Today was the day. The reason for my entire week long holiday. At 7:30 I was up and at Sunreef Diving getting fitted for a wetsuit for my attempt to swim with whales.
Originally I’d booked to do the full day trip – however, this didn’t have enough numbers, so I got transferred to the morning and afternoon tours. This did mean I’d have to go in and out on the rocky waters more than once, but did mean I got a refund which got put to good use later in the day.
The boat the Sunreef crew use happens to be one that belonged to the late Steve Irwin, and has two floors. Usually made for scuba diving, the tanks have been removed and a table placed inside so there’s plenty of places to sit. I make the mistake of going up to the top level to watch from the top, and 15 minutes later I’m back on the ground floor middle of the boat watching the horizon. One of these days I’m going to remember I get seasick…
It takes about 40 minutes to get into the deep water, and everyone’s keeping an eye out. The sky is grey, as is the water, and I choose to keep my camera in my bag since there’s a professional photographer on the boat, and figure if I get to swim, I’ll just buy her photos.
…The lack of photos should tell you how successful I was.
We do find whales in the morning, but all of them are travelling and have no interest in playing with us. We do manage to find some that are breaching, but they decide to head off when they see the boat. Eventually, the morning tour ends and we have to head back to pick up the afternoon crew. I’m rather grateful as my stomach is doing loop de loops, and am the only person on the two tours who all but flees to dry land for the half hour we’re waiting before we set off.
Thankfully, lunch, some time to recover, and a motion sickness tablet manage to make the afternoon a much easier trip. And about an hour later, we run into some more whales, who seem a little more curious than the last group. We get into position, and are separated into 2 groups. I’m in group A, and when we’re given the all clear, we jump in the water and start swimming.
It’s a little bit chaotic. Everyone’s following the guide, and we’re kind of dog piling on each other. By the time I make it to where the whales were, they’ve long since gone, surfacing about 20 metres away. Only 2 people outside of the guide and the photographer caught a glimpse of them.
The next group finds an entire pod of six, and when they get in the water, they have whales on their left, right, and even has one swim underneath the boat close enough that we can make out the shape! Within 30 seconds, the whales are gone, but every single one of them got a great view.
We try to find another opportunity with the pod, but they’re just not interested, and we end up leaving them and heading off to some breaches we can see on the horizon. They were curious, but not enough to stick around, and eventually we had to head back in, with no whales for Group A.
It’s rather disappointing, and although I was interested, I felt spending money on the photographs when I never actually got to see the real thing would be pretty pointless. Glad I went and at least tried, but considering I’ve been hoping to do this for over a year, missing out on the swimming part was kind of a kick to the teeth. That’s what happens when you want to do something with wild animals though – there was another girl on the tour who’d come 3 times without success (which was bad since she was actually doing a photojournalism course and kind of needed the photos from underwater!).
When we got back to Mooloolaba, those of us who’d originally booked the full tour got their refund, while I decided to put it towards something I’ve been meaning to get for a while. A decent mask and snorkel.
I go diving enough that a mask is a good investment. It’s about $20 a time to rent one, and it’s small enough to fit in my bag without trouble. Guy in the store immediately digs up a few in my price range (really don’t want to spend more than $60-80 if I can), and got a great one in addition to a cheap snorkel for $75. A really good deal considering the mask was meant to be $100, but the guy helping me gave me a great discount. Can’t wait to give it a try.
It was pretty late when we got back, but I decided to head out for a walk. The second I stepped outside…I felt a drop of rain. I choose to ignore it and continue, assuming it’ll stop.
Half an hour later I’m running back to the hostel, trying to hide under what shelter I can find and cursing not having brought a waterproof jacket and only having my keen sandals. The shower has become a torrential thunderstorm, and everyone’s fleeing for cover.
I want to get inside, but instead I end up across the street at Pizza Hut, which I haven’t had in months. It also gives me 10 minutes to get a sit rep of my clothes. Hoodie, soaking. Shoes, same boat. Jeans? See previous sentence. Really going to struggle to find dry clothes for tomorrow, assuming it stops raining.
Thankfully, it’s pretty warm in the hostel, so even though I’m drenched I hang up my stuff to dry (and pray it’s good for tomorrow), and wind up in the social area on the third floor, doing what I always end up doing at this hostel. Trying to complete a giant jigsaw – this one was of orang utans…didn’t even manage to finish the border after 3 hours and called it a night.