Tuesday, April 5, 2011

NOTHING BEATS QUEENSLAND!

I was in Queensland, Australia after many, many years and it was truly a wonderful experience filled with new friends, good wine and food and exciting travel. The global media famil was to dispel the fears about damage due to floods and to tell the world that Queensland was back in business.

I snorkelled for the first time, breaking a barrier on the Barrier Reef (!!)... I was amply rewarded: the the most astounding underwater life to see. A must- do is the scenic helicopter ride over the reef which gives you an entirely different perspective and the most spectacular views. The Whitsundays, a group of 74 islands where resort development is restricted to just eight islands, is an interesting playground to explore the Barrier reef as well as some pristine beaches and rainforest. Every Queensland itinerary should have these islands on it. Hamilton Island was our first stop (remember the Best Job in the world frenzy?)-where a person was to be appointed as the caretaker of the island, living and travelling these islands and blogging about it. Well now they have something called the Million dollar memo...Do check it out if you are a company and have at least three employees..You can win trips to Queensland Jhttp://milliondollarmemo.com/. Hamilton Island has just golf buggies for transport and the uber luxurious qualia on its northern tip. The island which is just the ultimate escape is however, on Long Island called Paradise Eco Bay. Just twenty people at a time, a central gazebo cum restaurant, thick jungles and a stretch of private beach...this is the most amazing place that I have seen! The only way to reach here is by helicopter transfers and the cost is all inclusive (meals, drinks, accommodation and daily activities like snorkelling trips or island visits). You can base yourself out of Airlie Beach, a party town on the mainland too; we did this for a couple of days. An enjoyable way to see the islands is to hire a sailing ship like the Solway Lass, a turn- of- the century sailing craft. There are good packages for two- three nights with food, drinks and excursions to islands, snorkelling, etc. If you want a taste of adventure try ocean rafting: these inflated vessels were originally rescue boats. Check out http://www.oceanrafting.com.au/. The most enjoyable part of the trip was a sea plane ride to the rock star of these islands called Whitehaven Beach, and a trek to this look out from where we saw a palette of multi- hued sands created by the shifting tides. Our visit to the Sunshine Coast was in adifferent genre and the two high points there was our stay in Hyatt Coolum (a world in itself) and our visit to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. The Hyatt Coolum is a great destination for those looking for good accommodation, food, golf, and a private stretch of beach. The Australia Zoo gives you all the animal experiences that you may look for. Both highly recommended!

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