With thanks to:
Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

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Easy like Whitsunday

4: Sharks and jellyfish

For our first sail we headed up the western coast, out of Cid Island then past Whitsunday and Hook Island, to Langford, a tiny dot in the sea just south of the famous Hayman Island — one of the world’s most exclusive resorts. A popular stop off on the way is Nara Inlet, famous for its Aboriginal cave drawings, but we were enjoying a fabulous day on the water and pressed on north. Dodging the sandbars in Stonehaven passage required a little concentration on our approach, but as the tide fell we were rewarded with a spectacular sand spit stretching out into the turquoise sea.

The Whitsundays are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and mooring buoys are laid to protect the coral, particularly in no-anchoring zones, so here we picked up a buoy (free of charge) alongside an eclectic selection of tour boats. After taking our tender ashore for a spot of snorkelling it was time to don the dreaded ‘stinger suits’. Head-to-toe one-piece Lycra monstrosities, these spectacularly unflattering outfits are designed to protect you from potentially fatal jellyfish stings. The two most dangerous jellies are the thumbnail-sized Irukandji and much larger Box jellyfish. Box jellyfish mostly hug Queensland’s mainland shore and are rare in the Whitsundays, but the Irukandji can be found in the area, particularly from November to April — and both stings are serious, potentially fatal. Whilst some of the young gappers braved the sea in their trunks, on our visit in November pretty much everyone had opted for a suit, so we didn’t even feel too silly and found they also provide good protection against sunburn and scrapes.

After a laid-back lunch in the sun (the biminy stayed up all week, although it proved equally effective as a rain shield) we motored around the north of Hook Island. Well, truth be told we tried to sail the short hop, but after getting bored of the wind spinning 180 degrees through the narrow passage between Hook and Hayman, we gave up and let the donkey do the work.

Butterfly Bay, at the northern edge of Hook Island, is a popular anchorage, so we felt pretty lucky to pick up a mooring buoy close to the shore. Trying to make some sort of dent in the food stocks, we fired up the excellent gas barbeque on the back of the boat and grilled some rather delicious steaks from our supplies. The Whitsundays effectively have one giant ‘No feeding the animals’ sign, and nothing should go overboard (the heads also have a holding tank, and there are designated zones for pumping out).

Inevitably, however, a bit of dinner did find its way into the sea. We’d been assured that sharks are not a concern in the Whitsundays, but when a massive shadowy shape gulped down our scrap of bloodied steak I made a mental note never to set foot in the sea after dark. Sharks feed at night, apparently.

With thanks to:
Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

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This close to the tropics the temperature rarely dips below the high 70s

Next page:5 Snorkeling

I popped my mask on and dunked my head over the side to sea what all the fuss was about

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