The story you have all been waiting for! Or the story we have been waiting to tell…
Either way this is by far one of the most amazing highlights of our trip! It is on par with our visit to Karijini National Park and our drive on the Gibb River Road. We are sure there is more amazingness to come, but seriously this takes the award for amazingnessness!!!
This trip involves a two hour cruise into the Whitsundays, out onto the Great Barrier Reef. More specifically to the Hardy Reef, where we docked on a pontoon.
The boat left Hamilton Island around 9am and all four of us were buzzing to not only get on board, but also for what was to come.
Chris and Annette had a nice little word with the captain whilst we waited in line to board.
As we boarded we were escorted to the middle level and to a reserved seating area right next to the captain. Our host came over, introduced herself and went over the formalities. After that we enjoyed some on board morning tea and a little island watching from the other decks. At times we ventured outside because it was a bumpy ride and there were children right near us throwing up in bags.
After an amazing journey, bar the barfing, through the Whitsunday islands we arrived on the Hardy Reef pontoon. We were with about 200 other people, it was not a massive pontoon but it was large enough, in combination with the boat to not feel crowded.
As soon as we set foot on the pontoon we got ourselves dressed in some wetsuits. We could see the reef as it was exposed due to low tide, which got us even more excited to get in the water.
We did not rush to get in as we had in fact booked seabob tours for only a short time after we arrived on the pontoon. They were these little red underwater motorized things that you could use to see further around the reef from where others were swimming casually. Picture some sort of powered underwater machine James Bond would use. Then picture us using them. Totally cool!!!
So with our wetsuits on, or in Annette’s case, two wetsuits on, we got in the water with our guide and headed over to the seabobs.
They were quite easy to drive, but at first it took a few seconds to get used to moving through the water both above and underneath, quite quickly. With everyone on their seabob we followed our guide away from the crowds and around to the quieter part of the reef. From there she showed us some amazing coral, including one we could touch. It was slimy and felt extremely weird but nice at the same time.
Our wonderful guide talked us through the reef and then whilst cruising along the reef I in fact spotted a turtle just chilling right on the edge of the reef.
He was so beautiful and relaxed. I called everyone over to look and then he decided to take a swim with us. We just followed nearby, trying not to bother or scare him. As you can see he enjoyed our company for his few seconds of curiosity and then off he went into the deep blue.
WE SAW A TURTLE ON THE GRET BARRIER REEF GUYS!!!!!!!!
On the way back in from our tour we just skirted the edge of the reef, observing the amazing fish and coral, as well as the insane difference on the other side where the water went for miles. It was deep blue, the reef just dropped off and down to where you could no longer see. And although it was stunningly beautiful, it was also bloody scary! Seriously the film Nemo is a great visual aid for what the reef looks like…just a lot less colourful which is due to our eyes and not the reef.
Anyways back to our seabob tour. It was an absolute blast! Not only did we get to explore the reef a little further away than most see, we got to ride around on top and under the water super fast.
Once we arrived back on the pontoon it was lunch time. We were in fact welcomed by a number of screaming children. Now normally you would feel bad for them and their poor parents who had paid a significant amount of money to come out there. But unfortunately all we could do was giggle, because kids were saying things like ‘this is the worst thing ever’ and ‘get me out of hereeeeee I hate this’. Those poor kids were just petrified of the massive fish circling right on the entrance board, and as you can see anyone would be frightened of them given their size:
So giggling away we removed our wetsuits and headed on board the cruise ship for lunch.
After lunch we just relaxed because at 3pm the boat would be leaving. And the boat would be leaving with those poor scared children ,their parents and not us.
That is right, instead of heading back on the boat to Hamilton Island and then to Airlie Beach, the four of us stayed on the Hardy Reef pontoon.
We were going to stay for a #reefsleep. That involved of course staying when everyone else left, getting to swim on the reef for a few hours extra without anyone else or screaming kids, enjoy that reef when the tide was in and the fish were feeding. It then involved nibbles and dinner on the pontoon, as well as sleeping there.
But I am getting ahead of myself with excitement sorry!
Everyone left and we got back in the water for a few hours. As I mentioned we got to enjoy he reef without any disturbances, and the fish were out in full feeding which was an awesome sight to see.
Once we had all dived for a few more hours we got back on board the pontoon and enjoyed some nibbles. Now we were not the only people on board staying the night. There was the four of us, a couple from Britain and then daughter and her parents from Canada. We All positioned ourselves in the least windy spot on the pontoon to enjoy the nibbles, wine and a spectacular sunset!
Feeling buzzed from the wine or the day, or both, we all took a seat at the table and enjoyed a lovely dinner together.
After pontoon hosts came over and suggested in passing that maybe we could all play a game.
I in fact had Ellen Degenerous’s ‘Heads Up’ game on my phone, and given its hilarious outcomes on previous occasions we thought it would be fun with people we had just met.
So our hosts who shall remain nameless joined in on the game and off we went around the circle with everyone having a go.
This game was by far the most hilarious thing that has occurred in a long time! Of course the game opens up for people to say silly things, but oh my goodness one of our hosts just came out with some amazingly funny things!
I cannot recall exactly the things that were said for each topic or question, and I fact for all of us in the game but one thing that was mentioned stuck with me which I have to hare.
One of our hosts, and it was her second day on the job mind you, was asked by someone pointing out off the pontoon ‘is that the Great Barrier Reef?’ She said ‘no of curse not, that’s just a pile of dirt’. Now at the time the reef was exposed and it was a brownish colour, so if you have never seen it before then I can maybe understand. But heheh it was so funny she, along with all of us absolutely cracked it when she told us. Making our night of ‘Heads Up’ even better than on Fitzroy Island and maybe in the history of the game!
With an amazing day, a wonderful evening meeting new people and some seriously hilarious fun, everyone slowly headed to bed.
Now you must be wondering where we slept on this pontoon right?
Well the #reefsleep was all about enjoy the Great Barrier Reef up close and being out in nature. So in fact we slept on the top deck on the pontoon in swags.
The night was still and there were an insane amount of stars out, so I assume we all fell asleep looking up at the stars, listening to the waves gently sway the pontoon.
We slept so nicely! Oh my goodness it was seriously amazing!
The four of us set our alarms for 6am I believe, to see the sunrise. And it was definitely worth waking up for. As you can see below Chris got an even better shot of the sunrise, where we got him and the sunrise. We know our picture is better isn’t it Chris?!
After seeing the sun rise we were given a delicious breakfast, which was enjoyed on the lower deck. It was still just the 9 of us and the crew. Really quiet and peaceful which was wonderful!
Once breakfast was complete, you could not get us in our wetsuits fast enough! It was a little fresh so we all wore 2 wetsuits, and Annette wore 3. Definitely worth it!
We had a good 2-3 hours on the reef all to ourselves, it was amazing. As it was early morning, the tide was in and so we could swim over the reef and see more than just the edge. The edge is amazing, especially with the contrast of the reef and then the deep blue ocean, but on top we could see fish like Nemo!!!!!
It is difficult to see them but they are there, blending in with their surroundings whilst us humans observed them just that little bit too much maybe. But oh goodness we could not contain our excitement from seeing Nemo on the Great Barrier Reef!
Once we had enjoyed the reef to ourselves, all got out and relaxed on the sun beds on the top level, which we still had all to ourselves.
For a few hours it was all ours, until we could see the next days cruise approaching in the distance.
Our peace and quiet was gone, but it did not in any way take away from the experience we had just had. By far the most amazing thing we could have done in the Whitsundays and on the Great Barrier Reef!!!
That was until our way home from the pontoon….
You see, we did not join everyone else on the boat back to Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach, we in fact all took a helicopter tour back.
To begin with Alex had been organising with Chris’s work to arrange the helicopter flight back from the pontoon to celebrate his 40 years with the business. I knew about this and was excited that Chris and Annette would be flying back, and celebrating such a wonderful achievement.
Well no one told me that Alex and I would also be joining. So when it was all arranged I said ‘ahh yay your parents will love it and have an amazing time’, only for Alex to reply ‘um matey we are going with them also’.
To say I was speechless was an understatement! Even when we were ready to depart the pontoon and get on the little dingy boat float thing to the helicopter pads I was overwhelmed with excitement. And I am sure everyone else was too!
We took the obligatory pre-flight photos and then were allowed inside.
And really there are no words for what we saw, you can just see for yourself how amazing of an experience and flight it was.
With Hamilton Island insight, our flight then came to an end, but definitely not sadly. I can say that we were so very excited and buzzing from that half an hour for a long time after it finished.
Back on Hamilton Island we waited for the cruise boat that had left the pontoon we had flown from. Once on board we all relaxed with the wind in our hair, surrounded by the water, islands and a stunning sunset.