It’s not every day you get to swim with a giant Maori Wrasse fish about 1.5 meters long or quietly watch thousands of fish quickly swim by, leaving only streaks of silver. These were some of the many delights I was able to experience during my dive in the Great Barrier Reef, which has been on my bucket list for quite a long time. During my trip to the Whitsundays, I was able to take a trip out to Hardy Reef, about a 3-hour journey from Airlie Beach. Cruise Whitsundays offers a day trip on their comfortable high speed catamaran passing through numerous islands and ending on their pontoon in Hardy Reef. This full day experience was a perfect introduction to seeing the islands as well as the outer reef.
We started our day boarding the ship at Port of Airlie. Sitting on the top deck, we had beautiful views of the many 74 Whitsunday islands including Daydream Island and Hamilton Island, where we picked up other passengers. When it got a bit too windy, we went downstairs into one of the air conditioned lounges and had some tea and coffee. During that time, the staff also came around and asked if anyone wanted to sign up for one of the extra activities like scuba diving or a helicopter ride. I signed up for a dive since that was my main focus for the trip.
After the 3-hour journey, we ended up docking next to their pontoon–a giant structure in the middle of the ocean. It felt a bit like Disneyland with all kinds of marine activities on board. Since I had some time to kill before my scheduled dive, I checked out the underwater viewing chamber, which was a room full of windows that looked into the reef and had schools of fish swimming around. The majority of people went snorkeling or took a trip out in the semi-submersible.
Before my dive, I picked out a nice-looking wetsuit, which was provided along with all my gear. Once in the water, our instructor gave us a quick refresher, then we “dove” right in! I’m always amazed at how time seems to stand still during these intimate moments with nature. Exploring all the nooks of the coral one moment, being surrounded by a school of fish the next and then spotting a giant Maori Wrasse fish about 1.5 meters long were some of my highlights! I love looking up and seeing the light shine against the surface of the ocean, sparkling like ocean fairy dust. Before I knew it, our dive was over and we had to go back to the pontoon. My love affair with the ocean felt incomplete so I immediately signed up for another dive!
During my time in between I had an amazing lunch buffet full of prawns, salads of all sorts, meats and pasta. Normally the food isn’t very tasty on these types of trips, but I was quite impressed with our selection. Besides that meal, we were also served morning and afternoon tea–an assortment of cookies and fruit.
Activities included with the ticket were snorkeling with all gear provided, semi-submersible trips, an underwater viewing chamber, all you can eat buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea, wetsuits and a sun deck. Additional costs included scuba diving, guided snorkeling tours, scenic helicopter flights, massages and drinks at the bar.
Port of Airlie
24 The Cove Road