07 May 2009

Thanks for supporting me on this journey

While I am still on Hamilton Island and I have not had time for a lot of reflection, I just wanted to express my gratitude to everyone who was part of making this experience so unique and wonderful, from Tourism Queensland, the other candidates and random Aussies I have met on the way to my family, friends and supporters back home, who have given me tremendous support.

Now, I can be sure that Hamilton Island and the Great Barrier Reef will be in good hands with Ben and think he has been an outstanding candidate, he is a unique and fun character and has tons of experience as sportsman, traveller, tour guide, blogger and photographer. Congratulations, Ben! Who knows, perhaps I will have a chance to drop by at some point in those 6 months?

Besides the beauty of the islands, I will also miss the company of the other candidates, as the shared experience really brought us closer together.

More details on my experience are still to follow once I actually will have free time and internet access, but since I am going on another Tourism Queensland-organized and sponsored tour of Queensland's Outback next with fellow candidate James, it may be a few days before I get to this...

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog so far, thank you and bye bye!

05 May 2009

My May 5 Blog Entry: A Rainy Day in Paradise

This morning it started to rain and we had to make a change of plan. Originally we wanted to sail around Daydream Island, which is surrounded by coral reefs. Of course, there was some disappointment, but the day turned out to be just as memorable. We ended up spending our whole day at the Daydream Island Resort and Spa. As soon as we arrived there, we were all supplied with huge umbrellas and Pina Coladas served in coconuts. Although it was a rainy autumn day, we still had 25C degrees and the warm welcoming right away promised a great day ahead.

The sun came out again and again, so we enjoyed a stroll around the resort over to one of their living reefs. I knew in advance that we will get the chance to feed some fish, but I was thinking of little colorful ones. You can imagine my surprise as we were faced with stingrays and sharks! I was introduced to a huge brown stingray called Pancake, a white-spotted stinger called Discus and a small banana tail ray called Eric. Bravely I moved to the edge of the water and held out my hand to feed them. It was a very funny feeling; they turned out to be really endearing and sensitive animals. Eric became my favorite! He had a hard time though with all his big fellows snatching all the food away from him. As soon as I gave him a prawn separately from the others, Discus went on top of him and tried to force him to give up his meal. Of course, I couldn’t let that happen! So I gave Discus a prod and told him “Bad boy!” That is usually how I teach dogs good manners, but I would have never guessed that the very same thing works with stingrays! Discus actually listened to me and let little Eric go! I kid you not, I honestly had the feeling Discus was upset with me after the incident. Later on I wanted to make friends with him again and he just shyly took the food and went off right away. He was really upset at me! But don’t go out in the open waters now to train wild stingrays, you guys! They might react a little different when they get upset in comparison to the ones at Daydream Island Resort and Spa.

After the fish got fed, we also got our share of seafood. Some of the best prawns I ever tasted! As you can see I really did fill up that plate, but I also emptied it.

The rest of the day, I got a botanical rejuvenation treatment at the spa. I really enjoyed being pampered and spoiled for once with an aromatherapy, steam bath and massage. You have to try for yourself! There is nothing better you can do on a rainy day in paradise!

My May 4 Blog Entry: Another World

Since the first day that mankind got its footsteps on the moon, people wonder and dream about flying to the moon, to a different planet, exploring another world. Today I did explore another world, a precious and wondrous world! Neither did I have to be an astronaut nor travel through space. I just took a boat off Hamilton Island and got into the water at the Great Barrier Reef. What a colorful and exciting world is waiting there to be experienced! I saw blue-green chromsis that change their color from blue to green and green to blue – the name gave that away, didn’t it. But not only did I see fish in all imaginable colors, I also admired corals in the most funny and beautiful shapes.

Let’s throw in some numbers here: 1.500 species of fish, 400 species of corals, 4.000 species of invertebrate and six of the worldwide seven kind of sea turtles have their home at the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world’s largest living eco-system and – as we were talking about out of space earlier – you can actually see it from out of space. Time went by so fast and seriously, I cannot believe that it is autumn here at the Whitsunday islands, the water was so warm. What impressed me the most at Fantasea Reefworld, which is the company that took us out there and is operating the platform by the reef, was that it really is a trip for the whole family.

If somebody is inexperienced in snorkeling or gets distracted from all the magnificent under water world like me, there are ropes placed in the water that help you find your way. At the same time you can have a great time on the platform and feed the fish. The semi-submersible is not only great for grandmothers and little kids to look at the reef without getting wet, we were all so excited when we saw giant trevallies and floated along the wall of the reef.

After a great morning of snorkeling and getting our footsteps – or should I say flippers – in another world, we took a sea plane to take a bird’s eye view of what we saw earlier. Our plane took us over the Great Barrier Reef, now we could see the different coral colonies and how huge it really is. The pictures give a good idea of what I saw from out of the plane, but I also want to call out some numbers again. I know that is sometimes boring, but not if they are as impressive as these: the Great Barrier Reef stretches 2300km along the north-east coast of Australia and it is 348,700 km2 big.

But our trip did not end there. The water plane took us right to Hayman Island, a private island destination situated in the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. We had a stroll on the beach and tried the en

tire world’s food at the resort, which has everything to offer up to a pool that fits as much water as seven Olympic-sized swimming-pools.

All of us had such an awe-inspiring day that the trip on the boat back to our hotel on Hamilton Island was filled with showing each other the pictures we took, being excited about all the different fish we saw or just enjoying the breeze and the memories we all were so lucky to put in our personal jewelry boxes.