fantasea

Sleeping under the stars….

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Aussisms today (apologies if any actual Australian’s haven’t heard any of them!):

  • Cackleberry – an egg
  • Pozzie/possie – ‘ position; find yourself in a comfortable pozzie’
  • Spitting chips – Very angry

Location: Hamilton Island, Queensland
Weather: Totally clear blue skies, no clouds and no wind. Winter rocks! Perfect for Reefworld. 25°c

The last time I went to Fantasea Reefworld it was back in May on the first day of the final for Best Job in the World, and that experience really didn’t fill me with a huge desire to go back for more. Let me explain….

The sign says it all!

The weather was pretty atrocious; the wind was thumping i.e. 25 knots, the sky was as grey as a retirees comb-over and the ocean was rough and full of white caps. If that wasn’t enough when it got to actually going in the water for our ‘snorkel test’ (the first of the interview examinations) what greeted me was a pretty bland, cloudy underwater environment.

Hardy Reef had some work to do in order to get my vote again…..

Of all the interviews I’ve had to do the one from today (and yesterday and the day before) were the most inconvenient. Villa Vanthilt is a late night program broadcast in Belgium and they asked me to appear on the show through a live Skype webcam connection…..at 5.30am! Not a problem as I normally get up early but when they ask for a practice the day before and I get the day wrong I end up doing three very early rises in a row, and I end up feeling shattered before the day has even started!

Had a couple of old friends join me today for the trip out to Reefworld. Tim and Mark from RTL in Holland are reporting on the Best Job and joined me at 8.30am on the marina ready to jump on the boat to Hardy Reef for a taxing day of helping the tourists, snorkelling and then staying the night aboard the Fantasea pontoon to enjoy the Reefsleep experience…something Bre and I had been looking forward to for ages – and she’s away on the Gold Coast, darn it.

A perfect crossing too with no wind, flat calm and even a good few whale sightings just off the bow which the captain slowed down for allowing us the time to take a few snaps of the breaching and pectoral-slapping pair loving their morning in the sunshine. This day could be the perfect way to forget about last time’s experience.

Fantasea Reefworld

Now for the sake of television some things have to be rigged to make a good story, and today was no different! RTL are trying to film me doing my normal work which of course includes handing out snorkels, fins and mouthpieces to all of the customers – so I learnt how to size people’s feet without asking them today…a very useful skill should I find myself suddenly working in a shoe shop over the next few weeks!

Helping to hand out the snorkel gear
Trying on fins

The boat was pretty full on the way over with around 180 people arriving, many of them experiencing their first day out on the Great Barrier Reef all in search of their own little Nemo. Once we’d arrived at Reefworld and grabbed a mask, snorkel and fins it was out onto the reef to see exactly what was there ….can you imagine anything more awe-inspiring for a little kid than swimming above an aqua playground with all the marine life just below the surface within touching distance?

The fish here are pretty used to human interaction and come right up to your face and camera lens, the fish being particularly interested in my underwater camera so hopefully I’ve got some good footage!

An inquisitive little fish this one!

As with most outdoor activities the weather is everything and we’d chosen the perfect day to come out with bright sunshine and hardly any wind.

There’s loads of options here for all ages and abilities; if you love being right under the water you can scuba dive, you can float on the surface and snorkel or if you don’t even want to get that wet there’s always the semi-submersible where you can sit and watch the marine environment through its glass windows as it slowly passes over the reef wall.

The semi submersible

I met Nessy, the dive instructor, back at the final in May and every time I’d seen her on Hamilton she’d ask “When are you coming diving Ben?” – now was the time! We assembled our gear, did the safety checks and grabbed a ride 200 metres down the reef to our drop off point, the outgoing tide giving us perfect conditions for a drift dive right back to Reefworld.

The reef wall drops down to around 30 metres and as the current helped us along we spotted loads of different things; Clownfish in the anemones, Sweetlip hiding under ledges, a Wobbegong shark chilling out in a sandy spot and masses of plate, staghorn and brain coral giving the wall a garden-like appearance with something happening everywhere when you looked closely. I stopped myself once to rest up and watch a parrotfish crunching its way through some of the coral, I love how you can hear it as the water conducts sound so well!

I hadn’t expected the best dive having been treated over the last few weeks to some of the finest sites on the Great Barrier Reef but Hardy Reef definitely came up with the goods. For a location that’s only a day trip away from the mainland it’s well worth coming out so when some of my friends and family arrive in a few weeks time I’ll be bringing them back out here – that’s my snorkelling Mum and Dad and my experienced dive buddy Jon who’ll love it.

My bedroom at Reefworld

As we neared our ascent point we moved towards the anchor blocks for the pontoon and floated up towards the huge Grouper which hangs around Reefworld all day, there’s three of them with the biggest called George weighing in at over 200kgs! These are the daddies of the reef but I do wonder how on earth they get to such a size when all they do it just sit there and hardly move all day…I’m told that the size and speed their mouths move at is the secret.

With the day visitors gone for the day, the solitude of Reefsleep could start, just me the RTL crew and Jamie our chef for the night. My kingsize room opens straight out the reef and the sun deck above becomes a perfect star viewing platform once sunset has gone, leaving a glistening night sky. I did try taking some night shots of the stars with a long exposure but even with no wind the pontoon still moves very slightly and they came out a little blurry. Will try back on the balcony at home one night….

Starscape
5 min exposure

After dinner we lay silently on the sun loungers staring at the night sky watching and shouting out as soon as we spotted a shooting star. It’s only when I do this can I start to appreciate quite how massive the intergalactic world that we’re part of is…mind bending stuff!

If you really want to get away from it all on a simple day transfer from the mainland then come and do this. The utter peace and quiet of night out on the reef can’t be matched and then’s there the viewing chamber, we sat and had dessert lying on our fronts staring through the windows at the food cycle happening right before our eyes….microscopic fish being eaten by bait fish then being eaten themselves by fast moving Trevally. George wasn’t ever far away….

George the Grouper

My expectations have been shattered and rightly so, Reefworld offers a truly interactive experience (and I know it sounds cheesy!) for all ages…but my sister’s family of three children would love it, if your kids have seen ‘Finding Nemo’ then you have to take them!

 

End of day location: Reefworld, Hardy Reef off the Whitsundays

Distance travelled: 50kms