Toller Hut; Perfekter Kleiderbügel Whitsunday Islands
Sunday on our Iceberg trip was snorkelling day. The first stop, we were assured, is the best reef snorkelling in the Whitsundays. Anchored a little away from the reef itself we suited and masked up, went a little closer on the tender and jumped in.
The sensation of colour was even stronger than at Lady Musgrave. Fish were everywhere, darting around. There were the beaked parrot fish again, and I swear you can hear the scraping sound of beak on coral. There were schools of hundreds of blue fish whose sheen changed with the angle of the sun as they passed me. And then… we found him! Nemo and his family, three little orange and black clownfish keeping to their own little area of the reef. They’re really small, only a couple of inches long; I think Jo expected them to be much bigger.
There is much more variety of coral here. At Lady Musgrave most of it was brown and most was in the shape of either large balls or tangles of branches like reindeer antlers (there’s a northern hemisphere analogy for you!). Here there were bits that looked like clams, but purple and with blue trim. There were dark green plates, peach-coloured brains, swaying noodles, shrubs with vividly glowing bluish tips. Just like you see on the telly, but close up, magnified through the snorkel mask.
The second snorkel site was a reef just off a sandbank. Just as we were getting ready on Iceberg a turtle popped up near the boat for a breath – bingo! We knew that the area was visited frequently by turtles but the crew had been at pains to make clear that sightings weren’t guaranteed.
Even better followed in the water, as we quickly found a turtle sitting on the reef, a male (they have shorter tails). After a short while he floated up closer to us, and proceeded on a casual swim with snorkellers in tow – we were swimming with a turtle! He seemed quite content for us to float along beside, as he popped up for air once or twice. Then it seemed he’d had enough, and after one last breath he let out a massive poo and descended into the murky deeper waters. Life achievement unlocked: I’ve seen a wild green turtle do a poo!
In all the excitement the reef and fish were totally forgotten. In the current we’d drifted way off the reef and most of the way back to Iceberg. Just before getting out we had a turtle-eye view of the boat from beneath, the rudder and keel dropping a lot further down than I’d imagined.
And all of a sudden we were on the home straight. The wind had picked up again so the water was choppy, and as we sat on the high side of the angled deck, our feet were splashed with surprisingly warm water. We arrived back at the marina sunkissed, windswept and salt-encrusted – what a way to spend a weekend.
On departing from Iceberg Mikhael and Mark swapped their cool hats, green beanie for captain’s sun hat. In an attempt to join in the German I asked Jo the words for “great hat”. Perhaps my pronunciation wasn’t up to it. “Toller hut!” He looked very confused for a moment. “Perfekter kleiderbügel?”