The location: Whitsundays, Queensland
The Whitsundays is a glorious part of Australia, with 74 islands dotted in the azure blue waters. The jewel in the crown is the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef, and the best way to really experience it is to stay overnight at the new Reefworld.
The Reefsuites experience starts with a boat transfer in one of Cruise Whitsundays modern and sleek vessels, from Hayman Island, Hamilton Island, Daydream Island or from blossoming Airlie Beach. It is like being in a postcard, passing islands and pristine bays and everywhere the tropical blues and aquamarines of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Reefworld is located at Hardy Reef, about 40 nautical miles from Airlie Beach. Reefworld is a pontoon that is half resort and half aquarium, making it easy to take advantage of this special location. This pontoon has been completely refurbished and remodeled and is barely recognizable from what it was before.
The first thing that strikes me is now well set up it is for fun and games on the reef. There is a long rack of wetsuits and sexy stinger suits, which are excellent for sun protection when you’re snorkeling. Other giant tubs hold masks and snorkels, and others hold flippers.
Downstairs, there is an observation area where you can just sit and contemplate as you watch fish swim by and stop for a curious peek. You might even have a diver drop by to give a talk on what you are seeing, or likely to see on the reef. Another pontoon located nearby services day trippers and there are other pontoons for helicopters and seaplanes. These come in very handy for the thousands of birds who use them as loungerooms.
After seeing what’s out there from the observation area get out amongst it. First option is to step aboard the semi-submarine for a look at the reef. There is a knowledgeable guide on board who points out the large range of corals and educates us about them. The Reef has 1,400 species of coral and it really is fascinating to learn how coral spawns, grows and lives. Did you know that coral is an animal and is part of the same family as jellyfish? You do now.
A guided snorkeling tour is next, and after being expertly fitted out in a stinger suit, flippers and snorkel mask, we step onto a movable platform that is designed for snorkelers or divers with railings to hold and areas on each side to enter the water. Our guide swims us out to the edge of the reef and points out all kinds of coral and fish as we move around. We even see two turtles, one swimming happily underneath our scissoring legs and another lazing on the bottom. It is an incredible experience.
Divers are really well catered for too – you can sign up for an introductory dive and if you were ever going to do it, this is the place. There is a special diving area accessed from the pontoon. The fully certified PADI/SSI instructors will make sure you are comfortable as you learn the basics and will literally hold your hand as they take you on what will be a memorable experience. Certified divers will be in heaven out here with several great dive sites available.
Reefworld has two options – you can sleep on top of the pontoon in a very comfortable reef bed or choose to sleep below the waterline in one of the two Reefsuites. The reef beds are a brand-new design, a very comfortable bed that you can enclose like a pod tent, or leave open so you can sleep under the stars. They even have a USB charger and power adaptor for charging cameras.
The star attraction is the Reefsuites, with two suites that are literally under the water. The suites have a queen-sized bed and while there are push button blinds, who would be able to resist just looking out the floor-to-ceiling glass walls at the big blue beyond. The ensuite bathrooms are beautiful, with the shower and the toilet giving water views. I was standing at the basin admiring the Urban Skincare Co amenities when a group of fish swim right by, coming back for a look at this strange creature in their world. Once darkness falls, there is a light you can turn on that illuminates the water outside.
It’s not just the sleeping arrangements that are exceptional out here, it is the gourmet food and drinks. Reefsuite guests are treated to delicious meals on the top deck, made on site by onboard chefs using local produce from the Whitsundays region. Savouring every morsel of a divine meal is made even more special by the surroundings.
Extend your stay in the Whitsundays
Add to your reef experience with a few nights at InterContinental Hayman Island. The Beach Pool Villas are stunning with two pavilions linked by a private pool. Choose to swim in your own pool, in the sea just outside your door, or in one of the absolutely stunning resort pools. The infinity pool is gorgeous at sunset and the massive Hayman Pool is perfect for during the day. I recommend one of the cabanas which are poolside near Aqua restaurant but also give you views over the lagoon. For dinner, Bam Bam is delightful.