Exploring the heart of the Whitsundays

I remember first seeing Heart Reef on a card and thought it was beautiful, I even added it into a collage of a hearts on a Valentine card I made for John one year, never did I think I would get to experience it for real, since the age of 18 I’ve been in debt, so much so that travel until recent years was not a priority. So when the opportunity arose on my Working Holiday to Australia to visit the Whitsundays a little research later and I was on that flight across the reef. To make it more cost effective, we were travelling to Hamilton Island so took our crossing over from Airlie Beach with GSL Aviation incorporating the scenic reef flight, it cost us AUS $229 each. The scenery after taking off was stunning, but it took us a little while to get to the reef, then it emerged, wow when it’s commented on how travel photography is doctored and enhanced, nope this was exactly what we got, the vibrant colours, so beautiful, absolutely stunning. This is my favourite thing that we’ve experienced in Australia, it was so inspiring, I just wanted to dive straight into those beautiful turquoise waters. The reef looked like it was endless, it was as far as the eye could see. The pilot let us know we were going to be passing Heart Reef and to have our cameras ready, of course like an idiot I nearly missed it! John had to point it out for me, it was a lot smaller than I imagined, but is truly breathtaking. A natural formation of coral reef in the shape of a heart, located in Hardy Reef, was discovered in 1975 by one of Air Whitsunday’s pilots. As you are unable to snorkel or dive at the site due to it’s protected status, Heart Reef is best experienced from the air by helicopter or seaplane. Luckily for me we swung back past so I got a better view the second time! On the way back we also got to see Whitehaven beach, which was spectacular.
If you are short on budget you can take a reef flight for a cheaper amount than what we paid without doing the transfer to Hamilton Island, it is well worth the money it was definitely my favourite thing to see in Australia. I’d read that people see the wildlife – manta rays, turtles and dolphins and whales swimming in the sea, unfortunately I didn’t experience that, but would definitely love to go again and try out a helicopter ride. Just a tip for those who get travel sick, you make want to take some tablets before hand, I was fine until Heart Reef however the pilot made a few twisty turns, but after that felt a little queasy! Still one of the best experiences of my life – highly recommended!

 

Heart Reef in the Whitsundays

My favourite travel experiences!

I’ll be blogging about these experiences in greater detail, but wanted to put together a compilation of my favourite travel experiences. I feel so honoured to have experienced these things:

  • Seeing wild dolphins in Florida
    Mother and baby dolphin in Key West

    – I love dolphins so much, it’s fair to say every holiday (before leaving to go travelling) evolved around them! But, nothing had prepared me for the sight of wild dolphins, two natural experiences I had were just the best. The first time in Key West in 2014 and the second time in 2015 on a trip to Clearwater. Such amazing experiences, my heart lights up.

    Dolphins in Clearwater
  • Flying over Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef –
    Heart Reef in the Whitsundays

    Never did I think I would get to experience it for real, but the opportunity arose when visiting Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays, when we took a scenic reef flight. The scenery so was stunning, the vibrant colours, so beautiful. The heart, a natural formation of coral was smaller than I imagined, but definitely my favourite thing to see in Australia.

  • Yi Peng,
    Yi Peng in Chiang Mai

    the sky lantern festival in Chiang Mai – Absolutely stunning, the sky was awash with thousands of sky lanterns all coming from different directions, and the river with krathrongs. Truly romantic, truly amazing night!!

 

  • Maya Bay – The Beach from ‘The Beach’ –
    Maya Bay – The Beach

    Doing my research on Thailand I wasn’t sure I wanted to visit the beach, whilst researching I’d viewed lots of articles and photos including that it had been CGI-ed and didn’t actually look the same. However experiencing it as the only tourists there was so amazing, the stunning white beach, crystal clear blue waters and tropical surroundings where a wonder, this is the best Thailand has to offer, everything I imagined from watching the film.

  • Meeting my favourite DJ,
    Paul Van Dyk at Genesis White, Sydney

    Paul Van Dyk – I’d been itching to go back and see Paul Van Dyk since seeing him at Gatecrasher in Nottingham a few years ago. I’d been in love with his music since I first heard a spine tingling track at the age of 15. When he happened to be in Australia at the same time as us, John and I attended Genesis White in Sydney in October 2016. It

    Meeting Paul Van Dyk!

    was a great night, his set had just ended, finishing with ‘For An Angel’ the very track I first heard of his, which engaged my love of his music. John spotted that Paul was right near where we were dancing, what seemed like an eternity, but was only moments later I’d spoken to him and had a photo – smile firmly plastered on my face for the rest of the night!

  • An engagement at Jervis Bay – I can’t write a post about my favourite experiences without our engagement being one of them can I?! It was Anzac Day 2016 and we’d took a day trip to Jervis Bayas had I’d read up on it’s beauty, we spent the day exploring the National Parks and pretty beaches.  We found a private beach surrounded by stones on one side and sat on a log and chatted whilst looking out toward the ocean. Just before the sunset John gave a little speech (I can’t
    Sunset engagement

    divulge too much information can I?! – I’ll embarrass him!), asked me to marry him. I accepted, we kissed and I confess to shedding a little tear! After that, we watched the sunset and took a few selfies with my princess cut ring, basking in love’s glow, before speaking to our families.

Engagement selfie!

 

Bizarre travel experiences!

Look out for our short series on our travel experiences, here is the first, the most bizarre:

  • Who’s going to get the chicken head? Really you eat chicken head?! Certainly one of the most bizarre meals I’ve ever been served up, nope don’t fancy that one much!
Anyone for chicken feet?!
  • Anyone for chicken feet?!
    Tasty huh, the helpx host we were staying with said they were like crisps to Chinese people, not sure that planet she was living on! Whilst she gobbled them down like they were the tastiest morsels on the planet, I cringed at the curled talon nails on the end of the feet. Gingerly I tasted them, sure the sauce she had cooked with them was tasty, but I just could not get past trying to pull off the muscle like tendons with my teeth! John on the other hand was a bit more adventurous, but we giggled to ourselves afterwards why on earth you would want to eat them!
  • Nail clippings and locks of hair for Loi Krathrong – Loi Krathong is celebrated annually in Thailand on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, where it’s traditional to decorate and float a basket on the river. Traditional krathong are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant, however modern krathongs can be made of bread, which can disintegrate and be eaten by fish.
    Our rose and orchid krathrong

    Our rose and orchid krathrong
    The krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolises letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. Legend says if a couple releases their krathong together, they will meet and fall in love again in the next life.

    Sticking to tradition, earlier in the day I’d snipped some of John’s hair and my fingernails (gross huh! I figured they were better than toenails to carry around!) and put them in a tissue in my bag. We searched the stalls for a pretty krathrong and chose a medium sized one decorated with roses and orchids. We headed down to the river and added our nails, hair and a gold coin, lit the candle and the incense and John took it down to the river bank to float off. Not sure if that technically means we’ll be together in the next life, but I wasn’t tempting falling in!

    Thousands of krathrongs being floated in Chiang Mai

    Between the river full of the floating krathrongs and the sky awash with floating lanterns it was so pretty! I’m not sure I’ve got rid of all my anger, but a few months after I did manage to get a job that has benefitted us financially. As for together forever, well we’ve since got engaged six months after, but I’m happy to just live in the now than worry about the next life!!

  • Finding glass in your foot years later! – Gross, not technically travelling, but John managed to find a chunk of glass in his foot from when he’d stood on glass in the sea in Thailand years before. How he hadn’t noticed it before I’ll never know, pretty gross huh!
  • Living with a porn star wannabe in Sydney – My first introduction to the attention seeking bimbos of Sydney. Living in a share house this nightmare crawled in with her boyfriend at 3am in the morning, woke the house puking, singing (badly) at the top of the voice til 4 or 5am, listening to the same song on repeat (I’m still drove insane to hear it to this day!), screaming match with a boyfriend whilst she was falling over and sounded like an elephant and then proceed to let the whole street know she was having a shag. Really, how your boyfriend didn’t know you were faking your moaning and screaming for 20 minutes I do not know (or maybe it just made him feel like a superstar?!), someone put a sock in her gob! The noise, I’ve never heard anything like it and (please) hopefully won’t ever again!
  • Tubing in Laos – John’s adventure, pretty fun, alcohol combined with tubing down a river, health and safety, erm let’s not go there!
  • Picking a restaurant in Ashfield, Sydney – lamb spine, duck feet, curdled cold blood soup, me thinks I prefer Westernised Chinese food!