Monday, May 18, 2009

My first blog assessment task - May 4th

4 May Blog

In a word, today was Spectacular! The beauty and intricacy of the Great Barrier Reef cannot be aptly described in words, but I’ll give you my best shot.

Starting out on a Fantasea cruise out to the reef we had a rather bumpy ride. The strong wind brought in some large rolling waves, but we managed it just fine. I think it made the ride a little more interesting. En route we were privileged to learn all about Fantasea, Reefworld, and the Great Barrier Reef!

Did you know that Hardy Reef – the one we visited today – is a great place to spot humpback whales and manta rays with a seven-meter wingspan? Now you do! That’s not all; this is also a great place to go if you’re curious about mass-coral-spawning. It’s also home to coral that grows so close to the surface that it can actually be exposed to the air at low tide.

Fantasea and Reefworld work together to not only educate people about the largest reef in the world, but get them up close and personal too. Did you know the GBR is the largest and best protected reef in the entire world? That protection got its start 35 years ago, meaning that this is where you’ll have the best chance of seeing pristine coal of all sorts. And with Fantasea and Reefworld operating in the Whitsunday Islands it’s SO easy to see. All you have to do is enjoy the ride!

We took advantage of most of their offerings - riding the waves on the way out, snorkeling along the reef, and departing by air. But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me tell you about the amazing snorkeling.

If you’ve ever looked over a cliff you’ll understand what it’s like to look over the edge of a reef. Then again, you’ll have no idea at all. Sure, the drop-off into the depths of the ocean is similar, but nothing can compare to a cliff made by billions of living organisms scarcely two millimeters in diameter. All of these tiny creatures, called polyps, work together to form the reef by excreting limestone as an exoskeleton. Each different kind forms a different structure, and believe me when I tell you there are TONS of different corals. With a myriad of shapes, sizes, colors, and structures, you could visit the same reef over and again and still have a new experience every time.

Oh, and don’t even get me started about the fish! They’re everywhere. Showing no fear I even had one come up and ask me to take his picture! I wasn’t able to find the fish-cleaning station, but I guess it’s meant only for the fish to use anyway. In case you didn’t know that’s a part of the reef many larger predators and prey lay down their arms to work together as the little guys swim in, out, around and through to help the big guys by cleaning out their mouth, teeth, and gills. What an amazing symbiosis. Divinely inspired, I’d say! I can’t forget to mention George, the resident groper fish. George is actually a female and she’s very famous. Being three meters long she should be! Make sure you ask the Fantasea staff about her when you make your visit!

After checking out the fish, giant clams, and reef up close and personal, we headed out from Reefworld in an entourage of two sea planes and two helicopters. That ride was pretty amazing! We had incredible 360o views of Hardy Reef (part of the GBR) from above. And it is just right out there in the middle of the ocean! As you trace the waterline from the horizon… BAM! There it is, out of nowhere, one of the most beautiful creations in the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take photos like the ones you’ve seen on your favorite travel shows! I highly recommend it. Here’s my favorite of many photos.

Landing on Hayman Island we were treated to cuisine from around the world. The master chefs on staff spoiled us with treats from all the countries our group represented! I must say Singapore’s entry, chili mud crab noodles, were pretty tasty! I do have to give a nod of genius to the delicious concoction from Canada too. Ice cream, maple syrup, and Cracker Jack goodness on a spoon! But don’t be mistaken, I think I tried nearly every food and dessert, despite having my fill, and all were… Delicious would sum it up in a word. And the resort? Gorgeous! It is luxury and style done to perfection! Everything from the building layout to the décor to the landscaping was idyllic! We were even treated with a tour of the Hayman Island chocolate room, kitchens, and Chef’s Table. If exclusive dining is your thing then the Chef’s Table is your destination! Seating only 24, the Chef’s Table is located right in the heart of Hayman Island’s kitchen area. This is fine dining! I was also a fan of the outdoor seating at the oriental restaurant. Hayman definitely lives up to its reputation of being a food paradise! Leaving Hayman behind we were indulged with a luxury boat transfer all the way back to Hamilton Island. It was a great ride with some fantastic wind in my hair – er… stubble – and delicious beverages were provided for all.

This has been a day to remember… and we’ve only just begun. The Whitsunday Islands are a MUST VISIT - twice!

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