Amazingly enough, we walked five minutes from the marina in Hamilton Island to the airport to meet Eileen, Tony and Jake. We were also surprised, once again, that despite traveling half way around the world, they were right on time. It was Jake's first time on the boat so we began by giving him the tour. We were teaching him the names for the different things on the boat and trying to answer such questions as why the boat has hatches not windows. As the tour ended, Jake stated that the boat was really just like a house and it should be called a bouse (boat/house). Tony later used this same reasoning to call a rather large boat we were passing a yansion (yacht/mansion).
As in St. Lucia, the visit began by Tony unloading all of the items we had shipped to him or that he had gathered from our families. I got clothes from my mother, mail from my brother, and a new Kindle while Mark got some much needed items for the boat. Tony was also kind enough to give us a hard drive with 205 movies on it. Yes, I counted them. He also gave us a typed out spreadsheet of all of the movies by category and by title. We are in heaven.
The Whit Sunday Islands were absolutely striking, starting with Hamilton Island. We stayed for a couple of nights on Hamilton to acclimate Jake to the boat. We planned on returning to Hamilton at the end of their stay to do some more activities there. Most of the land on Hamilton Island is a national park and it is a relatively small island. Most of the transportation on the island is by golf carts (called buggies). The entire island is focused on tourism with about 900 people living there at a time, increasing to 1200 during the peak season. With an airport, two huge resorts, and a small downtown filled with restaurants and shops it is heaven for anyone visiting. It is an incredibly well manicured island and also had a very significant recycling program. They had seven bins for different types of recycling - glass, cans, milk bottles, other plastics, cardboard, paper and organics. I consider myself a very conscientious recycler but I cannot say that I was prepared for such a robust program!
We left Hamilton and sailed to White Haven Beach which we were told by all the locals that it was the must see beach in the Whit Sundays. It was not a disappointment. This beach has the finest white sand we had ever seen. When you walked on the sand it actually made a squeaking noise. Unfortunately, it was still a little too cold to get into the water so we just got in to about our knees. One of the nice things about all of the islands that we visited in the Whit Sundays is that they have incredible hiking trails that are very well maintained. We hiked on a trail off of White Haven Beach and ended up on a beach on the other side of the island that was deserted. Along the trail, we saw some large lizards which were a type of iguana. The views from the hike were spectacular.
We continued on our tour of the Whit Sundays with visits to Nara Islet, South Molle Island, Arlie Beach and a small bay off of Whit Sunday Island. South Molle was very interesting in that the resort was closed for the season but there were about 15 people living there as caretakers for the property. It was like a ghost town. The hike on South Molle was the best yet with a 360 degree panoramic view of the Whit Sundays.
Once back on Hamilton Island, we booked a trip to the Great Barrier Reef on a fast ferry for the day. The ferry takes you out to a floating pontoon where you can snorkel, go on an underwater viewing boat, view the reef from a viewing area below the pontoon, and even get a massage. Something for everyone really. We also learned on the way to the pontoon that you could scuba dive the reef even if you have never been scuba diving before. Mark has always wanted to try it so he took the form to fill out right away. I hesitantly asked him if he wanted me to do it with him and he said yes. Yikes! I still was able to get a massage and go on the underwater viewing boat before we went for the scuba dive in the afternoon. They staff spent about fifteen minutes on the ferry trip giving us some information about scuba diving and then we spent about twenty minutes in a pool under the pontoon learning how to clear the mask, breathe, what hand signals to use, etc. Then we were off. Mark and I had an instructor in between us who held onto us quite tightly the entire time. I was a little bit nervous at first in the pool when they had us kneel on the floor and just breathe there. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it. One of the hardest things was that it was incredibly cold even with a long suit and a short suit to keep us warm. I was shivering and grateful to start the scuba diving. The fish were amazing and quite large. The coral was incredible but we are becoming quite spoiled with the amount of snorkeling we have done and the great places we have been. There was lively discussion by the fleet about whether this was the best snorkeling spot that we have been to yet or whether others were even more incredible.
Another very interesting experience on Hamilton Island was a visit to the wild life center. We were able to hold snakes (Jake was the only one brave enough), hold a koala bear and learn about so many other indigenous species of Australia. There was a very interesting cockatoo named Freddie and an adorable parrot named Rose. We fed kangaroos and saw a ½ ton crocodile. He was not yet full grown and will weigh one ton when he is full grown. They had several tours each day at the center and we returned several times because they were so well done and educational. Did you know that many lizards, giraffes and other animals that stick out their tongues to eat have blue tongues? The blue color of the tongue stops the tongue from getting sun burnt. Also a crocodile does not eat during the colder season in Australia. During the warmer season, they only eat about as much meat as the size of their head each month. This means that if they catch a large water buffalo they would not have to eat for months afterwards.
We were very sad to say good bye to Jake and Eileen who left us to visit friends in Melbourne. The visit with the Rizzo clan was a much needed to help us treat our home sickness. We are lucky to have such good friends. Tony stayed on with us to try the passage to Cairns so we set sail for the 48 hour sail. Unfortunately, the sail to Cairns was all about motoring - just not enough wind. On the way there, we were lucky to have four dolphins join us one afternoon. They had to be about eight to ten feet long which were the largest we have seen. They swam so close to the bow of the boat we thought they were hitting it at times. The jumped out of the water, showed us their bellies and seemed to be watching us watch them. They were beautiful and quite playful with us. They were so close we got squirted by the water coming out their blow holes! As soon as we went to go eat lunch they left us - I think they missed having the entertainment of us watching them.