The Great Barrier Reef, here we come! The 2 hours journey from Hamilton Island to Hardy Reef where Cruise Whitsundays’ pontoon located was organized, informative, and the ride wasn’t too shaky but I took the seasick pill just in case. The ship was a modern high-speed catamaran that fit I would say more than 200 guests. Since Hamilton Island was the last departure point before the Great Barrier Reef, a lot of indoor seating already occupied. The weather was great so we didn’t mind to seat outdoor and we got the first row at the upper deck.
It was nice to view the lovely island from the boat angle as it was departing Hamilton Island.
They offered free teas and coffees for the 2 hours journey, the restrooms were clean as well! When the announcement came up regarding signing up for activities, I went down and be the first ones in line. I was planning to book the 10-minute helicopter ride to see the Heart Reef for $140 AUD but found out that they also offer the 20-minute ride for $220 AUD. Hum……….while I was in line for 5 minutes, I decided to splurge on the 20-min ride instead because we missed the Reef Sleep already so need to catch up with the Great Barrier Reef. If you are going there for a day only, I recommend the fly+cruise or the cruise+fly option to save time and money. The regular day cruise “Great Barrier Reef Adventures” is $240 AUD and if you do the 20-min helicopter ride (I highly recommended it) total already $460 AUD. The Hamilton Island Air cruise/fly is $440 AUD!
I was the 2nd in line so they scheduled us to be on the first round of flights at 11:30 am; we get there at 11 am. After I signed up and paid with my credit card on board, I went back up to the deck where the crew started demonstrating snorkeling. The crew are very professional; they do this every day and still very passionate.
The hot sun and wind breeze made me fall asleep haha and Jason snapped a few selfies while I was deep into sleep LOL!
As we were approaching the reefs…….there is the pontoon…well two of them. I should’ve brought the polarizer!!!! The sun lights was reflected by the water that the camera couldn’t see through to see the reefs. Jason used his polarized sunglasses and put it in front of his phone camera for this picture….the reefs!!!
Another one over there not sure if it’s the same company or not.
Reef world…..where we could’ve slept overnight last night 😦
They roped the area where you can swim/snorkel hum….really not into the reef that I thought.
Once we got off the boat, we put our belongings on a picnic table at the pontoon to “save” the space for us. Then, we just grab our camera and phone and lined up for our helicopter ride. We were transported to a helipad in the middle of the ocean for our ride….they actually have 3 of those helipads and each pad can land 2 helicopters. The guests who booked the air+cruise arrived.
Quite a lot of people arrived by helicopter! That was our helicopter, red and black stripes and can fit 6 passengers. There was a family of 4 booked on the same flight as us so they sat on the back row where it can fit 4 while Jason and I were on the first row with the pilot.
We were strapped with the safety pouch and the tight seatbelt!
Off we go, doesn’t this looks like Jason is flying the helicopter? haha!
As the helicopter went up, we saw the reefs from above, it was UNBELIEVABLE!
One of the rule was avoid having the camera lens on the glass of the helicopter so I was very careful to not too close but close enough to eliminate the reflection!
The helicopter was turning and diving like crazy to give the optimal view for passengers sitting on each side and luckily I took the seasick pill! I was shocked by the incredibleness of the reefs that I did not remember that I am afraid of height!
OMG seeing the Great Barrier Reef from air was the most amazing experience on par with the Northern Lights! I kept hitting my shutter button but I did check to make sure my settings are correct, enough light, and fast enough to eliminate motion blur since the helicopter was moving really fast.
There is the famous Heart Reef, can you see it?
The pilot did a loop around it so both side can see the Heart Reef.
It was the fastest, most expensive, and most exciting 20 minutes that I have been through in my life! Totally worth it!
We got back to the pontoon and they already serving lunch in the catamaran. The food was mostly cold food…even the chicken….the noodles were very dry and tasteless…the only good food was the fresh Australian shrimps!
Since we were tight on time, the boat will leave at 3 pm, we ate and then get ready for snorkeling. Otherwise, Jason would stay there and eat all the shrimps…he would definitely do that if we stayed overnight!
We walked back to the picnic table where we left our stuff…we took out the underwater housing, switched lens, and have the camera set in the housing. Then, we went to put on our wetsuit since it was the jelly fish stinger season to protect ourselves.
We got into the water, it was quite muggy to be honest because of 200+ people were in the water. The pontoon docked near the edge of the reef so the water was deep and required to swim a distance to reach the shallow water near the reef….but not into the reef as I showed where they roped off the swimming area. As we were swimming to the reef hoping for more clarity………I was taking some photos and I noticed water inside the housing!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG, the housing had a leak somewhere ahhhh!!! I quickly swim as fast as I could while raising the camera to be out of the water as much as I could to get back to the platform! I tried to switch the button to shut it off but it did not work! I was very panic and as soon as I got out of the water, I kicked on something and I fell ouch!!! I opened the housing and switched off the camera. My hands were so wet so I didn’t think of taking the camera out of the housing; I just pointed the housing down so the water all at the lens side and not the body. The lens was the kit lens so I did not care if that get damaged versus the body. Jason saw me returning to the platform and he was wondering why and he followed. Jason found me and took the camera out and then the camera started to make clicking sound like when you hit the shutter button. He took out the battery….he said I should’ve taken the battery out the first thing!
We took the lens off….the camera sensor looked dry thanks to the well-built weatherproof Canon 5DIII. The battery compartment looked had some water. We slipped in napkins to try to absorb the water moisture. We did not get back into the water after that since the water wasn’t as clear as we thought and they roped the area so it wasn’t into the reef (I can understand to protect the reef?). We dried ourselves, took our belongings, and went back to the catamaran. We seat at the 2nd floor out on the back of the boat so have wind breeze to further dry the camera.
The water was very rough on the ride back and a lot of passengers were having seasick! Luckily, I was not one of them because of the motion sickness pill that I took during the morning; it really lasted the whole day! The crews were very professional on helping the sick guests as much as they could. On the ride back just before Hamilton Island, there was a quick downpour and we ran into the middle of the boat to avoid getting wet! The crew also served yummy huge muffins which we saved for breakfast the next day. We got back to the island and when we reached our apartment, Jason took the camera and tried it out. The back buttons did not work but the shutter button and focus were working fine. Jason left it on the table where the AC (dehumidifier) can dry it overnight. To give you an update, the camera dried the next day and all the back buttons were working fine except the shutter button! Perhaps Jason put the camera upside down so the water went down to the shutter button? Fortunately, the memory cards were not damaged so all the photos from the helicopter ride were fine. When we got home, we sent the camera to Canon Repair so we’ll see if it’s even repairable and how much!
That was probably the biggest up and down in one day of my life, one moment amazed by viewing the Great Barrier Reef from the helicopter and then the next moment got freaked out that the camera housing was leaking! But I was surprised that I did not let that ruined my mood for the rest of the trip. If before, I would’ve been crying already but I guess since we are making extra money from photographing weddings to fund our gears and trips, I viewed it as just losing the money from one-two weddings that we could make it back the lost 🙂
That night, we went to TAKO for dinner, we went there at 6 and was already full! We found it surprising that Australians have dinner so early, we thought we were early! We waited 10 minutes for a table and surprisingly the food was great and affordable! We ordered the baby octopus tostadas, Tako style beef quesadillas, and prawn and chorizo tacos to share. They were all delicious, I liked the baby octopus tostadas with seaweed very good combination of flavors and textures! Our dinner was only $44 AUD which I paid with cash that I have from withdrawing $200 USD from the ATM for the $19 AUD shaved-ice in Sydney. TAKO has great food but the waiters/waitress were very slow….I had to ask a few waiters and waitress for our bill!