A Kind of Magic

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The main aim of our Australia trip was to visit the Great Barrier Reef. So we were more than a little alarmed when the day before we were due to arrive in Airlie Beach to begin our two-night tour of the Reef and the nearby Whitsunday Islands we were told that we had been double booked and there was no room for us on the boat.

A ropey situation on Airlie Beach

After a 10-hour bus from Cairns to Airlie we were no more certain of getting a place on our tour or any other. This was on a Thursday night and our original boat was due to leave on the Saturday morning. The next day we headed straight to the agency ready for battle with the inept girl that had wrecked our booking.

But when we arrived we were immediately pacified by the two lovely women who worked for the agency and who seemed more determined than us to make sure we would not miss out. After they apologised profusely and gave legitimate-ish reasons for their mistake, the conversation went something like this:

Sharon: Dont worry I am going to get you on a boat.

Us (worried): er, ok

(Sharon exits and returns a few minutes later)

Sharon: I’ve found a boat for you but it’s a bit different to the one you booked.

Us (worried and cynical): Different how?

Sharon: Well, it’s a sail ship instead of a catamaran, the tour is for three nights instead of two nights and it is double the price.

Us (dejected and mildly annoyed): Oh, that’s no good, we cant afford to pay any more.

Sharon: No problem, we will pay the difference.

Us (surprised yet sceptical): Ok, what’s the catch?

Sharon: No catch, except the boat leaves today.

Us (interested yet cautious): That’s fine for us but we’ve booked our hotel for two nights.

Sharon: No problem, we’ll cover the payment for your second night.

Us (delighted but trying not to show it): Ok, we’ll take it.

In one conversation, we had gone from a two-night tour on a cheap catamaran that didn’t have a place for us to a three night luxury cruise on the Whitsunday Magic, one of the best ships in the harbour. And there was no difference in the price. As Tommy Cooper might say: “Just like that!”

The Magic

We rushed back to our hotel to pack our bags and head for the boat. Everyone we spoke to on the way, in shops and in our hotel, said we would love ‘The Magic’ and that the food is amazing. This made Manna very happy.

We were then taken by coach to the boat along with our shipmates for the next few days. There was a real cross-section of people from a 20-something French couple to a retired husband and wife with their eight-year old kid and an array of young couples, singletons and middle-aged adventurers in between. But everyone was thoroughly friendly and we knew we were going to enjoy the trip.

We were even more certain when we saw the ship, a 115ft Mediterranean luxury schooner which stood out majestically in a harbour full of catamarans and speedboats. For the next three nights and three days we were treated to amazing views from the sundeck of the ship, incredible snorkelling over luminous coral reefs, and FIVE delicious meals a day.

Chilling on the sun-deck

Sailing on the high seas

We also did our first scuba dives (I had previously dived in Eilat but it was such a lame experience that it hardly counts). We had to pay extra for our dives but they were definitely worth it.

Thierry, our French scuba dive instructor, who reminded Manna of the of hippy turtles from Finding Nemo (she had fish on the mind), was incredibly laid back and put you completely at ease from the beginning. After a five minute briefing in the water we found ourselves 10 metres under the surface and surrounded by a vast array of fish.

My favourite parts were watching clownfish (Nemos) weaving their way in and out of tentacled sea anemones, and seeing a rather large moray eel poke its head out of a cave in the coral.

MKB unda da sea

MC unda da sea

Life unda da sea

We enjoyed the experience so much that we have since booked ourselves onto a dive course in Hoi An, Vietnam so we can get our PADI open-water license (just another expensive hobby to add to the list).

Another highlight was Whitehaven Beach, which, with its fine white sands and ultra-marine waters, seemed too perfect to be true. Indeed, the sand on Whitehaven is so fine that NASA paid a lot of money to use it to make the lens for its Hubble telescope. We spent a good hour wallowing in the shallow bay and simply enjoying the view. The only shame was that we had to leave shortly after this as we were ushered onto the next part of our tour.

Whitehaven Beach

White (and blue) haven beach

Suffice to say, after three days and nights on this fabulous boat we were gutted to leave. We had been treated like royalty for the entire time and were getting extremely used to it. We were not looking forward to the “hardships” of the travellers’ life but were glad that our voyage along the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays Islands made our detour through Australia a worthwhile one.

Manna toasts 'The Magic' with a glass of sunshine

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2 Responses to “A Kind of Magic”

  1. cynthia cutler Says:

    It gets better and better, What next ask.
    Love you and miss you xxx

  2. Akane Jansen Says:

    Hey Manna, you are having a great time!! I’min the States right now. Visiting colleges with Andrew.

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