With all of the excitement of little kids on red cordial we strolled into Sydney Airport ready for our next adventure to Hamilton Island, only to see a queue virtually out the door and Loo Taylor caught my gaze and informed me that the line started way back there.Not a great start considering we were 1 1/2 hrs early for the flight.
As we pushed and shoved our way a little closer Janet found an opening and we slid right in and just made the flight with a minute or so to spare. Lesson learnt, always be ridiculously early or you may have an expensive start to your next holiday.
Our arrival at Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Group was greeted with a very sunny and warm 25 degrees and a short transfer to the Reef View Hotel. Our very nice accommodation afforded views of Whitsunday Passage and Whitsunday and Hazelwood Island. Lunch at the Sails Cafe on the beach and we all found our feet by taking in walks and a leisurely afternoon checking out the Luxury Boats at the Marina and the amazing Hamilton Island Yacht club.
Our group was met by our guide Hannah, a former Sea Kayak Guide from Abel Tasman National Park in NZ at the Marina and we boarded sCAMPer our Water Taxi loaded with Sea Kayaks for a short but quite wild ride to Whitehaven Beach where we unloaded a week of gear, food and camping gear onto this incredible Beach. Our first night would be a base camp at Whitehaven group site and after setting up a Day Mussion ( as Hannah would say) to Hazelwood Island was had across the passage for a snorkel and lunch at Windy Bay and a small surf in the tiny breakers on the northern side of the Island. The journey back was calm, with a Pod of Dolphins fishing in the Solway Pass.
On arrival back at Whitehaven the Sea Planes and Tour Operators had left for the night leaving us with a few Catamarans and Sailing Yachts moored offshore and an incredible display of stars in the new moon darkness.
Day Two : Our morning pack up and load up was swift and we hit the water and traversed the Whitehaven Bay for a hour and a half before arriving at Hill Inlet. This iconic piece of coast offers a magnificent vista of a pure white sand a turquoise estuary begging to be paddled on. The lookout Trail is well established here and charter operators abound with loads of day trippers photographing the scene. The decision to venture to the further campsite on Hook Island as the Peter Bay Campsite had been devastated earlier this year. This was a particularly long stretch in the early after noon but the group sensed the worth of our intended campsite at Crayfish Bay on the southern shores of Mackerel Bay.
This beautiful bay surrounded by tall mountains and beautiful clear water boasts great snorkeling and sheltered from the South East Trade Winds. The Sunset through the mountain saddle was amazing as we settled in for another night with the stars and and good laugh. The whole group has centred their tents on the view and the morning dew on the tent flys burnt off quickly as the sun broke through the trees.
Day Three :
Nearing mid tide, a short snorkeling adventure featured giants clams, green turtles and soft and hard corals in the shallows and the whole group relaxed in the morning warmth.
One of the highlights for me on this trip was the short paddle around Mackerel Bay as we headed north. The intricate rock features and coves and beaches that adorn this piece of coast was a real surprise as I recall my time as a very young Dive Instructor in the late 80s on this island, not recalling the beauty of this place as I do now with older more appreciative eyes.
Rounding the Pinnacle Point added some excitement with a dropping tide as we bounced through the Tide Race between Hook Island and Double Rock and we sighted a Large Manta Ray on the Surface playing under a boat load of on onlookers. Heading west into the appropriately named Manta Ray Bay we were dwarfed by the towering cliffs, sea caves and natural weathered sandstone sculptures.
Our arrival at Maureens Cove signaled the end of another leisurely paddle as we topped up on supplies from Neil at Salty Dog Sea Kayaking who met us with some water and food supplies.Snorkeling that afternoon was fantastic where we heard Humpback Whales singing in the distance and a school of Steephead Parrotfish devouring sections of coral and reconstituting the coral into sand on the sea floor.
The sunset was breathtaking and the group sipped wine with the setting sun on the steep coral beach as the day ended with another incredible star show and the silence of a calm sea.
Day Four : Morning snorkeling stretched out the legs and a short walk up the dry river creek bed to an amphitheater of rainforest and in the cool of the shade the stillness and remoteness left us with a real sense of escape.
The group packed the gear into the kayaks for last time as we headed for Steens Beach opposite Hayman Island hugging the coast throughout Butterfly Bay sensing the varying coastline and vegetation as we moved from cliff faces to mangroves to estuarine to steep beaches and coral bommies.The Mountainous scenery is a real delight on this trip and combined with the colours of the Sea it strikes a stunning scene from any angle.
Our Last night on Steens Beach offers a sandy campsite with a commanding view of Hayman Island and the Mainland to the West as the sun sets over the Queenland Hinterland.
Day 5 : Our last day of Sea Kayaking allowed time for a short Paddle to Black Island ( Bali Hai ) opposite Hook Island and a snack and a break before heading across the very windy Strait to Steens Beach for our collection by the Water Taxi. A 1.5 hour exciting ride back to Hamilton Island and 2 nights of realxing at the Reef Hotel, Dinner, chilling by the pool side and sightseeing ended a brilliant week with a superb group of people.
I have discovered that these trips encompass great experiences and a social bonding with a group that you cannot put a value on.I would like to thank our Group of Paddlers on this trip for a very nice week, and some great laughs and experiences. The personal achievements of the week were taken on with humour and a great sense of adventure and this is what these Sea Kayaking Expeditions are all about for me.
Huge thanks to our JBK Paddlers Group - Dave MacQuart, Loo Taylor, Peter Murray, Di Staniforth, Bev Meredith, Jon Mortimer, Karen Baker, Janet Boardman , Ellen Boardman.I would also like to thank Hannah, Neil and Hayley Kennedy from Salty Dog Sea Kayaking for the great service once again.
Check out our 2015 Sea Kayaking Holidays as there is limited space available on some departures.
Ross Boardman - Director