Sailaway with great expectations
YOU never forget your first time. Even though it was decades ago, I remember mine as though it was yesterday.
I put my face down into the warm water and saw paradise in the form of dazzling colour and graceful movement. A glorious kaleidoscope of astounding life.
To see the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef for the first time is to know the unconditional gift of nature. To see it again and again over the years is to know privilege.
And if you can enjoy all this underwater extravaganza from the shore of a sandy beach on a pretty island, then you are fortunate indeed.
Sailaway V operates afternoon reef cruises out of Port Douglas to Low Isles, and it's the way to go if you like luxury served up with your natural wonder.
After an hour's sailing on a fancy white yacht with very few others, you arrive at the idyllic Low Isles. This tiny island with its perimeter of white sand is your base to don flippers and snorkel and make your graceful way into the water (so much more attractive than plunging in awkwardly off a boat).
The Sailaway crew know the best bommies (coral structures) close to shore and will guide you over small and giant configurations of coloured coral, some shaped like massive brains, others delicate and feathery waving beneath the water. Enormous clams with velvety lips hide tiny darting clownfish. There is much to see, and time soon has no meaning in the ever-changing underwater scene.
Then there is the child-like thrill of seeing a green turtle sashaying quietly by, ignoring you with territorial disdain.
But there is nothing child-like about the cruise back to Port Douglas after your exhilarating snorkel when Sailaway's bar is open - the champagne corks pop and the canapes and cream scones do the rounds.
Sailing back into the calm of the Port Douglas Marina with the sun setting behind the green mountains of the Daintree Rainforest will have you pinching yourself.
Fortunately, you have not been dreaming.
The writer was a guest on board Sailaway.
Low Isles is a tiny, oval-shaped island, consisting of a coral cay and coral reefs and an historic lighthouse.
Sailaway Port Douglas offers various options from full-day, to half-day and sunset cruises. It is family-owned and operated and has an elegant private check-in lounge at the Marina in Port Douglas. For those not up for snorkelling, a glass-bottom boat gives similar thrills.
Port Douglas attracts visitors from all over the world and has a tropical sophistication with varied accommodation options as well as countless dining choices.
With its low-rise development Port Douglas is the perfect base to explore the reef, rainforest, Mossman, the Daintree and Cape Tribulation.