A Travellerspoint blog

Australia

Mourea, Maori cultural experience.

Mourea would be our cultural stop on our journey through New Zealand. Home to the Ngati Pikiao people we would be staying with the local Maori community. Upon arriving in Mourea we were greeted by one of the family members called Ruth. She gave us a quick run-through of what would be happening that evening. As she asked the group whether they knew what a 'Hongi' was, I opened my mouth and said "a dance?" but I spoke to soon and she asked me to come up to the front, oh bugger! It wasn't bad though because she just used me to demonstrate the welcoming tradition of the Maori called Hongi which involves the touching of the nose twice after saying the greeting Kia Ora.

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After the introduction we were led towards the Marae.

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The 'Marae' is the Māori's community facilities that usually consist of a carved meeting house, a dining hall and cooking area and the marae ātea (sacred space in front of the meeting house). This area was sacred as their ancestors had lived and fought on the grounds so it had a huge significance to their culture and their past. For this reason we had perform a ritual on first entering the grounds, the women walked first in front of the men in silence towards to Marae where we all paid our respects with a minute silence before being led into the carved meeting house for the official welcome into the Maori family. Before entering we all had to take off our shoes to not bring any of the bad spirits into the house. It is tradition for the men to sit in front of the women in these occasions, not because of superiority but because the women are seen as more important and therefore the men would be in front to protect them. This tradition had come from the days when meetings were held between rival tribes and the men would not want the women to be in danger.

One of the sons of the chief performed the ceremony which we weren't allowed to take photos of and after that we were officially part of the family, meaning that we can come back to this place anytime we need to. He told us more about the significance of the Marae and that they contain are symbols of tribal identity with each carving representing an ancestor. Even the structure itself represents the community with the central pole representing the heart, the centre of the roof the backbone with the timbers supporting the roof the ribs.

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They are meeting places where people can discuss and debate issues together. They will also hold occasions like Weddings and funerals, and during the funeral which can last 3 days all members of the tribe come to the visit the deceased body and pay their respects.

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This would also be the room we would all be sleeping in and after the welcome ceremony it was transformed into a giant sleepover with mattresses and sleeping bags for everyone. We gathered by the water as our host told us stories of how his people used the lake to fish for trout. It was a very sort after area and so other tribes did come to try to claim it and bloody battles were fought in the water.

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Before dinner we would be treated to a cultural performance, where they made an impressive entrance doing the haka. The haka was used as a war dance to intimidate their enemy. One of the men stamped so hard his foot went through the floorboards!

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One of the weapons we were shown was called a Patu, held on the hand it would be used to hit the enemy, combining this with a fatal twist it could be used to split open their skull! We were told the story of one of their ancestors who in a battle got hit in the head with a puta but instead of succumbing he wrapped his head with vine to keep it together and kept on fighting! Hardcore!

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We even did their version of the Hokey Kokey, which they used to teach us some Maori words! In addition to that all the guys learned the Haka, while the girls learned a dance using Poi.

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This resulted in a small 'dance-off' to see which team was the best.

We were served a traditional Maori meal called a 'hangi', consisting of chicken, kumara (sweet potato), pumpkin, peas and garlic bread. Simple, but so tasty, definitely one of the best meals I've had so far in New Zealand! The secret was the way that it was cooked given it a smokey taste from the malouka bark that was used.

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When this was over, and we had all done the cleaning up and the dishes (yes, being part of the family means you have to do the dishes as well). It was time to get ready for bed and story time! The Maori family told us some stories about their history, ancestors, culture and the Marae where we would be spending the night.

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All in all it was a very interesting and entertaining evening. What makes this stop so special is that you are part of a modern day Maori family, who will show you how they lived in the past, but also how they live today.

Stay tuned for more tales

Dan

Posted by doyledan 19:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sydney!!

Arriving into Sydney we were obviously excited and we were fortunate that my brothers mate Martin and his wife Kelly had offered to put us up whilst we stayed. Like most desirable cities, the accommodation skyrockets and so it was a real bonus to friends to stay with and so nice of them to offer. Martin was able to fly by the airport and pick us up, what a gent! We had planned to stay one night and then grab a hire car to drive to Port Stephens to do the Dolphin experience. Having finished that we would then head back to Martin and Kelly's to stay over a couple more nights and leave on the Monday. Arriving on the Thursday evening meant it was dinner at home and a good catch up, there was wine involved!. Kelly had made some pizzas which were scrumptious. 'Top Tip', cook the pumpkin first with garlic before adding onto the pizza to cook! Delicious!

The next day we had the morning free to go and check out the iconic Sydney Harbour! The station was only 15 min walk from Martin and Kelly's so we hopped on a train which took us straight to Circular Quay.

The double decker trains caught our attention straight away as it pulled into the station.

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Pulling into Circular Quay we were met with the WOW factor as a huge cruise liner was parked up in the bay next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was huge! And as we walked out to see the full view of the bridge and the opera house it really struck me how iconic this area was! I could see why people love it so much.

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Walking around we decided to go towards the Opera House, there was a bar situated on huge harbours edge and so we decided to walk around for a bit and end up there. Not sure what the what socks, vests and pants were about but it was quirky which we liked.

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The Opera house and the Bridge together really catch your eye and there are photo opportunities at every point. We of course obliged.

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It was cool with our camera zoom to be able to see the people climbing the harbour bridge up close as we had booked on to do this during our stay.

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Walking round the opera house, Sarah had a go at Opera busking...

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After taking in the awe of the harbour we headed on foot to see other parts of the city, which is the best way to get a feel for a place. My first impressions of the CBD area were good we walked up past the botanical gardens towards Hyde Park. (So many names familiar to UK have been used it started to feel like home). On our way through we passed this Wild Boar statue which is supposed to represent the friendship between Italy and Australia as it came from Florence. It is supposed to be good luck too rub its nose. Donations that people give go to the hospital that it sits outside of.

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Walking towards Hyde Park we were lucky that Sydney Festival had begun that weekend and so there was a pop up village for people to walk around even fit with an inflatable Stonehenge! Why? I'm not sure, I guess why not! ... As it was the weekend the queue was long with families so we couldn't have a go...:-(

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Making our way through the village we headed to a cafe for lunch and waited for a short while to walk to our hire car depot.......

The previous blog tells of our dolphin adventure...

And now I will start where Sarah left off .....

Getting back in the afternoon to Martin and Kelly's we had had so much excitement it felt like that should be the end of the day. Fortunately we had time to go into the city again with Martin and Kelly as they had thought it would be a cool idea to check out Cockatoo Island.

Sadly, upon arriving at Darling harbour there were a clamity of a errors with the staff saying the boat was full, then ushering people on to another one we could of caught without telling us. Then being handed 'priority tickets' for the next ride and when it arrived the floods of people went ahead of us because the staff hadn't informed the Boatmen so there was no space for us, the boarding passes meant nothing! Muppets! It wasn't meant to be....

Instead we caught the ferry back round to Circular Quay to enjoy the views from the river of the harbour, they took us to Martins favourite pub, which was like you typically English set up, full of character and good times. We chatted away about travels and suchlike which was great, it nice to hear what other people have done as it gives you inspiration for the next time.

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We parted ways in early evening as Sarah and I had been treated to a classy meal at Peter Doyle's Restaurant, provided by Peter Doyle! Not the owner of course but Sarah's dad. Another gent!

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What would normally be a stretch for Sarah and I was made possible by Peters generosity, which we are both very thankful for. Cheers mate! :-) x

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What was even more of a treat was that we managed to bag a superb view of the Opera House as the sun went down. The seafood feast was indulgent and so bad but good, as was the wine. Sarah can vouch for that I think?

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It was a fun night.

The next day we had our Sydney Harbour bridge climb and so a lazy morning nursing the indulgence we headed back into town in the afternoon. The climb experience is a definite must having done it. You are not able to take your own camera for safety of the drivers that pass under you as you climb the bridge and so we don't have many photos taken accept these money shots!

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Our guide Tom was really informative about Sydney, the Bridge and the people who made it. Some of the stories of the workers was incredible. The best one was of a gentlemen who had fallen 50m from the bridge into the water and was certain to have died if not for his quick reactions to turn in the air so was feet first before hitting the water! Amazingly he survived with just a couple of broken ribs but when he was found later having been picked up by a passing boat his feet had gone through his shoes from the impact! He was back at work again within 2 weeks!

The bridge is an impressive feat of engineering and what I didn't know was that it is made of all straight metal parts, not one bend was used to create the arch.

The 4 hour experience had been well worth it! We were pretty tired after it and I wasn't feeling too well so we headed home.

Next day it was our flight out to New Zealand so we decided to do the coastal walk from Coogee to Bondi beaches. To be honest this walk did make me think 'it would have been cool to live here'. Every turn there was a picture moment and the bays between the beaches had perfect spots to chill. The walk as well is challenging but easy too and many people would be jogging past us on their morning run.

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As we reached Bondi we got to see the iconic beach that many impressions of Australia are based on. I was impressed but I had seen plenty of other beaches in Australia that would compete.

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One of the cool extras was this pool which sits on the edge of the rocks full with sea water, an awesome place to do your laps. Apparently, during storms a whale was washed up into it!

After a well deserved coffee break we found a bit of food and chilled on the grass taking in the surrounds. We had to call it a day to head back to Martin's to get bags before heading to the airport.

A big thanks has to go Martin and Kelly for giving us a bed and showing us around. You guys are awesome!

Australia has been good to us and we were sad to say goodbye. We've made long life friends here and I hope we can all meet up someday in the future for some more shenanigans!

Stay tuned for more tales.

Dank

Posted by doyledan 00:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Part of the Pod!

Dolphin Swim Australia

It's been a childhood dream to swim with dolphins so when we found out about Dolphin Swim Australia we had to add it to our list.

This is no ordinary dolphin experience as you swim with the dolphins whilst holding on to a rope underneath a boat. This means that you are travelling at the speed the dolphins travel at and if they choose to engage with the boat and the swimmers then they swim past in all directions around you... So it is like you are one of the Pod! I believe this is currently the only experience like this is NSW and possibly the world. To say we were excited was an understatement!

Check out this underwater shot from their website!

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Based in Port Stephens in New South Wales we tagged it on to our trip to Sydney, hiring a car to drive two and half hours north of the city. As we needed to be down to the d'Almora Marina to get kitted up with our wetsuits at 5.20am we decided to head down the afternoon before. January is a busy time in Port Stephens and we struggled to find accommodation that was available or that didn't need a minimum number of days per booking. Luckily Dan stumbled across the Lemon Tree Passage Motel on the other side of Nelsons Bay whilst looking online and managed to book us a room there. It was perfect for what we needed and after the drive we were ready to chill out with some dinner by the bay before having an early night.

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We were up at 4am and made it round the bay in good time to find parking, get our wet suits and find the boat. There were 20 swimmers on the boat that day and we all listened intently to the instructions on how to use the harness and get in and out of the water, whilst trying not to be distracted by the beautiful sunrise over the bay.

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Five swimmers and a dive master would be in the water at a time, with another dive master sitting in the net suspended above the water incase anyone needed any help. The groups were split up by ability so the most experienced people went in with the dolphins first, I guess to make sure the dolphins were happy to interact and not be scared away by someone who might have difficulty. With all our diving this meant that we were in the first group of the day. All kitted up we were ready and so it was just a matter of keeping an eye out for any dolphins.

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We were told that only a few days before there had been a super pod of over 200 dolphins and so we hoped we would be meeting up with them again. On the horizon one of the spotters pointed out birds congregating over the surface in large numbers, a sign that there were dolphins fishing in the area and as we got closer you started to see where their fins were breaking the surface as they sped though the water.

On board the boat was a dolphin specialist who directed the captain on where to position the boat, they never chase or interrupt the dolphins natural behaviour so we watched at a bit of a distance and waited to see if they would want to engage with us. She would also advise if the swimmers should leave the water if the dolphins had had enough of our company.

It was very exciting as the pod of closer and as soon as one was spotted under the boat suddenly you realised they were all around us. There were at least 100 of them in every direction. The crew on board started to whoop, whistle, cheer and bang on the boat as the dolphins are intrigued by the noise.

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At the shout of 'Group 1 are you ready' we got into our positions on the net, hooked on to the rope, secured our masks and snorkels and jumped in the water.

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The cold of the water was a bit of a shock but that was quickly forgotten as not one but four dolphins came zooming in from the right, then three swooped in from the left. The dive master kept pointing in all directions as dolphins were everywhere. It was like being in the middle of a dolphin display team as they flew through the water, doing barrel rolls and loops to get a good look at us. INCREDIBLE!! They are so fast and graceful and you really appreciate just how well suited they are to living in the water. We had all been told to sing through our snorkels as their research had shown that this intrigues the dolphins enticing them to come in for a closer look. My singing was more like excited squeals as the dolphins came close. They must think we're very weird! As Dan was on the outside of the group he had a dolphin swim right alongside him and could hear it singing back!

Our time in the water was over too soon as we had to let the others have go too!

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But we didn't mind as we had amazing views of the dolphins surfing in the waves to get over to the boat. I think they were taking it in turns to to swim with us as well moving in and out from under the boat swapping from one side to the other.

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We were wild dolphin swimmers!! Woohoo!!

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 23:02 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

The AMAZING Lady Elliot Island!

Leaving Airlie beach to head south we needed to catch a Greyhound bus at 11:55pm which wasn't ideal as it meant we would have to hang around Airlie for the whole day. Without a place to go to because we were not checking in anywhere we used the outdoor areas to pass the time, which to be fair weren't bad at all.

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Most of the morning after returning from Oz sail at about 10am we spent in the shade looking over the bay, whilst reading books and taking the odd nap. The time did fly by and if we needed anything we just would pop over to the shops or bars the other-side of the road. The area offers lockers for your bags and so we didn't need to lug round our big bags which in the heat was a god send. The afternoon started to drag on a bit so we decided to grab dinner at our favourite restaurant Capers, realising then that we weren't your average backpacker because they would go down the street to the 'scummy' bars to grab a meal and a drink for 13 dollars rather than spend more at a restaurant like Capers. That being said we did get a good 2 for 1 pizza deal and spent most of our evening there before swinging by our previous hostel to have a shower. By then it was time to walk to the transit terminal which is newly built 10 mins outside of Airlie centre. On route we stopped at a bar which had hundreds of international beers to chose from and a rather opinionated waiter from Essex, he was good value though.

The bus ride to Bundaberg was uneventful to be honest and the only bonus was that the new buses have Wi-Fi but apart from that it was a bit of a slog of about 11 hours. The reason we went to Bundaberg was that we would be getting a flight from there over to Lady Elliot Island. Wanting to do some diving on the Great Barrier Reef we put a word out to friends and was recommended to go here rather than head to the highly marketed area of Cairns 'the Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef'.

The flight would be the next day and so we decided to get a nicer room to ourselves to chill out and spend time blogging and therefore we didn't to venture around the town which to be honest I wasn't bothered about, as nothing seemed to be open anyway! Upon arriving at the local Hinkler Airport the next day it was a bit dead with I guess limited amount of flights going in and out. Having found a staff member who knew the routine for Lady Elliot passengers we signed in our larger bags for storage and later were walked out by our pilot to the small airplane. It was a first for us to have this kind of personal experience and what's more was that the flight would give us a chance to grab aerial shots of island.

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Check out this...

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You could even spot mantas swimming along the reef from the sky the water is that clear!

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When we landed we were met by a young guy who was interning and gave us the orientation around the resort site. It wasn't a lavish site due to it being a Eco tourism development but we warmed to it straight away. The first thing you notice when walking around is the abundance of birdlife, this particular period was nesting season and there were hundreds of sea birds come to the island, and there were a number of young birds hanging around waiting to be fed by their parents. The other season that the island was going through was the Turtle nesting season, and so the promise of seeing either a mother turtle come ashore or hatchlings making their way to the ocean obviously got us excited.

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What is great about the island is that they set up activities throughout the day for you to join in...

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... one of which being reef walks at low tide so we decided we would do this first and set up diving for the next day. There was time in between to take a look at our room which is described as an Eco tent. I was pleasantly surprised because it was a wooden frame that is covered by a tent exterior complete with double bed and a cracking view.

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Before the reef walk we headed to the beach to join in the fish feeding demonstration and I got a chance to hold the weird looking sea cucumber! This animal plays a crucial role in the reef as it acts as the vaccum cleaner sucking up the reef floor and recycling nutrients.

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Teaming up with Fabrice, one of the guides at Lady Elliot, we were taken out to the lagoon reef at low tide to take a look at some of the interesting species. Apart from the abundant corals we found two types of starfish which if cut in the middle can actually reform into two new star shapes, clever!

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Sarah got a chance to hold this massive sea cucumber, she even managed to spot a sea worm which normally comes out at night but as we spotted it the crowds beckoned over it and scared it away and so we couldn't get a photo. It was a good experience and Fabrice was very knowledgable about the marine life which made it more interesting. After the reef walk we had a little waiting to do before going to the island induction that would be presented by the manager of the island.

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We were advised about when possibly you could witness either turtles coming on shore or hatchlings heading out to the ocean and so we decided to do a night walk along the beach to see if we would get lucky. This time we didn't manage to find any but we did get to see some of the other marine life that is active at night.

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Our next day was full with diving, and with an early start we headed out to the western side of the island between the coral gardens and lighthouse bommie divesites. Almost immediately we were met with Manta rays and later we would see a Toadfish, Turtles, Sting Rays, Leopard Shark, Napoleon Wrasse, Big Barracuda as well as your typical reef marine life such as Lionfish, Clownfish, Moray Eel, Angelfish etc.

Here are some of our best bits in video form...Enjoy!

After diving we were pretty spent and the rest of the afternoon was a leisurely one as later in the evening there was going to be a presentation led by Dr Fabrice Jaine (our reef walk guide) who specialised his PhD examining the distribution, movements, habitat use and sighting trends of reef manta rays along the east cost of Australia. The talk he gave was fascinating and a real insight into what a Marine Biologist might get up too.

He first gave us a intro into the physiology of the Manta Ray and explained that each ray has its on identification marks much like our fingerprints that are situated on their belly. If you are a keen diver and have managed to take photos of these marks please send them to this website so they can continue to grow their data collected.

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http://www.mantamatcher.org

A disturbing fact that we weren't aware of was that Rays are hunted specifically for their gills as it is used as a component in traditional Chinese medicine. There is no proof that having the gills offer anything in terms of medicinal value. Like most of the Chinese medicine trade it is damaging the ecosystem for no apparent reason and what is more disturbing is that it is not based on supply and demand but a hoarding of ingredients. I hope that the Mega Mauna Foundation succeed in stopping this blatant abuse of marine life.

MMF was set up to focus on the research and conservation of threatened marine megafauna species. ‘Marine Megafauna’ are large marine species such as sharks, rays, marine mammals and turtles". Fabrice explained that not since 2008 had there been research into Rays at such a level that new learnings could be found. Before Fabrice, a American women called Andrea Marshall was the first person in the world to complete a PhD on Manta Rays. It was her team that were based in Mozambique that developed the Marine Mega Fauna Foundation.

http://www.marinemegafauna.org

One of most interesting facts amongst a lot of information was the geographical location of Lady Elliot island. Sitting on the edge of the continental shelf it has a prime position when looking at currents, weather patterns, water temperature and source of food which all play a huge part in the behavioural analysis of the a Manta Ray. Fabrice set out to deploy tags, each costing $5000 dollars on 10 different Manta Rays in order to collect the data to further understand the reasons why they have a particular love for this area around the East Coast.

We found out from Fabrice that MMF have set up 'Ray of Hope' expeditions which offer normal folk the chance to get involved in the conservation and research by committing to help collect data of the different species of Rays around the world, whilst enjoying a unique diving experience. Sarah and I made a little note of that for a future trip.

That evening we decided to go out later in the evening on the beach to see if we could track down a nesting turtle. Not long into it we came upon a distinct shadow making its way down the beach to the ocean.

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Thinking we had missed the show we were equally excited when another Turtle turned up on shore. We waited and waited as it slowly headed up the beach to find its nesting ground. We waited again trying not to make a sound or shine a light to disturb her as any sign of danger they would turn around and head back to sea.

The one we focused on took a while to get settled and waited listening to her digging her egg chamber flinging coral in all directions. We were with her for over an hour when she decided she wasn't happy with her chosen spot and moved to find another area which is not uncommon. During this time we had spied another turtle had come to the beach and was behind us making digging noises. We decided to get closer to see how the other turtle was doing and hit the jackpot as she was already laying her eggs and because they go into a trance like state at this point we were able to get up close and take a few photos without disturbing her.

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The nesting cycle is quite incredible really as where she has laid her eggs will be almost exactly where she was born. They have this innate ability to find their way back to the birthplace in order to lay their own eggs. Apparently when the hatchlings make their first journey down to the shore they use a magnetic organ in their head to pinpoint their location so they know where to come back to!

With that witnessed we were ready to hit the hay, but what a great day it had been!

The next morning we lead one of the team to the nesting site so it could be marked, ours was number 36 of nests recorded during the season.

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We had set up our glass bottom boat snorkelling trip which came complimentary from the island resort. We met up with Fabrice again who was today going to be our snorkel guide and made our way over to the western side.

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The snorkelling was really good as the visibility was fantastic. We saw a white tip reef shark as well as turtles and plenty of small reef fish. It was one of the better snorkelling experiences I've had as normally I'm not much of a fan of it.

Inspired by the mornings experience we headed straight for the lagoon on the other side of the island to see what we could find there. This is only open at certain times of the day when the tide is high enough to be able to snorkel over the corals. We had a fantastic experience with one turtle who was just hanging out drifting over the coral who didn't mind us joining him for a bit. With the sunlight and being in shallow water we could really make out the amazing colours of its shell and at moments it would look at you right in the eye. Amazing. Such a shame we didn't have a camera with us that day.

The rest of the day we chilled by the beach getting some much desired sun and after dinner we participated in a game of island bingo using a Lady Elliot theme instead of numbers.

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The whole experience of LEI was incredible and we were so pleased that we made the decision to come here. We had ticked off one of our to do's having dived The Great Barrier Reef had been able to see Turtle nesting which we had missed back in Borneo. This will definitely be somewhere to remember for the future.

Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 21:19 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Sailing the Whitsundays

Avatar Oz Sail

Wow what a way to start 2014, if this is anything to go by the rest of this year is going to be awesome!

First off a big thank you to Sam and Sophie who we met in China. They were unable to go on their Whitsunday's trip and so transferred it to us as an early wedding present, so we only had to pay a fraction of the cost. You guys are legends :) XieXie! :)

We left Perth behind on New Year's Eve to start our second journey from one side of Australia to the other, but this time we would be flying and not driving!

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Our destination was Proserpine which was the nearest airport to Airlie Beach, otherwise known as the gateway to the Whitsundays, and where we would be starting our sailing adventure from. We were excited to be on the road again and had already got into the New Years spirit with a 'few' cheeky drinks. We were flying with Virgin who embraced welcoming in the new year by decking out the plane with new year bunting and the air hostesses wore glow stick head bands, all adding to the fun!

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I think she was a bit shocked by Dans shenanigans!

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Here is our first glimpse of 2014...

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When we arrived at Prosperpine the next morning we were immediately hit by how humid it was compared to the West coast and it was hot! As we drove to Airlie Beach we definitely could tell we were in the more tropical part of Australia and the scenery reminded us of places we had been in Asia.

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We were too early to check into our hostel so after dropping off our bags and having a quick shower we headed out to find some breakfast and explore Airlie beach.

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Not a bad place to have to hang out!

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No one was in the water though due to the risk of stingers aka jelly fish! There are two types of jellyfish that are of concern here, one is the box jelly fish which can cause death in as little as 3 minutes and can have tentacles that are 4m long. The other is the Irukandji which are small and transparent which makes them impossible to see in the water and their sting can make you very ill. For this reason you will see signs warning about stingers and recommending the use of stinger suits if you go in the water.

Alternatively you can cool off in the water of Airlie Beach Lagoon which is stinger free, and also free for your wallet as well. Of course we chose to hang out here under the palm trees, although it was a bit hard to find a spot in the shade amongst all the visitors that had flocked here on a days rip from their cruise ship out in the bay.

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This statue is another sign of what can be found in the waters around here. This is a Dugong (sea cow) but unfortunately we didn't see one.

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We headed back to check into the hostel at around 5pm and hadn't realised that there would be a pool party in full swing right outside our door. Sleep was definitely out of the question!

The next morning we packed up to make sure we made it to the Oz Sail office to check in at 8am. The boat didn't actually leave for 3 hours so we had a bit of waiting around. We headed down to the Marina where we would be getting on board The Avatar, which would be our home for the next couple of days. The group started to gather and we were all fitted with our stingers suits that we would need to wear when snorkelling.

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The girls we had shared our dorm with had advised us to take plenty of sunscreen and make sure you had a hat as there is hardly any shade when out on the boat. Taking this onboard I got a new hat but the wide brim meant that I didn't see the pole going across above me that I was meant to duck under when getting on the boat. Instead I smacked my face right into it! Ouch!

Once on board we were assigned places to sleep, now just a warning to anyone considering this trip, it's not luxury and you basically sleep in a hole. This didn't bother us though :)

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There were 25 of us on the boat and as we left the Marina everyone introduced themselves, we were a group from all over the globe including Italy, America, Canada, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden. We were introduced to the crew and Sammy took us through the safety of the boat.

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We got to know each other a bit better when we all took to the ropes to hoist the sail, sitting in a row one behind the other we had to work as a team to get it all the way up to the top.

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With sails in place we were soon racing for our Whitsunday adventure!

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The Whitsundays is made up of 74 islands and is so called because Captain Cook discovered them on Whitsunday. However those who have worked out the timings say that he didn't actually arrive on a Sunday at all but the Monday! This used to be part of mainland Australia but as the water levels rose they became the islands that we see today. As they used to be part of the mainland all the normal Austrlian animals used to live on them, however over the years all the mammals have been hunted to extinction on these islands as groups of hunters came here to catch the isolated wildlife. One form of hunting was to start a fire at one end of the island which would drive the animals into the path of the rest of the hunting party. Today the islands mainly have birds, insects and reptiles on them. We were more excited though about what we might be able to see under the water as the islands are located in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.

Our first stop would be a a bush walk up to a lookout point over the islands.

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Back on the boat we doned out stinger suits headed to the first snorkelling stop of the trip.

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This snorkelling site was a bit disappointing as there wasn't a lot to see and visibility wasn't great but we all enjoyed cooling off in the water. The captain found a spot for us to anchor for the night and we had a great dinner under the most incredible starry sky.

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Fish were attracted to the lights on the boat after the sun went down and we soon had some large shadows looming underneath. Enticed in with some bread we could see that they were huge Bat Fish and we spent ages watching them swim near the surface. Some people tried to catch squid but no one had any luck. Most of us chose to sleep out under the stars on deck.

We were up with the sun the next day to make our way to the famous Whitehaven beach, know to be one of the best beaches in the world! One of the reasons for this is that its sand is made from silica and so is very fine and white.

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The view from the lookout point was spectacular...

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You could even make out the shapes of stingrays in the shallow water from the lookout point...and we couldn't wait to get down on the white sand

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For the next 3 hours we did a lot of this...

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As well as making the most of the exfoliating properties of the silica sand, with the warm water in the shallows it was like being at a spa. I don't think anyone tried cleaning their teeth with it though, apparently its good for that but don't rub too hard or it will take the enamel off!

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One thing to note about Whitehaven beach is that the tide comes in very quickly, every so often you ll witness the bag dash as people realise that the beach they left their bag on is disappearing! Funny to watch, think we did it ourselves about 3 times!

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Needless to say after all that sun naps were needed before our next snorkelling stop.

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We did two snorkelling stops that afternoon and they were much better than the one the day before with colourful fish. We even got to snorkel with some huge giant travely and wrasse fish which was cool.

Another great day! It had been an awesome bonus to our adventures :)

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Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 00:52 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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