Janelle received a text the other day that mentioned it was 29˚ in Maryland. She texted back, “What a coincidence! It is 29˚ here, too! Oh, you mean Fahrenheit.”
Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays is the equivalent to Cuba or Yucatan, Mexico, in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means hot and humid. The approximate conversion formula from Celsius to Fahrenheit is double the C temperature and add 30.
Hamilton Island is a truly beautiful resort with plenty to do for all ages: beach sports and activities, snorkeling and diving, golf, hiking, parasailing, kayaking, paddleboarding (at which I was a total disaster), and a hammock with every bungalow. Shuttle buses run regularly around the resort and the island, one can “hire,” i.e., “rent” for us Americans, golf carts for a couple of hours to all day, or walking is a good way to get around. Just be sure to wear a hat, have some sunscreen, and bring water. Morning and early evening are the best times to move around, while the rest of the day can be beach or nap time. Take your pick.
We are in a nice, self-contained bungalow with kitchenette and aforementioned hammock. Just minutes and a couple of hundred yards away are three excellent restaurants; of course, it is usually time to eat again. And, yes, the ever-tempting breakfast buffets are in full attraction mode. One puts you within a few feet of live koalas. The day we were there one was busily munching away on its eucalyptus leaves, while the other was fast asleep, oblivious to the humans, young and old, watching it. Another breakfast venue has a nice view of the hotel pool, and one overlooks Catseye Bay.
The wildlife is part of the attraction. Wallabys, i.e., smaller kangaroo relatives, are grazing on the grounds, especially in early morning and around dusk. All sorts of birds fly around, but the most common and visible is the cockatoo. They are noisy, curious, and look for any food left unattended.
Another flying creature is the flying fox or giant fruit bat. A few “scouts” start appearing in late afternoon, then hundreds fill the sky about an hour later. Their name does not exaggerate. The wingspan is three to five feet, body length about 16 inches, and weight can exceed two pounds. They are silent flyers and seem only interested in finding food in the trees.
The day-long Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Adventure tour was excellent. The weather was hot, but the ocean breeze made it very comfortable. The 90-minute power catamaran ride out to the pontoons was calm until we entered the open water shipping channel. Then we suffered some seasickness “casualties.” All survived, so we did not have to dispose any bodies at sea, although speaking from long ago experience, some of the sufferers might have preferred that.
At the pontoons anchored at Hardy Reef we fanned out for our individual activities: unsupervised snorkeling or with a guide, introductory or certification SCUBA diving (even though I have several SCUBA certifications, they were way old, plus my surgery history precluded me diving), and the semi-submersible submarine (actually a glass-bottomed boat). We were outfitted with full-body “stinger” suits to protect from jellyfish and our snorkeling equipment.
The water was warm, visibility was about 10-15 meters (about 45 feet), and the reef was teeming with activity. According to the guides, GBR is actually visible from space, comprises thousands of individual reefs and islands, and is the size of Japan. We snorkeled in three to five meters and saw all sorts and colors of coral, e.g., blue, green, purple, red, which are caused by algae on the coral, a couple of turtles, and a variety of fish from an inch or two long to a couple of feet. The fish were curious, colorful, and would get close enough to touch, almost, before they flitted just out of reach.
The only golf course in Australia (and maybe the world) with its own island is the Hamilton Island Golf Club, a spectacular layout on Dent Island, a ten-minute ferry ride away. I took advantage of a nine-hole special that included rentals, cart, and a dozen balls (I brought eight back). It is a public course, but I played by myself and did not see anybody else during the round. Although the weather was warm, the stiff breeze kept things pretty bearable. The course has lots of elevation and is pretty tight, but my excuse is that the scenery distracted from my usual laser focus. I ended up with a low-cost-per-stroke on the day, but it was a wonderful experience.
So after three days of fun in the sun (and a weird sunburn pattern where I missed with the sunscreen), we left the Hamilton Island, where we actually had to walk outside and up the stairs to the plane, for the bustle of Sydney. More to come.