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Australia Trip Report: Hayman Island/SCUBA/GBR (part 5)

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I must appologize again for my eratic postings...It's my first time and I was confused as to how to add on to a post that I've started which then made the titles irrelevant. Why can't we edit things we've posted after the fact?

Anyway...To bring you up to speed, we've landed in Sydney, went to Ayers Rock, did a raintree forest tour and headed out to Hayman Island for 5 nights.

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    Why oh why am I having such trouble? I wrote an entire report that didn't show up!! I had the bright idea of saving it, so here is what I wrote...for whatever reasons, it would't take??

    I must appologize again for my eratic postings...It's my first time and I was confused as to how to add on to a post that I've started which then made the titles irrelevant. Why can't we edit things we've posted after the fact?

    Anyway...To bring you up to speed, we've landed in Sydney, went to Ayers Rock,then we did a raintree forest tour and headed out to Hayman Island for 5 nights.

    I have reported in part 4 that Hayman was very nice and none of the negative things that I read about on TA were evident during my stay. The only thing that I am wracking my brain about is how I could have possibly missed any information about how the tide goes out for most of the day and basically the sea is 'closed' to any activities other than walking out in ankle deep water. Of course, I am not blaming the hotel for the currents, but I can't believe that I didn't happen upon this rather vital piece of information during all the massive research I did. Or, maybe I did and didn't 'get it'?

    Every night/morning we recieved a newsletter on our bed informing us of the following days activities, including sun set, sun rise, temperature, and times when the tide would be in. The first day we were there, the tide was "in" between 7:30am-10:00am and then again 4:00-5:00 or 5:30, I don't recall. Hmmmm...so what happens when the tide is out? Not a whole heck of alot. No windsurfing, no catamarines, no swimming, no kayaking...nada, nothing, zip. Oh, did I mention that I had 2 teenagers who got up at 10:00 only to find the ocean 'closed'??? As the tide changes everyday, there were days when the activities were only available for a few short hours in the morning, but on the last day we were there, the activities were available 7:30-11:30. I don't know a whole heck of a lot about the moon and tides, etc...but if you are a person who is counting on the activities being available all day, everyday, you may want to research the tides and plan your trip around the cycles. My son was TOTALLY bored and disappointed that he could LOOK at the water, but couldn't go IN the water.

    Walking out during low tide was cool the first time, alright the second, and down right repatative from there on in. Aside from that, we were warned about 'stingers' which are clear glob like jelly fish (no tentacles) but they could sting. Stinger suites were available to cover up with when you went in the water (not that this option happened frequently), but I didn't see anyone wearing any, including my family. The thing that they should warn you about (and didn't) was that the beach front had plenty of sting rays!! And, for those of you not married to a family of divers, sting rays skirt around quickly, but they also burry themselves in sand. When you are shuffling along at low tide, it is quite conceivable that you can step on one and that's when they'll barb you. Hubby took lots of pictures and showed other interested guests who were mortified at the fact that they were frolicking among sting rays without realizing it, lol.

    The hotel boasts the largest swimming pool in the southern hemisphere, and it was big! It was also warm and it was clean. There were a minumum of 2 staff working on the pool at any given time you looked at it...either scooping or scrubbing the sides...regular maintenance stuff. But because it was so huge, this maintenace schedule did not impede in your enjoyment at all. There was plenty of room for everyone.

    One of the days that the ocean was 'closed', my son and I decided to hike the island which offered lovely views. We went to Blue Pearl Beach 1 which was on the other side of the island and were told it was a nice white beach, very quiet. Since there wasn't much else going on, we set off. What a 170 LBS, out of shape, 45 year old woman was thinking when I decided to go on this god forsaken hike in 40 degree weather, I will never know. Although my son thought it was good, and most people probably agree, I beg you to think about your fitness level and the heat before heading out on this 'easy' level hike. And to boot, when we got to the other side (my son a good half hour ahead of me and waited), the tide was OUT and there was only very sharp coral and shells to walk upon. I was so dillusional with heat, I didn't care...i was going in that water no matter what! And, proceded to cut up my feet on the sharp coral, rocks, etc...but I made it! I can proudly stand up and say, "this fat mamma made the 3 hour treck from one side of the island to the other and back...walked on sharp coral...dipped her Tilley hat into the water and poured it over my head...and lived to tell about it without actually having a stroke!" By the way, lots of loose rock on that hike, which means...snakes and lizards, and spiders...hey, it's where they live, but just be careful! No flies or mossies,tho!

    My son occupied himself with the squash courts and work out rooms and tennis, but 5 days was much too long to be on this island with active kids and no ocean. Like I said in my second post, I should have shortened this part of the trip and spent more time in Port Douglas.

    DH and the kids are SCUBA divers and of course they had to dive the GBR. We had a hard time getting a boat to get out to the GBR as it was very windy and the boat kept turning back! The swells were pretty huge, but as a person who DOES get sea sick, I KNOW to take my pills, stand in the back of the boat and keep my eye on the horizon. I was perfectly fine, but those who chose to ignore the advice of taking sea sickness pills (we even got a personal phone call from the desk in the morning saying that the boat crew strongly suggests taking meds) and stayed inside the lovely large boat, of course suffered greatly. About 6 people were barfing pretty good...enough for the captain to turn around one more time. I have to say, I was rather perturbed, because this was the only way to the reef and this was now the day before we had to leave...they HAD to dive the reef!!! We didn't go all the way to Australia to NOT dive the Great Barrier Reef...come on, people, suck it up...take your pills...please!!!

    This brings me to another point about this island which really irritated me (more than the ocean being closed,lol). The entire purpose of this trip was to dive the GBR. I took great pains to research a place that could meet DH and kids SCUBA needs and my non-scuba needs (read:spa), as well as activities for when the kids weren't diving. I thought Hayman met all the criteria. I emailed them and inquired about diving and they assured me that they had a few boats. My husband PHONED them and talked to them personally and again they assured him that diving was not a problem, they had a boat. Uh uh. Nope. Didn't happen. Was I ever <insert ajective here> mad to discover that their idea of a 'boat' was this massive charter thing that came from Hamilton island and picked up snorklers along the way to bring them to some stationary man made platform anchored on the reef. Sorry, and don't mean to insult snorklers, but SCUBA divers are a whole different breed. They're not interested in a fine luxury boat, they're not interested in a comfortable ride...just get them to the dive! So, of course, being on a boat that WAS NOT for divers (as was told to us via email and phone call), the captain, in the interest of the comfort of the passangers, turned around the boat while my DH and kids fumed. Honestly, it was wavey, but we have been in worse waves on our Ontario Lakes.

    So, now what? All the way to Australia, an hour from the reef and we can't get there!!! AHHHHH!!! Luckily, there was a representative form the Heli-pad on the boat and my husband quickly made arrangements with him to bring them to the reef for a dive when the boat got back to Hayman. For only $25oo.00 (yes, that 'only' is sarcasm), my DH and kids charetered a helicopter that took them to the reef, gave them lunch, took a dive, and then a bit of an air tour on the way back showing Whitehaven and other parts of the reef. They LOVED it and were very gratefull (regardless of the expense) to have had the opportunity to dive the GBR. Oh, and I could't go because there was only room for 3 passengers...:( Oh well, at least the divers got there!

    Lesson for those who are serious/experienced about SCUBA diving: Hayman is not the choice for you. Do a live-a-board if you can.

    So, there you have it...five nights on Hayman Island with two teenagers. Overall not too bad, but wished we stayed shorter and wished we had done a live-a-board for diving.

    Upon check out we were shocked to find that my kids room was fully charged and the Visa Points which were to be applied, were not. Remember in Part 4 how I said to the check in guy:"this is my only copy, this is like me handing over $2500 cash, don't loose it". Well, they lost it. Thankfully, the gentleman totally recalled the whole conversation and my account was credited appropriately. I have no problem with mistakes when they are dealt with affectively and a accurately. Hat goes off to them for both criteria.

    We took the launch back to Hamilton Island, a bit of confusion with collecting my kids luggage from their room, but it all ended ok. Lovely ride back, more canapes, and more champagne. What more could you ask for?

    NEXT: Back to Sydney for two nights before going home and hubby does a shark dive in the Manly Aquarium (Ocean World).

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    Hey, was just reading your trip report trying to get some ideas we are going to australia new zealand for 22 days .3 days melborne,4 days cairns,4 days sydney 1 day ayers rock and 8 days in nz south island.
    would love to get some ideas from your trip.

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    Hi Shalu...incase you didn't read my Ayers Rock or Sydney report, just scroll down on the left and find my reports for Part 1 and 2 and then 3 and 4...I had lots of problems posting so I appolgize.

    I agree with your 4 days in Sydney (we did that too) and only 1 day in Ayers Rock (be sure to read my sounds of silence dinner report). I'd be happy to answer any questions.

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    HEY, just read your report on ayers rock i have i think the same timing of flights as yours arriving at 10 and departing next day at 2 hmm i was about to book the silence dinner but now i am in 2 minds as i dont like crowd either and sunset should be enjoyes in some quiet place also sunrise what would u suggest ? should we take a sunset tour or sunrise tour for olgas and ayers rock? there are other suggestion needed too for cairns we are planning one day green island and outer barrier reef . between kuranda/daintreee needed some advice .

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    Hi Shalu...regarding Ayers Rock, my advice would be to rent a car so that you are not at the mercy of having to take tours. Sounds like you're like us, in that we prefer to 'lone' it. The driving is VERY EASY here...hardly saw more than 3 cars on the road at any given time and you really can't get lost;one road in and one that goes around...you'll see.

    My advice is to rent a car, pack a meal (there are restaurants that you can pick up food at or hit the grocery store which a less expensive option) and hit the road. Spend your first few hours driving around to get a feel for where you might want to pull over for sunset views or sunrise views...there are designated areas, but they will be crowded with the many tourists who will congregate there too. There is really no wrong answer here (except picking the wrong side for sun rises or sun set, so be sure you know your north, south, east, and west). Don't forget a flashlight and remember a camera.

    I heard Green Island is nice (not been, but met up with a woman who visited and she loved it).

    Enjoy the GBR...are you a diver or snorkler?

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    Hey,
    ty for the advice i have booked my tickets, now have to book all the hotels and excursions .i am not a great swimmer but hubby and my 18 year daughter they love snorkelling we did it in maui.is driving easy ?since we are not used to right hand driving i was thinking of avoiding renting car just taking day tours in all the places .

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    Honestly, Shalu...driving is a snap there. There are NO other cars around! I also found that the locals were very diligent in being aware that the people on the road may be north american and not so sure about driving. I witnessed them stopping extra carefully making sure WE were really going to make a turn safely, stuff like that. i think that the fact that our windshield wipers are going is a good tip to locals that we're tourists, lol (wipers are in place of turn indicator and we ALWAYS hit them instead of the actual blinker).

    With that said, if you insist on tour buses, be aware that they will go where the other 5,6, 7 tour buses go and it will be crowded. The prices the tours were asking is insane, I think, for such a short distance from the hotel. I also took note of the many 'tour' operators that included breakfast and saw them eating at the side of the road...was not impressed with the food. But, whatever you feel comfortable with is most important...good luck!

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    Hey, i am going to discuss this with my hubby see if he will be comfortable driving it would be great actually this could be a trial one day drive in ayers rock if he feels comfortable then we can rent car in nz southisland in some places thanks a lot for the suggestion hey did u go to blue mountains and bondi beach etc in sydney? also did u get to see the inside of the opera?

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    I'm really enjoying your report, Anita, but the whole Hayman experience that you describe is my worst nightmare. The reviews on TA are SO uneven - some love it, many despise it - it's hard to imagine that they've all stayed in the same place. The ocean thing - well, I would never have thought of that, but I sure will now! When we stayed on Heron in 2006 I missed the notion that it was winter, and the water (and yes, in the pool too!) was freezing. Even in wetsuits it was too cold for us - but those are the things you just don't consider. Sorry your family had trouble with the scuba experience - but at least it worked out at the end. Such a shame, really, since there are so many great trips from PD or Cairns that would have given great service - at less exhorbitant prices! Looking forward to the rest.

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    Thank you Oliverandharry...it's funny how we don't think about certain things. When the ocean was 'closed' (which still makes me laugh when i say it) my husband said to me, "didn't you know that the ocean wasn't going to around?". I laughed and said, "it NEVER occured to me to ask if the ocean ever closed" LOL

    Yes, live and learn, next time (and we're already talking about next time) it will for sure be a live-a-board for guaranteed diving. Because I get sea sick, i can never take the chance of living 3 days on a boat, so I would just stay at a spa/resort in port douglas...there are worse fates, :)

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    typo, oliverandharry, sorry...should have read, "didn't you know that the ocean wasn't going to be around".

    BTW, my reports are broken up in different parts, so be sure to look for them :)

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    I feel so badly about your time on Hayman Island - never would have dreamed in a million years you would have that "ocean closed" problem. I have been to a good many of the islands and if you choose to go again, please consider Lizard Island. I have not stayed there but have snorkeled there several times and it is great from the shore. There are a lot of previous posts so maybe you have read about it previously.

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    I know, Louise, who woulda ever thought that the ocean ever closed? It's actually quite funny if you think about it...a resort the caliber of Hayman and the ocean closes? LOL

    Hubby and i are already talking about our next trip and Lizard is being tossed around...it looks devine, but I will have to ask them what hours the ocean keeps!

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