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Great Barrier Reef (Part II of II)

Southern CrossA former racing boat, Anaconda III was built with speed in mind. Engineering evolved and state-of-the-art schooners quickly outpaced the 102 footer. Like many maxi yachts past their prime, racing equipment was stripped and she was subsequently outfitted for pleasure cruises. Carrying 32 passengers, the cabins either mimic shared hostel quarters or small private rooms (some with malfunctioning air conditioning). Her large size provides an advantage over other boats in the Whitsunday Islands meaning it can handle choppy weather that may prevent smaller vessels from reaching the Great Barrier Reef. This fact made everyone scratch their heads when the first skipper, Captain Steve, informed us we would not be able to swing the trip to the reef. Rushing around was not a worry since we had three nights and three days on the Coral Sea. Sounds like we did tons of research to discover Anaconda III versus lesser competitors, huh? Well, not exactly. As referenced in the Great Barrier Reef Part I of II, we chanced upon this opportunity. Sometimes the round-the-world travel gods smile down upon us!

Anaconda III Backside Anaconda III

Lounging on spacious decks while sailing was pure bliss with the Whitsunday’s 74 islands or the vastness of the Great Barrier Reef area demanding our attention. Our preferred viewing locale was near the Captain’s wheelhouse on the bow deck from where we could see 360 degrees, listen to the sails harness the wind, and inhale the salty ocean smell. When we were not scuba diving or snorkeling, I kept my stinger suit on (required due to highly poisonous jellyfish) and did flips off the port side while Ash’s mind was engulfed in her latest sultry book. Each evening began with a breathtaking sunset while bobbing in the Coral Sea. And the company was superb.

Back Deck Spot Girl Spot

On the day of departure, Ash and I were walking along Airlie Beach to the dock when we met a lovely British couple, Ben and Helen. They too were on a trip around the world and we shared a lot in common. Also on board were Jon and Jenny, yet another British couple traveling the world. We met Amy as well whom was traveling the globe solo. One guess of her nationality. We had a ball spending leisure time swapping adventure stories and accounts of hostel horrors. Passports stolen while riding a Bangkok tuk-tuk on RTW Trip Day #4 or mice giving birth on someones head in a less than appealing guesthouse were among the tales. One of the toughest parts of backpacking the world is the constant coming and going, hellos and goodbyes, and moving from bed to bed. So it was a pleasure to spend three days with people whom instantly became our friends and confidants. After our exhilarating night dive on the Great Barrier Reef, the English gals taught everyone the game of Spot. Similar to the American rhythm and singing game Zoomie Zoomie, when you fouled up the consequences were dire. That is, the offender’s face would be stamped with colored zinc. Not too long into the confusing game, we resembled exotic tribe folk with yours truly exhibiting the worst rash of neon dots.

Greg's 4 our 10 Flip Our Favorite Vantage Point Sunset Through Life Preserver

Three days came and went and the turbulent weather of the first day became a distant memory. We soaked up the Whitsunday Islands during a leisurely sail back to Airlie Beach from the Great Barrier Reef. Stopping for a snorkel at Blue Pear Bay, AKA Fish City, we fed schools of tropical fish that expected an easy meal. A pod of dolphins even wished us farewell as they shadowed Anaconda III close into harbour. Still feeling the effects of the shifting sea back on dry land, we headed for our hostel’s hot shower and some sleep. Later that evening we met up with our English friends for some pizza and beers. It was abundantly clear that all of us were worn out from life on the high seas. But what a time we had!

Tenders Starboard Side Coming Into Port

The Great Barrier Reef was among our Top 10 ‘must sees’ on our round the world adventure. It did not disappoint. A little bit of luck in booking the proper vessel and befriending some interesting nomads made the unforgettable experience that much better.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. There are two bus companies to choose from along Australia’s East Coast: Greyhound and Premier. Both offer similar comfort and reliability, but Premier is generally cheaper. We utilized both and made our choice based on scheduled departures and arrivals.  Both offer hop-on and hop-off deals or mileage packages that can save some money.
  2. The best travel tips and recommendations don’t come from guidebooks. They come from fellow travelers. We have been on the road for eight months and have not purchased a single guidebook. We ask backpackers questions and reciprocate with suggestions of our own. Travel blogs and other Internet resources like TripAdvisor.com are frequently updated and offer valuable personal accounts.

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