Tour Operator Review: Fantasea Cruises and the Whitsunday Islands

 

Airlie Beach is a popular, but quiet getaway in Northern Queensland. Not just because of its quaint village charm, but mostly for its harbor offering ferry trips to the beautiful islands laying just off the coast….The Whitsundays. After touring the town, in Aug. 2002, and absolutely falling in love with it, we boarded a local touring ship and began an even greater scenic thrill with an unforgettable adventure cruising the crystal waters to the marvelous islands scattered off the coast of Queensland. The ship was very well equipped and offered open decks for magnificent views. Our camera’s never stopped! Our cruise amidst the semi-tropical islands was magical onto itself, but the real adventure began when we docked and went onto the first of three islands…South Molle…afterwards, we sailed to, White haven Beach and Hamilton Island. The Whitsunday Islands consists of over seventy tropical islands and big or small they were all stunning, preserved, protected and unspoiled. It was a photographers dream touring these jewels of warm aqua blue sea.

After docking on South Molle, while not being a large island it offered miles of hiking trails, we were content at first to just stroll the golden sand beach, but was soon entailed in a journey to the top of the mountain peak in the center of the island. The trail was deeply embedded in stunning forest and vividly colored flora. After about half an hour of a fairly steep, but enjoyable hike we were topped the peak and was exposed to a glorious bay of white sand harbors and an expansive horizon of painted ocean.

It was a crisp morning and with motivation and a new found energy, we decided to extend our exploration and wandered down the opposite side of the hill, where we spotted several beautiful cockatoos, an awesome arrangement of butterfly’s and acre’s of varied tropical plants and flowered bushes. The height of our morning was, of course, the silence beauty of such magnificent views to natures wondrous creations. With our vision and thoughts being controlled by our surroundings it wasn’t difficult to be late for the boats departure. A great day is always too short and we had two more islands to explore, but weren’t too concerned…after all this was paradise and there would be another boat in an hour. We wandered back down the trail along the beach, and into the islands one resort. A few ice cold drinks later we brought out the cards. Well, I am from Texas… I never leave home without a good deck of playing cards. We may have missed the first boat, but we didn’t miss any fun and we sure didn’t miss the second boat. Another morning well spent.

We boarded the ship and was pleasantly greeted to a lavish lunch buffet. With fresh fruit, salads, meats and more…needless to say…it didn’t go to waste. Next stop… Whithaven Beach. Australia is a remarkable country and these island gems of the southern pacific can not be literally explained and to truly wittiness the stunning beauty of the Whitsundays…I suggest you take some time out from your busy life and enjoy them in person. The positively sparkling clear water is slightly tinted with aqua blue and the beaches offered white sand as fine as strained powder. The forested islands were painted with touches of bright flora and added just the right touches in creating a true paradise.

The huge ship had to remain a few hundred meters from shore as we anchored at Whitehaven Beach. The island was as nature created it…no town, no people, no houses and no docks. We loaded into a beach craft and headed for shore. What an amazing world we live on was all I could muse out loud as we splashed onto the beach. Spending the entire afternoon in this deserted playground of water, sun and beach was eloquent dining for our souls.

Swarms of childhood daydreams flooded my mind as the overwhelming beauty of the day’s experience kept me submerged in the cool water of the bay. I swam for hours and with the sun glaring down to warm me a gentle bay wind refreshed me, as I savored every moment. My crew exhausted lay sprawled on the sand as I continued to bath in the clear water. The water was alive with tropical fish and as these swam by me is was if they were showing off in glorious ambiance.

After a few hours, I too, joined the crew and stretched out upon the sand for some tanning, but also like the crew, I fell fast asleep. For me, the slumber was deep and rewarding. I felt safe and fulfilled. Time continued its journey forward and when I did manage to pry open my eyes, I noticed that we were the only ones on the beach. There had been a few other passengers dropped off with us, but stayed close to the landing craft. I looked up and down the beach and we were definitely alone, as everyone else had returned to the boat. Luckily it was still harbored about a hundred meters out in the bay. I woke the remaining sleepy heads and gathering our towels, sandals and camera bags, started running like excited children. The ships crew had noticed that we were asleep and with Australian friendliness allowed us to be picked up last. I really don’t know if I would of been that upset left stranded in this dream land, but all reluctance aside, it was time to re-board. We left Whithaven with deeply treasured memories.

Our third and final destination was Hamilton Island. This island was a world in itself. There are beautiful resorts, fine restaurants, shops, everything you could possibly want for convenience and more…much more! They were in their entirety a blending of amenities and retained tranquility. The island was sparse with sound and as we walked along the beach we instinctively followed the sound of some distant music. We continued down the beach to the strums of a guitar and the jungle beat of bongo’s. In a few moments we found ourselves in a beach side open air cafe facing a live band. The colorfully garbed musicians were playing a diverse mixture of easy rock, jazz and romantic island music. We grabbed some chairs, had some coffee and enjoyed the free concert. Each of our faces told the tale as in our own mental silence we reviewed our day’s adventures while basking in the last rays from the setting sun. Our island hopping came to an end as the ship docked and as its intense horn blasted away a near flock of seagulls…we slowly strolled down to the dock and to the ship that would take us back to the real world, which in itself wasn’t too bad, after all, this was…. Australia!

Visit their website at www.fantasea.com.au

Beautiful Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands.

Beautiful Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands.

 

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Michael Smith was the touring editor for Traveler’s Digest. His journeys took him across the world and on a series of unforgettable adventures!