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The key to maximum appreciation of the Whitsunday water wonderland is to know which location is ideal to visit according to the height of the tide and weather conditions prevailing. Some locations are not suitable to visit at low tide and others will not be suitable to snorkel because of the wind direction. Because of their intimate knowledge of how the wind, waves and tide will affect each location, John & Lynne plan each activity to maximise your safety and comfort.
Each cruise is planned so that there is ample time to visit the best locations for snorkeling and sightseeing according to the weather conditions prevailing. Lynne & John take you to locations, where entering the magical world of colourful coral gardens is as close as just jumping off the back of their boat. Here you will be accompanied by so many brightly coloured, friendly fish that it is like swimming in your own aquarium. Lynne is the snorkeling guide who will lead you to places where these fish will eat right out of your hand and will swim up to your mask to look you right in the eye as if to say “Welcome to my world”! They offer free tuition to those who have not snorkelled before and (being scuba divers) they can “buddy” up with any qualified diver who does not have a dive buddy and guide them to the best locations underwater.
When you choose to venture further into the marine park to gain a fuller appreciation of the Great Barrier Reef, John will anchor the yacht in locations, so calm that long stemmed wine glasses are safe ! In the morning, you can go snorkelling over magnificent coral gardens accompanied by thousands of friendly fish, before breakfast AND YOUR DAY JUST GETS BETTER FROM THERE!
An vitally important consideration, if you are considering a cruise of more than one days duration is that there will be no children aboard ! We guarantee that if you choose an overnight cruise, there will be no person aboard aged less than 18, because guests who wish to have a family holiday with their children, are required to book a private yacht charter.
A Typical “Active” Week Aboard Our Yacht
Guests arrive at Hamilton Island and are transported by taxi to the Marina (5 minutes). Boarding time is 3pm so there should be plenty of time for lunch and exploring Hamilton Island prior to embarkation, depending on what time guests arrive on the island. This is also a good time to arrange any wet suits or scuba gear required from the dive shop (H20 Dive shop) on Main Street adjacent to the marina. Be welcomed on board with a complimentary ice cold tropical Pimms cocktail or beer. Depart marina to begin an “Adventure in Paradise”. Sail to Nara Inlet (a beautiful fjord) to anchor for the evening. Cocktails, snacks and the evening meal will be served in this ultra calm bay.
Early in the morning, those wanting some exercise will be taken ashore by tender to follow a track leading to a lookout high above the inlet offering serene views of the yacht at anchor in a natural fjord harbour on this uninhabited Island. An added bonus while on this excursion is a visit to an ancient Aboriginal cave complete with paintings dating back to earlier than Captain James Cook’s discovery of the area in 1770. Return to the yacht for breakfast and a swim in the turquoise water before a leisurely sail to Langford Reef for snorkelling or scuba diving. At this location as the tide abates, a massive drying reef joining two islands and a sand spit is revealed. Those wanting to take advantage of Lynne’s expertise in nature will be guided around the reef before we all enjoy a superb lunch on the aft deck next to this coral cay. A short afternoon sail to Stonehaven anchorage on the northern shore of Hook Island in time to catch a glorious sunset, with cocktail in hand preceding a delicious dinner, completes the first full day.
An early morning snorkel over beautiful corals and fish gives an appetite for breakfast. A 20 knot south east wind blows today so we head out into the Whitsunday passage for an exhilarating sail. Lunch is served while under way and we arrive at Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island around 2 pm for snorkelling over the wonderful coral reef. For the first time we see the underwater world through the large glass bottom of the dive tender “Sundance Kid”. John steers us skilfully over the crystal clear water and colourful corals, whilst Lynne explains the names of the numerous fish and corals, before we excitedly leap overboard to take an even closer look!! Another scuba dive for those who are qualified, or those wanting a bush walk, take the tender ashore to follow the pipe track (about 2.5 hours) around the island for a “birds eye” view of the wonderful waterways and nearby Islands. Sunsets are superb from the western side of Hayman Island so we enjoy the crimson sky whilst sipping cocktails before dinner.
The corals are so beautiful at Blue Pearl Bay that most guests want to enjoy another snorkel before we set sail for Butterfly Bay. On arrival, we dinghy ashore for a stroll amongst the dense tropical foliage and thick canopy of native trees behind a white coral beach to see thousands of butterflies which fascinate our guests…and yet another snorkel for those inclined over exceptionally colourful corals. After setting a course due east, we visit Manta Ray Bay where the corals are spectacular and hundreds of fish are so friendly that they gather around and under our glass bottomed boat on arrival to welcome us. We watch with excitement when “Albert”, the resident Maori Wrasse (over 1 metre long) stares up at us through the glass bottom. “Albert” is accompanied by hundreds of Sergeant Majors, Fusiliers, Moon Wrasse and many other extremely colourful fish. Without exception every guest said this is one of the top highlights of their visit! Those that are scuba divers can dive, but snorkelers can also have the unforgettable opportunity to hand feed these amazingly colourful fish in crystal clear blue water. As the weather is totally calm and perfect, we all decide we will spend the afternoon cruising to Bait Reef, which lies on the Outer Reef, and is about three hours from Manta Ray Bay. Our guests read their books comfortably either lying on the air bed or on the inflatable armchairs, occasionally looking up to see if there are whales leaping out of the water or dolphins swimming at the bow. Some guests love to learn navigation and are ably assisted in lessons from the Captain! On arrival to Bait Reef (in the middle of an open ocean) we proceed through an opening between the coral boulders into a perfectly protected lagoon. The water turns from deep blue to bright turquoise as we move to a mooring in shallower waters. Our guests are mesmerised by the sheer beauty and remoteness of this amazing place! We all decide to take the tender to Garry’s lagoon for an afternoon snorkel to witness the amazing diversity of fish and corals. The sunset that evening has to be seen to be believed, as the sun drops into the sea as we enjoy our cocktails on the aft deck.
In the morning we enjoy an early snorkel with Manta Rays prior to breakfast. Our guests are over awed by the size and gentle beauty of these magnificent creatures. After breakfast we enjoy a one way drift snorkel over the entire length of the reef. We explore shallow, pretty coral gardens inside the Stepping Stones, arriving suddenly into the deep blue lagoon known as Gary’s lagoon (it’s like flying in air as the water is so clear and deep!) We then explore the whole length of the drop off which is known as Manta Ray Drop Off. Lynne calls it the “magic carpet ride” as she guides guests over what is arguably the most amazing corals and fish life anywhere. John is always nearby in the tender to accommodate snorkelers who don’t want to be in the water for so long,(and to give confidence to guests who are new to snorkelling!) but rarely that is the case, as there are so many amazing things to see and time flies by!! We often hear humpback whales singing whilst snorkelling, ever more enhancing the incredible experience!! After a superb lunch on the aft deck we reluctantly leave this incredible place and sail back to the islands. There is a 15 knot wind blowing, so we all enjoy the sail back to the islands and head for Border Island. There is great excitement when a large Spanish mackerel is caught whilst trolling! That evenings’ dinner is now decided!! Wonderfully delicious freshly caught fish!! Nothing quite like it!! Click to enlarge images En route there, we see Humpback whales (mother and calf) The mother is teaching her calf how to leap out of the water and it is an awesome experience to be so close, and we feel very privileged to watch nature at its best!! We toss the hydrophone into the water and listen through the speakers to the whale songs, and marvel at this miracle of nature. Lynne tells us that the whales can communicate to each other from over 100 kilometres, and that they often change their song from year to year!!!! We continue our sail to Border Island, anchoring for the evening in magnificent Cataran Bay with its steep cliffs joined by a saddle above a sandy beach at the head of the bay. Those that are scuba divers can dive, but even snorkelers have the unforgettable opportunity to hand feed these amazingly colourful fish in crystal clear blue water. The fish life here is prolific and includes the cheeky “Sergeant Majors”, “Moon Fish”, “Parrot Fish” and the magnificent “Maori Wrasse” (over a metre in length). Click to enlarge images
An early morning walk to the top of the saddle on Border Island yields fabulous views towards world famous Whitehaven Beach. After returning to Sydney Sundancer, we visit the stunning corals of this lovely little island. Later, as there is no breeze for sailing, the conditions are favourable to visit Deloraine Island about 4 miles to the south east. Sydney Sundancer is the only commercial vessel permitted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to visit this island, so this is a rare treat, because the corals here are some of the best we have ever seen. Visits are restricted to only perfectly calm conditions, and our guests are amazed at the visibility of the water and variety of corals and fish life. After fossicking on the coral beach at Deloraine Island (a rare treat because it is so rarely visited) we find an easterly sea breeze will allow us to sail on to magnificent Whitehaven Beach and we lunch in style on the aft deck en route. On arrival at the north eastern tip of Whitehaven Beach at Hill Inlet, we all decide to enjoy a short stroll to the look out, high above the magnificent inlet and Whitehaven Beach for THE most unforgettable view. Some of our guests decide on some gentle exercise walking on the silica white soft sandy beach that “squeaks” between barefoot toes! The remaining guests return to the yacht to try their luck trolling for fish as we sail to our overnight anchorage at the Southern end of Whitehaven Beach (5 kilometres away), where we plan to rendezvous with the beach walkers. Click to enlarge images
We wake to cloudless skies (again), turquoise water and the whitest beach any one has ever seen. A swim ashore is irresistible and a stroll unforgettable. We then set sail through the Solway Pass to Hazelwood Island and the southern anchorage named Waite Bay which affords perfect protection now that the breeze has swung to the North East. Access to this very special anchorage is restricted, and Sydney Sundancer is one of only three commercial charter vessels permitted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to visit this location, and the only commercial operator to permitted to conduct reef walking excursions. Low tide is at 10 am so we take the tender ashore at 9am to begin our fascinating reef walk on 5 square kilometres of drying reef. Lynne guides guests to all the fascinating molluscs and creatures, describing their life cycle and interactions on the reef. Later, when the reef has submerged again, Lynne guides several of us for a snorkel along the front edge of this magnificent reef and we see all kinds of fish life and wonderful corals. Waite Bay is a turtle breeding sanctuary, so we normally encounter many during our snorkelling expedition. On every snorkelling excursion described in this itinerary, guests who do not swim, join John for a tour in the glass bottom boat, so they get “first hand” experience of all that the snorkelers are enjoying, without getting wet! At every amazing and rarely visited location, it is hard to believe that we can be so far from the maddening crowd and yet so close to our super civilized life on board the Sydney Sundancer. We have our lunch underway under sail along the southern edge of Whitsunday Island while the occasional dolphin is playing in the bow wave. They love humans and seem to smile up at us as we watch in wonder from the bow. About mid afternoon, we enter Cid Harbour on the western side of Whitsunday Island. We all take the tender ashore and those who feel energetic, hike to the top of Whitsunday Peak, the highest point in the Islands, and those who just feel like a stroll follow the beaten track to Dugong Inlet – not so strenuous. Drinks to discuss the days’ activities are enjoyed whilst watching the golden sunset before dinner. After dinner we all relive the week by watching the photos and movies of all the adventures and experiences (both above and under the water) that we have shared. All guests receive a free CD of the images and movies that Lynne has captured during a truly amazing week!
After a swim before breakfast, we reluctantly set sail for Hamilton Island, concluding what has been for everyone aboard, the most fascinating, exciting and relaxing holiday of their lifetime. * Please be aware, that whilst most 7 day charters include the areas mentioned above, the charter is weather dependant and the direction of the wind play a large part in the decision of each days’ activities and destination. Rest assured however, that most of these highlights will be visited, but it is impossible to know until the time, which order, or indeed if we can visit certain areas (particularly the Outer Reef) due to the strength and direction of the wind at that time. Guests particular requests will always be taken into consideration, but the Captains decision is final, based on guests safety and comfort, which is always paramount.