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On the road: Superman in the Whitsundays

I’ve been away from home for close to ten months, so to say I was due a visit from a familiar face would have been an understatement. Luckily, Sharron booked my mum flights from London to Cairns (via Hong Kong) and I had the pleasure of my favourite road trip buddy, joining me for a drive down to Brisbane.

Before arriving she presented her Australian checklist. “Hollie, all I want is to see the Great Barrier Reef and to hold a koala”. That should be easy enough to manage.

I don’t think she quite expected what myself and my brother had planned for her.

The holiday happened to coincide with her birthday, and our passing through the Whitsunday Islands. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate another year of wisdom with a trip to the reef.

But it wasn’t just any snorkel trip. GSL Aviation took us on a scenic flight, to view the reef from above, before we jumped in the water and saw it up close.

Neither of us had ever been in a small aircraft, and with my mum’s vertigo and extreme fear of flights, I was definitely pushing the limits.

The initial panic (she thought I was taking her skydiving) soon turned to excitement, when she declared she “felt like a celebrity boarding her own private jet!” Just the experience I was hoping for.

Soaring over the islands and seeing the reef from above, on a beautiful sunny day, was beyond what I could have imagined.

A special thanks to our pilot, Derek, for taking such good care of us. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my mum’s face and the day got even better when we disembarked the aircraft and boarded our fastcat boat.

After spending a week camping and cooking out the back of a van - the spread of lunch that was presented to us was close to what I expect Queen Elizabeth to devour on a Sunday afternoon. Once our stomachs were full (mine with five pieces of Lemington), we were dropped off at Whitehaven beach for a play. It was my second time visiting the island, but the white sand still blew me away.

Then came our chance to take our eyes to the reef, with a snorkel off the side of the boat. The team were definitely advocates of the reef, keeping all snorkelers a safe distance from the coral and providing noodles (and hilarious commentary) when required. I brought my own snorkel and due to its dark colouring, I became known as Batman for the rest of the day (although with our morning in the sky, I thought of myself more as Superman).

A day of firsts, mum had never snorkelled before, so she was in her element seeing fish, whilst simultaneously figuring out how the hell she could breathe underwater. It was great to watch!

Sadly the day came to an end, but I succeeded in ticking off my mum’s bucket list and having an incredible time myself. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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