I had a recent diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 30 and it was one of those things that scares the life out of you but, funnily enough, also scares the life into you. It’s things like a health scare that make you realise life is so precious and can be taken away from you so quickly and you can never take your health for granted.
So, in good health still, before all the treatment started I decided to do something I had been dreaming about doing since I first heard about it as a little girl. I took my mum and we headed up to the Whitsundays to finally see one of the world’s natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.
I had heard stories from my grandparents about the reef back in the 40s when they spent their honeymoon taking in this spectacular sight.
And, boy, back then I’m sure it would have been wondrous!
We stayed at a lavish and delightful hotel right on the water called Coral Sea Resort. We were greeted after a long day of travel by a sweet girl at the counter who was eager to please and guided us to the penthouse suite which is roomy and has a spa in the bedroom.
This was followed by a delicious room service meal prepared by the restaurant downstairs.
We ate at the hotel’s restaurant both nights and tried different things with which we were very satisfied. The service was spot on as was the coffee early the next morning before we met the bus at dawn for our big day ahead.
We chose Cruise Whitsundays for our adventure and they were fantastic. On the first day that dawn bus bus that took us to the Port of Airlie, which they can organise for you for $10 for adults and $5 for kids.
The cruise will go all day and you will be able to snorkel for a long period of time with all gear, including wetsuit, provided as well as a yummy all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea as well as access to the glass bottom boat.
I would highly recommend snorkelling even if you are afraid of being in the water out in the middle of the ocean (like I was) because the glass bottom boat, which is your only other chance of seeing the reef without getting in the water, actually scares most of the fish away and doesn’t show the best of the reef the way a snorkelling adventure will.
You can also choose extra activities if you dare, like guided snorkelling tours, intro and certified diving, scenic helicopter flights and even relaxing massages if you feel sore after a long day snorkelling on the reef.
Don’t forget to pack your sun block, swimwear, towel, clothes to change into, a jacket just in case, money or a card for purchases and your camera.
The reef was something I have always dreamed of seeing and it lived up to all my expectations. Fish surrounded us the whole time - small, medium and large as well as beautiful coloured coral, giant clams, brain coral, sponges, with mass schools of fish feeding and sticking close together on the reef.
Everywhere I looked, I was amazed, in awe and breathless. It really is a stunning sight and so much life is all around you that a couple hours passes by in a flash. But you keep discovering new and exciting things to see.
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After we snorkelled all day, we went took to the glass bottom boat and ate our weight in buffet food before settling in for the long boat ride back home - tired and satisfied.
The boat trip out to the snorkel spot and home is worth doing as the whole area is surrounded by islands offering wondrous scenic views with somebody (usually the captain) commentating and informing the whole way.
When we got home that night we managed to get down some dinner and a quick spa before hitting the hay hard. It’s a big day.
The next morning we woke up early again for a half-day Whitehaven Beach day cruise. If you have the time, I would recommend a full day on this pristine island, but we had limited time unfortunately - the half-day was still well worth it.
We were picked up once again by the bus from our hotel and taken to the Port of Airlie where we boarded another cruise ship that took us a short ride out to the island.
We got off the boat on to perfectly white sand that you only see in the movies, warm turquoise waters and one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Whitehaven, which stretches a spectacular seven kilometres.
The island reminded me of many movies I had seen as a child about ships sinking and survivors swimming or washing up on a deserted coral island that is so untouched you almost feel like you aren’t supposed to be allowed there.
Seeking a holiday feel, we took a walk along the beach followed by a swim and a lay in the sun which was exactly what we were after following our big day on the reef.
There are a few different options with Cruise Whitsundays like half- or full-day Whitehaven beach cruises as well as some island hopping combos that can take you to Hamilton or Daydream Island.
You don’t need a health scare to book this holiday, you just need to know that this is a bucket list experience and something you must see as soon as you can.