! Seeing the reef, clams and fish so close, and not having to worry about breathing, was amazing and is recommended to everyone. The dive itself was about 40mins and after this time I felt I was quite ready to return to dry land, where I admit I felt a bit disoriented for a while, but the experience was certainly worth it.

Next will be a return to Sydney before flying home again - bah! :-(


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