Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef Australia  September 2011

I flew up to Mackay and met Pat who drove from the mine where he's been working (about a 2 1/2 hr. drive).  This area is where sugar cane is grown and processed.  There were cane fields everywhere.  From Mackay, we drove north for 2 hours to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and good access to the Great Barrier Reef. 


We had cockatoos and wild turkeys visit us at our hotel.



We went in search of a local beach and drove in the "outback".  I was hoping to see kangaroos, and sure enough my wish was answered.  Each time I saw them, they were far away, away from the road, but I managed to get a couple of blurred pictures with my camera.  We saw them jump to get away from us, and I was surprised to see how fast they move.  It was very exciting!!




We were told by our hotel to visit Dingo Beach, but we were disappointed with the area and its facilities.  We continued a few miles north and found Hydeaway Beach which was a fantastic area with several beachfront restaurants and hotels.  We had a wonderful lunch on the beach.   The sand was beautiful, so fine and white!



We were happy to find orchids growing on the property (I stole a cutting to take home....shhhh!).  We saw more beautiful birds.


We took a fast catamaran (2 hours) out to the Great Barrier reef to snorkel.  From Airlie Beach, we stopped at Hamilton Island, one of the 74 islands in the Whitsundays.  It's a beautiful ride out to the reef.  However, some people on the boat were sensitive to the sea (we didn't think it was rough, but then again we're used to it) and they were promptly provided with seasick pills and bags.  It wasn't a a fun ride for some!


We arrived at Hardy Reef on theGreat Barrier Reef and saw miles of beautiful water.  We docked up against Reefworld, the largest floating pontoon facility in Australia.  On Reefworld, we would don our gear and head out to snorkel.  Other folks went snorkeling, diving, rode the semi submarine or just enjoyed the views.  We saw beautiful, young coral with lots of fish.  Most of the fish we had seen before on our snorkel trips, except for the large grouper, one of which measured 3 meters.  We also saw for the first time giant clams...they were amazing and huge, with various brilliant colors of purple, blue and green.  I later read about them on the link below....some of them get to be 4 ft. in length and weigh 500 lbs!  We did see one approaching this size.   http://www.richard-seaman.com/Underwater/Australia/GiantClams/



More photos of the reef....



We loved the reef, and hope to go back some day!





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