Whitsunday Adventures

By Adrienne Costin

Suspended from the side of the catamaran by a piece of wire, the clear Whitsundays water rushing below me and the leech of the sail leading up to the blue sky above, memories of my city morning faded away. At this moment it was all about the wind in my hair, the boat sailing across the water, the islands around me, bare feet and comfy clothes to get wet in.

Adrenalin Rush has been operating out of Hamilton Island since September 2006 and is a worthy addition to the line-up of water activities for guests to this island paradise. The boat is a purpose-built 36’ Nacra catamaran and is the only boat of its kind in Australia which is licensed to carry its passengers out on a trapeze.

Think 18’ skiffs on Sydney Harbour and this is what you have but at a safer pace. The trapeze is a wire attached to the mast which runs down to the deck and is clipped to your harness. You lean back – out and over the side of the boat as you’re sailing along – relax and let the rope take your weight. The boat has wings added on to its deck on which you rest your legs. One hand holds onto a safety line which runs along below you and the other holds a handle on the trapeze.

Our next appointment with adventure involved considerably more speed. The Jetryder jet boat experience is guaranteed to get your heart racing. The upbeat music from the boat’s speakers sets the scene as the driver gives a brief safety talk before jumping behind the wheel, firing up the engines and pulling a fast 360 degree spin in the harbour. It’s a hint of what is to come as for the next 30 minutes the passengers laugh, scream and get drenched with spray as the boat spins, twists and fishtails its way around the Hamilton Island waterways.

For the braver at heart, stablemate Reef Ryder runs full and half day cruises.

On a previous visit I had enjoyed the sunset cruise on the lovely old sailing boat, Banjo Patterson, but this time our next sea journey would be with Fantasea on their Blue Ferry back to Shute Harbour where our sea kayaks were waiting. For visitors with more time on the island other water-based activities include snorkelling, windsurfing, catamarans and paddle skis, jet skis, fishing charters and sea kayaking.

In the meantime we kept up our level of activity by walking to the top of One Tree Hill to sip cocktails and watch the sun go down over the islands below – note to self – next time catch the shuttle or take a buggy. It’s very, very steep!

At least the walk down to dinner at Romano’s, one of a number of great dining options on the island, was a breeze. Sleep came easily after the action-packed afternoon in the beautifully refurbished Reef View hotel.

There were six kayaks heading out on the half-day adventure with Salty Dog Kayaking, two of which were paddled by our guides who between them had many miles and years of kayaking experience between them. Ours were double kayaks – the person in front leads the paddling rhythm while the one at the back steers the rudder with their feet and matches your paddling strokes. Attire is strictly comfortable and you are supplied with a slinky little outfit which is a cross between a wet suit and a tutu. Once settled in the kayak the flared edge of the “skirt” fits snugly on the rim around seating area to keep out water.

Our paddle took us across crystal clear, shallow waters brimming with coral and marine plants. Safely away from the nearby boating channel which bustles with life, this was a powerfully peaceful experience. We paddled a bit initially to get across the boat passage, but once we hit the shallows we drifted, taking in the peace and picturesque surrounds. This is a popular feeding ground for turtles but they were obviously dieting this particular day.

Time to head out to sea and a small island about 2km away. The sea was choppy and the wind quite strong, but the experience was exhilarating. It was hard work at times but never scary. These kayaks are very buoyant and it is unlikely they will tip, and if they do you are wearing a life vest. The fact there are two paddlers in each boat means you don’t need shoulders the size of boulders to enjoy this activity and a decent technique is nine-tenths of the secret to success, not brute strength.

Reaching our small island we enjoyed a chat while munching on a snack of dried and fresh fruit, cheese and biscuits, washed down with juice. Snorkelling gear had been stowed in one of the kayaks and there was a small beach littered with coral to be explored before we headed back with the tide.

It had been a glorious way to explore the waters of the Whitsundays. Thoughts of my day job in the city had long ago disappeared on the ebb and flow of the tides in one of the most stunning locations in Queensland.

FACTS:

Virgin and Jetstar both offer regular services to Hamilton Island from Auckland via Brisbane.
Fantasea Cruises run regular ferry services between Hamilton Island and Shute Harbour as well as to nearby islands, Daydream, Shute and Long Island.
www.virginblue.com.au or www.jetstar.com??

Reef View Hotel ?www.hamiltonislandresort.com
Adrenalin Rush Sailing? www.adrenalinrushsailing.com.au
Fantasea Adventure Cruising? www.fantasea.com.au??
Jetryder Speedboat Tours ?www.hamiltonisland.com.au/jet-boat-rides??
Salty Dog Kayaking? – Salty Dog offers a range of day and extended tours as well as kayak hire, lessons and sales.? www.saltydog.com.au

For more information on the Whitsundays visit ?www.queenslandholdays.co.nz