The East Coast section of my Australia tour with Contiki offered two options – for an additional £100 or so, you could opt in for the sailing option. With the way the dates had fallen, this unfortunately meant that the group was divided pretty much down the middle on New Year’s Eve. I was in two minds whether I would rather be on the boats over the party period, but an optional day’s ‘sailing’ on the Camira, a large catamaran with an open bar, I felt I had made the right choice. New Year’s Eve was arguably my favourite day of the trip so far (until I hit the water scuba diving a few days later).
Having had a smattering of rain on the boat across to the Whitsunday islands, we were apprehensive that our day on the boat would be shrouded in drizzle. Instead, we boarded the Camira in glorious sunshine with zero clouds to protect my poor porcelain complexion from the gaping hole in the ozone layer that Australia lies beneath.
The ‘Day Sail’ was £165 / AUD per person but included coffee, cake, an enormous barbecue lunch, afternoon tea and cake, and as many bottles of beer, fizzy spring water and miniature bottles of white wine that you could feasibly consume in the heat. There was loads of room on the boat to chill, big nets at the bow under the sails on which you could sunbathe and enough stinger suits and snorkels for everyone on board.
We stopped in between one of the islands for some snorkeling, which was then closely followed by taking advantage of the free bar and barbecue food. Apparently, snorkeling under the influence is a no-go, so we did that activity first. This was my first real glimpse of what they call the Inner reef (a little less mesmerizing than the ‘outer reef’ that we were to visit in a few days time – BUT NOT MUCH).
You go out there thinking surely, SURELY it doesn’t look like that in real life, and then you dip your head under, choke on your snorkel because you literally could be on the set of Finding Nemo. In fact, you will probably find Nemo. I did.
After some more leisurely sailing between the Whitsunday islands, we stopped off at Whitehaven beach, which is notably one of the most famous and most beautiful stretches of sand in the world. We utilized its beauty for some beach cricket, volleyball and sunbathing before clambering back into the dinghy that would return us to our trusty vessel.
Having had the most amazing day, the actual evening part of New Year’s was a little understated – we had a few cocktails at the resort on Daydream Island, which was more of a family type place, watched the fireworks at the resort’s Fish Bowl bar and then got the hotel shuttle buggy back to the reception area. If only I could say this was where the night ended. Unfortunately, somewhere between the hotel entrance and the lifts to our bedrooms, we decided it would be a good idea to skinny dip in the pool. This decision, although hilarious, resulted in us being chased through the hotel grounds semi-starkers by an angry Aussie with a torch whilst we tried not to spill our champagne: a memory I will cherish forever.