Set sail to the whitest h(e)aven and explore the Whitsunday Islands

As the sail catches wind, we take up speed and slide through the blue waters. The curved sails reduce our sunshine spot on the deck a bit, but trading the sounds of the engine for the calming sound of the rippling water makes more than up for it. Besides, one of the perks of travelling in low season is that our boat counts twelve of us while its capacity is double that size – plenty of space to make ourselves comfortable on the deck.

Some relaxing hours pass by, chatting with our fellow ‘sailors’, watching the ocean waters glitter in the strong sunshine. In the distance, a group of migrating whales passes us by.

Arriving at Tongue Bay, we wade a couple of meters through the water and follow our enthusiastic young crew member for a short walk uphill. Although we are primarily exited for where we’re heading, the bush has our full attention when our guide points out a spectacular Goanna – a big dark grey predatory lizard with flecks of yellow along its 1,5 meter long body.

The view on Whitehaven Beach is jaw dropping beautiful. All of us make affectionate sounds of awe. The postcards we’ve seen in the tourist shops at Airlie Beach proof not to be photoshopped, but just well taken from the viewpoint we’re standing right now: Hill Inlet Lookout. Whitehaven beach is the whitest beach imaginable, and its swirly sandbanks and clear blue inlet waters form a beautifully patterned painting.

Hill Inlet lookout

Whitsunday Island sandbanks

Having taken in the stunning and surreal view for a while, and making lots of photographs to hold on to this view forever, we make our way down to the beach. Although the sun has heated up the inlet waters, the white sand does not retain any heat and is perfect for a barefoot stroll. The extremely fine and soft sand squeaks beneath the soles of our feet as we enjoy the magnificent surroundings at leisure. Small crabs make their way through the small streams of water flowing over the sand, and we see a ray passing by in the shallow, clear waters near the sandbank.

The sand of Whitehaven beach consists of fine 98% pure silica sand. It’s not only loved for its softness and white colour, but also for its supposedly beauty benefits – exfoliate your skin with the pure sand for instance, or clean your jewellery with the fine grains. Please do take care with your electronics though, as the sand gets into any corner.

Blue crab

Back on our boat, the evening brings us a fine sunset and a cosy dinner on deck spotting small reef sharks swimming round the bow, visible thanks to a special blue light. We romantically watch the stars laying in the two lulling hammocks that are stretched side by side between the masts, while the boat gently rocks in the ocean waters. (Although I have to admit we need to put a foot down every now and then to slow down the rocking pace and so prevent flying overboard.

After a night’s sleep behind the anchor, we wake up to moody grey skies and rain. Luckily, morning glory has changed her ways by the time we put on stinger suits that will protect us from the small, unpleasant stingrays roaming the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. All set we hop on a small motor boat that drops us close to a well-known snorkelling spot.

In the water for just a minute I hear a short scream – it’s my partner. He managed to actually hit a stingray as he jumped in, at the one spot not protected by the stinger suit: his face. Luckily it wasn’t one of those deadly poisonous ones and he can just continue to enjoy the snorkelling trip, although with a painful and red stain beneath his lip.

Besides the stingers, the ocean shows its other beauties to us on this spot and another one we visit in the afternoon. We see small rainbow coloured fish, making quick and sudden turns as they pass us by, curious and beautifully coloured deep blue-purple fish that come up close, and an absolutely gigantic and imposing black fish that’s known to show its face to snorkelling admirers. When our guide throws in some fish food, we are, seemingly from nowhere, surrounded by all kinds of fish – like as if we’ve put our head in an overcrowded aquarium.

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As we head back to Airlie Beach, the soaked stinger suits that we tied to the railing move up and down in the wind. We don’t hear the flapping sound though, as the engine is turned on again. It’s a sound we have gotten familiar with by now, and we enjoy the sunshine it offers us – it’s a bit chilly because of the wind but with the sails hoisted up it is the perfect sunny spot to enjoy cruising the waters.

Set sail yourself!

We’re extremely lucky to be able to enjoy the sail like this – it has been raining all week and we have double the space for half the prize – we booked our trip just a week in advance with a huge discount.

As soon as you arrive in Airlie Beach the offers for a sailing trip will be overwhelming. The two basic choices you have to make: do you want a bigger, party-style boat or a smaller, relaxed boat? And number 2: do you want to go for a two day, 1 night trip or 3 days, 2 nights?

We enjoyed a lovely 2 days, 1 night trip with a fun crew on board Siska.

A tip: bring warm socks with you! No matter how bright the sun shines when you leave the harbour, it will be cold at night outside on the deck and you’ll want to cover your bare sun-kissed feet (no shoes allowed on the deck).

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