It’s heavenly Down Under

  • Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 14, 2015 14:36 IST

The sparkling white Virgin Australia 737 made its final approach. Land was still not in sight; 1000 m up: Still nothing; 500 m: Nope. Just still aquamarine waters below; 50 m: The coral beneath clearly visible. But not land. And then, at that moment, when your subconscious reaches for the life jacket, touchdown on a genuine concrete runway. It is the kind of landing strips one reads about in aeronautical digests or skims past in expensive, unreal glossy calendars. But this place was for real. We had just landed in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef on Hamilton Island. The first thing that hit me was the myriad colours — the azure skies, the lush green golf course — that I headed to that afternoon, the pure white sands, the deep red lobsters that awaited at lunch, and of course, the colour of the water, which posed a problem. Was it blue? Or green? I settled on aquamarine. They haven’t yet coined a colour called ‘heavenly hue’, else that would have been an option.

Gautam Bhimani scuba diving and (below) cuddling a Koala bear

The next day, a majestic catamaran took us past the world famous Whitehaven Beach into the sublime solitude of the 2,300 km stretch of the World Heritage Site, The Great Barrier Reef — a once-in-a-lifetime smorgasbord of seafood, snorkeling, swimming and scuba diving among fish that again presented a riot of colour. From a bright orange chopper, we saw the pride of the reef, the heart. Too late! I had fallen in love with the place long before I saw the heart.

The Great Barrier Reef may have been the zenith of my Aussie Adventure, but everything else was still very much in the highlights package. We went strawberry picking in the Adelaide Hills, I cuddled a Koala bear, had an elaborate picnic lunch with the kangaroos, and marched to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Not to forget, the gastronomical delights — champagne breakfast after an early morning balloon safari over the Gold Coast and munching on an authentic MasterChef meal in Melbourne. The other highlights for me were, soaking in a soprano at the Sydney Opera House, riding the waves in Surfers Paradise, speeding down the wild Wollongong coast in a Harley and flying high over the breathtaking 12 apostles on the gorgeous Great Ocean Road.

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