Undersea adventure in the Whitsundays
Sleep with the sealife in this amazing Great Barrier Reef experience.
At four metres under the ocean, I am literally having the deepest sleep of my life.
I am at remote Hardy Reef, perched 40 nautical miles off the Queensland coast – a three-hour boat journey from Airlie Beach – on Cruise Whitsundays’ Reefworld pontoon.
And I have dived deep, under the doona, in one of their two new Reefsuites and Australia’s first underwater accommodation.
A polished private staircase directs me down to this heavenly haven which is decorated in a nautical-but-nice theme of crisp, white linen punctuated by Barrier Reef blue cushions and throw.
There’s no artwork on the walls as the real attraction here is the reef life which glides gracefully past.
From my sublime sea suite, which offers floor-to-ceiling windows from both the bedroom and ensuite, I spy a school of silver bait fish. If I flick my wrist, I become the unwitting conductor to their swimming symphony.
This is reality television at its finest – an endless program of fins and, on a good day, a turtle or two.
The suites include a USB port and plenty of power points with which to charge your devices, toiletries in the bathroom, a waffle weave robe and even a hairdryer.
Turns out the starfish aren’t the only five-star attraction out here after all.
But who is watching whom?
From my perky perch under the ocean, I have become the human equivalent of living in a fishbowl.
Angelfish swim below the glass panels on the floor and a curious crab crawls along the windowsill outside.
Modesty makes me hesitate as I prepare to change into my swimming gear.
Should I use the automatic blinds? Do the fish care about my flesh? I’m tempted to erect a sign on the glass, “Don’t tap, human inside”, but politely refrain.
The ocean chortles and coughs above me, big wobbly jelly belly laughs punctuated by shards of light.
I could attach myself like a barnacle and stay down here all day but I force myself upstairs, wiggle into a stinger suit, and snatch some snorkelling gear to splash into the ocean outside.
There’s a mighty Maori wrasse, parrot fish galore and glorious gardens of coral just metres from the pontoon.
Mid-afternoon the boat departs with the day tourists, leaving just a handful of us out here with staff where we have the Great Barrier Reef to ourselves.
Some are sleeping on the top deck in Reefworld’s revamped swag beds from which you can spot the stars all night.
We sip bubbles and watch the burnt orange sunset bleed across the horizon.
It’s a wild, windy night and the chorus line of stinger suits drying on hangers dance the can-can in the sneaky southerly.
But down below my bedroom is stable and silent.
The evening smells of sea salt and surprises, such as the five-star food prepared by onboard French chef Sebastian.
We dine on freshly caught barramundi and drink endless Aussie wine – all meals and drinks included in the Reefsleep package.
Sunkissed and sated I sneak downstairs early to bed.
There’s a blue light on the ocean and I collapse under the covers to witness the delights of the night.
I dream of reef sharks and swimming and wake at 4am to find George, the resident reef giant grouper, eyeballing me through the window.
Ensconced in my suite, I squeal with surprise.
George weighs 150kg and is about 40 years old. If luck has it, he will live another 40 or 50 years.
And if I’m really lucky, I’ll be back to experience this wondrous underwater world once more.
The writer travelled as a guest of Cruise Whitsundays and Tourism Whitsundays.
STORY CHRISTINE RETSCHLAG | PHOTOS CRUISE WHITSUNDAYS