Dec 14, 2011
A Day-time Date for Two
I love surprises. With the grandparents visiting the island, the Husband and I had rare access to uninterrupted child-free time. Bliss! Thus my surprise was sans-children and even better, to an overseas destination! Well, over the Fitzalan passage to Whitehaven Beach.
We took ourselves to Hamilton Island Air at the Great Barrier Reef Airport (in Palm Valley, not the main air terminal) to check into our flight in their new seaplane. We got the safety and lifejacket briefing from our pilot before climbing up on to the float to board. Though each of the four rows contained three seats, each passenger was given a window seat to observe the scenery. The ninth passenger was an airline pilot, who opted to sit in the cockpit – talk about a busman’s holiday!
The engines started up and we started to taxi. The last time I’d been on a prop-driven airplane was on a Qantas flight from Cairns to Hamilton Island, which in hindsight hadn’t exactly been a small aircraft. The immediacy of the props and the tarmac gave me a few butterflies until my rational mind pointed out frequently I had personally observed this very plane taking off – every day!
Once in the air, our pilot banked to the north and we started our scenic flight, with views over Hamilton Island on one side and Pentecost Island on the other. We soon reached the largest of the Whitsunday Islands and were treated to two runs over Whitehaven Beach – one for each side of the plane.
After a noisy but smooth landing (it is quite disconcerting not to have an airstrip in front of you when descending in an airplane) we taxied to the beach and our pilot stopped the engine and proceeded to jump up to his waist into the water! He deftly swung our craft around allowing us to walk off the end of the pontoon and into ankle deep water.
Anyone who has heard of Whitehaven Beach will have already heard about the soft, white silica sands. There seemed to be a few boat loads of beach goers at the sheltered southern end of the beach. Our own landing spot bought us half way to the inlet, and away from the crowd, and we soon set up ‘camp’ with our blanket and picnic and had our own small luxury holiday, drinking muscato (for me) and something amber (for him) and snoozing in the sun.
The weather was a little cloudy and breezy, so I opted to guard the ‘camp’ while the Husband tested out the waters. He assures me it was delightful. All too soon our mini vacation was over and our few hours on Whitehaven came to an end. We climbed back aboard, wiping our wet sandy feet on the towels that the pilot had placed in the aisle for just such a purpose.
We bumped gently along over the waves and picked up speed to take off over the interior of Whitsunday Island. There we saw the river weaving through the scrubby interior, the water reflecting brilliantly in the sun. We proceeded out over the other side of Whitehaven, watching our shadow masking the water beneath us. Then a long turn around the northern tip of Hamilton Island (and a birds-eye view of qualia) before lining up with the runway and home.
All too soon we were back to reality. The kids would have homework, dinner needed to be cooked…what a wonderful few hours of escape.