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So since I'm apparently still a woman of leisure, when a bunch of relatives from overseas came to visit, they realised that rather than spend a stupid amount of money on hiring a car, they could just rope me along to drive mine!

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Though this was more time with family than I typically like, it turned out to be a not-too-terrible deal. I netted a free trip to the Whitsunday Islands!

Despite being a Queenslander I haven't been up to the far north that much, both previous times were when I was much younger, through Charters Tower and up to Cairns and Magnetic Island, and one other time to Townsville, neither of which I remember very clearly and was much too young to properly appreciate. So it was pretty cool to have the chance to go again!

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It was a somewhat laborious 10 hour drive to Airlie Beach (due largely to roadworks), but there were some good views of the Great Dividing Range to keep you entertained. And I kid you not, this was the view from the accommodation. Fancy. The accommodation itself was pretty swanky too, the benefits to avoiding the high season I guess? I probably don't want to know what it cost. There's a reason I did my crazy world trip overseas. It's not cheap to travel in Australia!

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We caught a cruise out on the first day, it swung past Hamilton Island. Apparently some of the most expensive property in Australia? Makes sense, it's ridiculously beautiful.

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This was Hamilton's marina, designed to look like a manta ray!

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Our end goal was Whitehaven Beach! It's a national park, so no man-made structures, no leaving anything behind but your footprints in the sand, or taking anything with you but photos and memories.

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They dropped you on the beach by beaching the boat, dropping a gangplank to let you walk off, then they'd head out onto the water and chill for a couple of hours while the tourists did their thing. The water was a little cold, being June (i.e. southern hemisphere winter), but amazingly clear. Most people just went for a quick dip but I lingered until my hands started to wrinkle.

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The sand is crazy - something like 98% silica. If you ran your hands through it, it felt like talcum powder.

It was all pretty special.

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The boat rides themselves were fun too! The weather was a bit hit and miss throughout (some cloudy periods and showers) but this was some Pirates of the Carribean shit right here.

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The next day we headed out to Harty Reef - my cousin was laser-focused on some scuba diving. She had a Go-pro which could actually take underwater pictures, but since my old camera is dead I was stuck taking photos through the glass-bottom boat with my phone, which really doesn't do it justice.

I did do some snorkelling though! A fish pooped right in front of my face. It was magical.

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A whole bunch of Dorys!

There was a huge-ass clam too, ridiculously large, to the point where it looked like a set piece off the Little Mermaid. And fish of every colour - like swimming in an aquarium. Most of the coral was the hard variety but there was a few patches of that stinging stuff the clown fish like to hang out in.

I could wax lyrical about it, but snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef kind of speaks for itself. It's sad that it might not be around in its full glory that much longer, it's a heck of an experience.

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Even when it's cloudy and ominous the islands looked amazing.

Airlie Beach itself was fairly chill too, it's a tourist town and has all the usual tourist town trappings, lots of fun activities to do.

Then it was another ten hour drive down south. Yaaaay. (I complain, but it was a super fair deal.)

Most of the rest of the places we took the relatives were fairly stock-standard spots which form local scenery to me, but we did have one other cool stop on their tour! Australia Zoo!

It's kind of ridiculous that I'd never been to Australia Zoo before because it's only like an hour from Brisbane, but once again, the entry fee is pretty steep so I'd never bothered.

Generally speaking I'm fairly over zoos, as I had more than my fill of them in Singapore, and then there was Audobon Zoo on top of that in New Orleans. That said, Australia Zoo definitely ranked up there among the best! It's definitely world-class. It's really beautifully laid out, and the animals all seemed quite happy, with spacious and really well designed enclosures.

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Here's a wombat on walkabout doing his business. The koalas get all the love but wombats are pretty cool too honestly.

They had the usual Australian staples, plenty of snakes, also red pandas which are always a hit with me. The Africa section was quite well done, rhinos and giraffes and zebras. They supposedly had cheetahs too but we didn't actually manage to find them, upon later revision I should not have trusted my relatives with the map as their navigation skills were awful and we missed the turnoff for them. I may have to return sometime just for that.

They also had a really good show at the 'Crocoseum'. The bird portion they opened with was super cool, right up there with Jurong Bird Park's, my cousin even got chosen for one of the demonstrations which was extremely lucky. Then for the climax, they brought out a saltwater croc.

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The most hilarious thing was, once the show was over, the croc didn't want to move. He was happy where he was! The crocoseum was his new home. His territory now.

The handlers spent at least half an hour trying to lure him out again. They certainly weren't Steve Irwin! It eventually took one of them leaping full body into the water to bait the croc moving again. Golden.

A pretty excellent trip all up, really. Best part was, I didn't have to pay for a thing!

What has everyone else been up to?


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 2nd, 2014 01:35 pm (UTC)
Wow, the beaches are beautiful.

Is it a requirement to wear a red hat at the zoo?
Jul. 2nd, 2014 02:31 pm (UTC)
Heh, it was a school group! Not a bad way of keeping track of the kids, I guess.
Jul. 3rd, 2014 12:06 am (UTC)
Hurhur, Australia always fascinated me because it's such a gorgeous place as your pictures prove and the wildlife is pretty much awesome. It'll be nice to go there one day! On the other hand, my aunt always tells me horror stories about people and the local wildlife and/or weather in some misguided attempt of trying to make me visit her there.

But wombats! When I went to Japan people were crazy for them. Maybe it was the cuteness factor? It was like, the most common animal said when I asked about Australia.

Ooh, I know this question is related to your last post but what is Mekaku City actors about? I'm trying my best to avoid spoilers, even though someone told me everyone died in the end. orz

Jul. 3rd, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
I don't know where people get all the horror stories from, usually. She might actually be trying to keep you away! (!) It's nice to know wombats are appreciated though! They are pretty cute.

Mekakucity Actors is difficult to explain, and I'm not 100% sure I should even recommend it to others, but the best summary I can give is that it's about a group of people each with a mysterious 'eye power', such as the ability to 'hide from eyes' or 'snatch eyes' or 'fool eyes' who gather together into what they call a 'Blindfold gang' to figure out... well, anything more than that might be a spoiler.

I love the story and the cast and art style but it's not super well executed overall. Be prepared to be hopelessly lost for a few episodes until they start weaving everything together, and even then...! It's finished now at least so you don't have to wait between episodes. :) Also, the 'everyone dies at the end' spoiler is for one of the songs, not the anime (necessarily... it's complicated!)

If you do watch it let me know because I've been dying to have someone to discuss it with.
Jul. 4th, 2014 09:56 am (UTC)
it's so easy to forget how gorgeous australia is until you actually go into tourist mode. thanks for sharing the photos :D
Jul. 4th, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
It really is! Makes me want to see some more of it outside of just the cities.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )