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  • Writer's picturePriyanka Telang

The Great Barrier Reef – A Majestic travel experience

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Plan your summer holidays to one of the world’s wonder and largest living structure on earth. Great barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.

A life time trip with friends, a close look to underwater wildlife and hidden side of nature, some formidable adventures, many unforgettable memories, plenty of education, lots of drama and long conversations with strangers who turned into friends, ultimately a story worth sharing.

Well I migrated to Sydney May 2017 and since the day I have arrived I was always struggling to settle. First was for a place, then Job, then a private place, then home stuff, then friends and parties, then Car and the list goes on. By Oct 2017 I was exhausted and all I wanted was my travel life back.

My best friend in UK planned his visit to Australia, and I was under pressure to plan something out of the world. Now Australia is famous for quite many places but,

The Great barrier reef can be easily identified at top of the list, considering its geographical significance and natural exquisiteness.

Though December is the most expensive time to plan a trip and it’s also the hottest season in Australia, so this trip is already certified expensive in ordinary circumstances.Nonetheless we were running late and never in the whole year you get Holidays like December, so no chance I would miss such a great opportunity. I started planning very late in Nov because, Hanish had not given me his approval earlier. Finally four of us got ready for the trip to this Majestic destination.

Itinerary and Budget

Duration – 8 days

Viator Package deal - 5 Day Fraser Island and Great Barrier Reef.

  1. Sydney - Brisbane (Road-trip) 1 day

  2. Brisbane – Fraser Island (2 days)

  3. Fraser Island – Rainbow Beach (1 day)

  4. Rainbow Beach – Great Barrier Reef (Musgrave Island – 2 days)

  5. Great barrier Reef to Brisbane (1 day)

  6. Brisbane to Sydney (Road-trip) 1 day

Budget : Approx $1500 Per person (Includes) – Below is what was our total spent on Roadtrip, Viator package deal, including our own personal expenses and optional adventure sports (We chose each one of them :P)

1. Fuel and meals on road trip (own car)

2. All accommodations

3. All food

4. All drinks and snacks

5. All travel and transit

6. Scuba diving

7. Snorkelling

8. Surfing and Paddling

Preparation for the trip

Great barrier reef is a location which receives UV exposed extreme sunshine, people have literally burnt their backs and necks and its extremely painful if required measures are not taken.

1. Get an effective sunscreen, SPF 50 and above recommended

2. Shop for very breathable cotton summer beach wear for the trip and swim wears.

3. A Sun hat or cap is must

4. Comfortable shoes or footwear, completely avoid heels or fancy footwear you will look odd one out.

5. Water proof bags or accessories for your mobile camera or DSLR if you are going to use it.

6. Additional memory cards and batteries

7. Power banks are required as whole day you will be out and won’t get chance to charge your batteries and they will surely drain as you won’t be able to resist clicking pictures.

8. Some medication for Hay-fever and motion sickness.

The trip, The adventures, the education, the exploration and Beginning of new friendships

Day 1: Sydney to Brisbane

Considering the season and our delay in planning, flight prices were already sky high. It’s a preferable choice but for us it was ruining our whole budget. Hanish was insisting for an experience to road trip as me and Karishma have already bought a 7 seater Captiva together and just before 5 days of trip I got my license.

I was not on board with the idea to drive 912 miles in crazy summers, and waste all our energy on the road-trip before, considering we were testing this old car for the longest drive.

Since we are famous risk takers, I would say we were lucky enough to drive 912 miles with several short breaks in 14 hours without issues. To pamper ourselves on the way we kept our massage chair which was fairly used over the drive.


Hanish had already booked an Airbnb for Brisbane however, I realised later that I have a college friend in Brisbane "Monika" and it would be a great opportunity to meet her along the way. When I called her before leaving for the trip, she insisted that we stay with her, but since we were already booked and it wasn’t just me but my 3 more friends, it was unfair to burden her. However typical Monika we cancelled our accommodation for the return but kept the first one.

As we entered Brisbane, my first reaction was what a lovely and pleasant CBD.

Sydney is super crowded, so this sight was refreshing to eyes, less vehicles on road and less people around.

We had to checkin to our apartment and leave for Monika’s for dinner. When we entered the 31st floor of this AIR BNB , we were completely stunned by the views around.

I forgot all the travel fatigue and picked my camera. It was hard for us to leave the apartment, but we were starving, and I was excited to meet Monika after a decade and more.

We reached late in night exhausted but the warm welcome we received from her and Nitin, uplifted our energies. There were several delicious Indian dishes prepared by her and it made our empty stomachs rolling. She gave us her home tour and there were our old college photos etc. I felt nostalgic of college days.I was also very delighted to meet her and visit her home in another country miles away from our homes in India. Her Husband Nitin was no less in welcoming us and the boys got along very well. I don’t remember, how much I ate that day. Finally, we parked our car and after this amazing reunion, Nitin dropped us to our Airbnb.

Tip: we had a friend where we parked our car, so if you plan on driving checkout the parking options in the city too.

Day 2: Brisbane to Fraser Island

We left early to reach the Brisbane Transit Centre where our pre- arranged travel VOLVO was to arrive. We had a lot of struggle to walk from our hotel to station because of the scorching heat and luggage. Before I could reach I was already full of sweat.

As soon as we reached there was no time to catch the breath, as we struggled to find the counter for our service provider and walked floors desperately, enquiring around. We were informed at the counter that he bus was standing in the bay ready to leave. This was really disappointing as there was no one to assist for the service and attend the travellers.

All of us rushed with our luggage, to that place and finally spotted the bus. Since we were the last to arrive all the seats were gone and we were scattered to different places which was again annoying.

Lesson Learnt: Even if it’s just 12 mins walk don’t plan to do it on your own on a summer day, with all the luggage it's really a waste of energy and time. Plan to reach on time with CAB so that you have some buffer to deal with any such circumstances.


Fraser Island is loaded with freshwater lakes and creeks, giant sand dunes, a lush rainforest, coloured sandstone cliffs, and long stretches of beach, so it's easy to understand why the local Aboriginal people named the island K’Gari — paradise.

After our pick up, a 4WD coach drove us to the Cooloola Recreation Area in Great Sandy National Park. Which was around rainbow beach we shopped for some local beach wears for boys, and some hats etc. We had our lunch in a local restaurant.

Once we arrive on Fraser Island on Ferry, we boarded a 4WD vehicle, it was quite a breezy ride down the sandy highway of Seventy-Five Mile Beach and was refreshing in summers.

We covered the following places in Fraser island, and I would advise to take a tour by Viator or experience OZ as they know the local areas better and have a great itinerary to cover all beautiful destinations.I have provided the link above in package deal.

The tea-tree oil Creek

We drove past this amazing tea tree oil creek merging with the sea. I was mesmerised by the colour of the ocean which was turned to burgundy and red with water due to the creek colour.

Absolutely, unbelievable, one we had never witnessed before. There were folks of birds sitting on the ocean and then flying together making it a beautiful wall paper scenery.

The Hike to Indian Head

This was a decent hike along the rocky coast at Indian Head, so you could see great ocean views. You may catch sight of sharks, turtles, dolphins, rays, and even migrating humpback whales (July to November). At the end of the beach we were taken for this hike, my challenge began, as I was most inappropriately dressed for this day. I thought, first day would be mostly the journey, so I was just wearing a comfortable Maxi dress and simple footwear.

I was punished by gods, for not reading the itinerary why? Because I wanted to be surprised, when visit these places. To contain my pre-trip excitement and my habit of too much research for the place, I chose not to see the plan at all, and there were my sufferings as an outcome of this trial. It was a realisation not just for me, but the fellow travellers also observed that :D.

The trek ends to the cliff top and there were 360 degree view of spectacular ocean, forests, rocks and beach. Few people even spotted sharks in the water.

Eli Creek

This was the highlight of the day. After completing the trek, we hopped in again, this time I sat in front with the driver to have a complete view of the island, it was a pretty awesome ride. Next stop was at Eli Creek for a dip.

I gave a damn, to all judgmental glances and my dress and jumped in the waters with my maxi-dress, and floated over the creek’s gentle waters and floated back to the beach. It was almost time to board the bus back and unlike others, we 4 unprepared for the dip, we walked in the bus with water dripping out of our dresses and sat on the seat just like that. I am sure the other travellers would have been completely disgusted.

Maheno Shipwreck

Coach continued, to the Maheno Shipwreck. which was marvellous, and the grandeur of the ship could be assessed from the junks left. We did a lot of photo shoots around.

SS Maheno was an ocean liner belonging to the Union Company of New Zealand that operated in the Tasman Sea, crossing between New Zealand and Australia, from 1905 until 1935

We were provided with a tasty lunch which, was very pleasing as there was some stuff for vegetarians as well. During our drive, our guide also enlightened us about the Dingos, which to me looked like normal Indian street dogs. But these were wild dingo and are considered dangerous.

By now we have covered all the great stops over the course of 75 mile beautiful and endless beach.

We checked in at Eurong Beach Resort for the evening, this was awesome kind of oasis on the deserted island. We had buffet dinner at the resort’s restaurant, the food was really good and served everyone, this is the first trip where I had not much issues with food. Afterward, there was option to take a guided night walk on the beach and checkout the stars as the view was crystal clear sky full of stars, we chose to skip that, as we were really tired.

After our superbly hit day of Fraser Island my expectations were high from the rest of the trip.

Day 3 - The Rain Forest (Fraser Island)

Next day, after breakfast, we were driven to Pile Valley for a guided walk through the rain forest. There were super long sati-nay trees, and the terrain was sandy and only 4WD can travel as the sand was very dense. We came to some kind of jungle paradise and minimal sun rays could enter as the trees formed a canopy inside.

We were given brief about the local insects and mosquitoes we should be aware of. There was a German couple Sabastian and Katrina (although they were not actual couples for sure) who were also with us on trip and were actively responding to the brief like us. We stepped out Van to enter the thick forest there were some logs and one of the boys who looked like a hunk had some flies of insect sitting on his calf muscle which was pointed out by someone and he rubbed it off and it flew to Sabastian and typical Sabastian there was lot of melodrama and oo aah..

These woods are famously resistant to termites and fire and thus popular for timber.

We Strolled through, pine trees and king ferns and enjoyed the clear waters of Wanggoolba Creek. The guide chose few volunteers for the trip to the jungle so that we can be carefully navigated around. There was a group of Asian girls which were posing very interestingly all me and Karishma did was copy their poses :P. They might have noticed it.

We made friends with an Indian group which had some families traveling together, one set of parents with their son who was studying in Australia, they had already ben to Australia many times and this time they were doing great barrier reef, Nandu who was father of the student here in his middle ages but still young at heart, gelled with us well, and was also proactively acting as our cameraman and was fun to be around. We were also talking actively with his wife and son and other people of the group.

Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie)

Today, I dressed properly, as we were told, we will have a chance to dip in to Lake Birrabeen for a swim and catch some sun on its sandy beach. As we walked towards the lake area, Canopies of tree started getting scant until we were completely exposed to Sun.

The walk was harsh as sand restrained our movement and it was afternoon Sun at its peak. When we reached the lake, I was spellbound, speechless and restless to get in to it. It looked so untouched and pure with white sands and crystal-clear water. No one can resist jumping in the burning heat of December.

This was the highlight of the day, I tried teaching boys some basics of swimming. Specially the float as they were amazed by it, and wanted to learn. It was extremely hilarious, and I am sure most of the people around were getting entertained by my trials to lift them, and their constant failures in attempt to float and swim.

Karishma got crazy bursting in laughter and I was trying my best to make them learn something. We spent a couple of hours, and still I feel the time was less. This place became my favourite, secret secluded beach, not much crowd, crystal clear water with very welcoming temperature an absolute natural abode.

We changed and rushed back to the 4WD, completely bitten by the hot sand. Once we were back we were served lunch and we boarded the ferry back from Fraser island and were shifted to a bus again, once I boarded the bus, all I remember was waking up at Rainbow beach.

Rainbow beach

It was Christmas and our trip provider left us at a bag packer accommodation "Dingos Backpackers" with bunk beds and some highly non-performing fans, in the heat this place was boiling and was super inconvenient to even take some rest. Rooms were 8 bed each and we were four, when we entered our room, most of the better beds were already taken. We saw Sebastian outside and he was quite disappointed himself, he got to know that people might arrive later at night to occupy, the rest of their room, and hence wanted to share it with someone he knew, and we were exactly looking for such opportunity, so we shifted to their room.

However, I am sure he would have regretted asking us, because he discovered later no one was to come at his room and now there were 4 noisy people self-invited.

There was no possibility of any exploration outside due to heat, so we just went to the counter to find some lunch places. We met Katie, who was also part of our tour group and was traveling solo all the way from US. We discovered, she was also looking to go for lunch so all us tagged along, Katie had already spotted a place for lunch which was some Pizza place, she had tried it earlier in the trip and it served good Gluten free and veg meals. Hanish was gluten free and I was veg, Katie was both. We ordered some interesting dishes and the chef was kind enough, to customize them as per our taste. The lunch was delicious, and we found Katie, easy to get along and she already became part of our group.

While returning it was almost early evening. Me and Hanish were more interested to sleep early in the night to prepare for next day which was to start early at 06:00, but Rajat was completely off with the idea, as per him we should enjoy the night, as we rarely get together on a trip like this and sleep can be compromised for such occasions.

Well he was right, Katie was waiting outside as she wanted to explore the rainbow beach and Karishma kept her engaged while we were sorting our arguments, finally he got ready and we left.

The rainbow beach, was not what I expected there was no rainbow etc in the sand formation, but may be because it was December and the season is mostly till Nov.

Everything was closed due to Christmas and there was nothing to do. It was getting dark, we were chit chatting over a bench near the beach and to uplift our spirts, Katie bought a Wine and we all had a toast sitting on that bench. Later on boys went again and bought two more bottles, we were joined by a Canadian couple on the bench and all of us started talking about our experiences.

I enlightened them about how incredible India is and they should plan their next holidays to India to experience the amazing hospitality. Then my story teller spirit came in full swing and we discussed many travel episodes and associated adventures.

Gradually this dull and boring place became very interesting and it is one of the most memorable nights of the trip. As all that matters, is a good company to hangout and great stories to tell.

I don’t remember when we left, but it was pretty late in night we just bunked on our beds until morning alarm.

Rainbow Beach to Great Barrier Reef. From here, we were taken to Kelly's Beach Resort. The resort served as your launching point to explore the Great Barrier Reef on a full-day boat tour to Lady Musgrave Island. Well this was the best destination of the trip, we got a separate cottage for 4 of us as there were gardens surrounding all cottages and while we were sweating in the heat and humidity of December standing on our porch we noticed huge lizards and they are called Komodo Dragons in Australia, there was a whole bunch of them, I am not a fan of reptiles and pretty scared to be honest, so we all rushed to our cottage.

We were asked to join in pool for Snorkelling lessons, and we all rushed with enthu, I absolutely enjoyed the part where my best friends were having challenges to float. It was hilarious how they were trying to not sink and giving up in panic. Snorkelling by the way is quite easy and you don’t need to be a swimmer to enjoy that as floating shoes and snorkel vest, helps you remain on surface and snorkel helps you to breath.

After this fun session we were retired to our room and later joined in for dinner, freshly barbecued cuisines by Garry. As always he was angry because we arrived late and he was mostly done.

Great Barrier Reef and Musgrave Island

Next day early morning we left for the cruise to great barrier reef, and Musgrave island tour, the excitement was sky high. We were to snorkel, swim in an area known for turtles, and additional activities such as scuba diving and deep-sea fishing were available, so of-course all of us chose scuba diving as well. When we boarded the cruise we were given, some hilarious commentary by the crew and also some sea sickness tablets, one of our friend had already started nauseating.

We were taken for Scuba diving instructions, two groups were formed and Sabastian ended with our group and he made a huge sigh sound and pushed his head back to show his disappointment and we got an opportunity to tease him. Since we were second group we had to wait for our turn until the return of first.

Meanwhile we occupied the front area of the deck with our legs out of the boat, moist sea winds on the face, it was an absolute bliss. Our group had already grown and was popular on the trip.

We were also introduced to Amanda and her Dad by Katie, Amanda was a brave woman, and both had saved and planned for this trip long ago and here they were. After some interesting conversation and stories behind this trip, we were sure that now Amanda is also part of our group.

It was a 2 hour cruise one way to reach the reef and there was plenty of time for socialising.

We made friends with Denise, she was single mother traveling with two teenagers, one of them was special but very smart, he was the one who chose this trip for them and we all gelled along well. We passed two hours, talking, eating and teasing each other, Katie had already named me the boss.

Finally we arrived at Reef the water here was shallow and clear the ground beneath can be seen from above the water. We spotted lot of turtles as the crew was directing us in the direction and every one was delighted at this heavenly site.

I felt like being a part of “Zindagi na Milegi Dobara” movie. Finally everyone was given their snorkeling equipment and we all were in water, the instruction was clear not to touch the reef, as its sanctity is destroyed and there are heavy fines. Remember reef is a life organism the largest live organism on earth may be and there is a danger of being poisoned which is excreted from the reef as its touched, so strictly no mess up was allowed.

None of my friends knew swimming so they were hanging on to a tub which was led by the instructor and I went around, on my own with my underwater camera, the reef was a little faded as it receives heavy sunshine and UV exposure.

I was enjoying the site and then suddenly I was hit by someone with floating shoes, I tried coming out again and then it hit me again. Finally I just stopped and waited until that got away, who else could do this, but my own friends always in panic in water, were floating around and unknowingly pushing me with their float, so if you want to enjoy keep distance from the naive ones.

After half n hour of amazing Snorkel time, we were called back for Scuba. An interesting incident happened there as well, which still makes my friends burst in laughter, not me as its the incident about me . Our instructor Dane was handing over the scuba vest to everyone,

I was wearing an M Size and he asked Rajat to wear L size.

I was a little confused since I look larger than him, so I told him, I am large so I should be wearing this and he should be wearing Medium. Dane politely said no he is Large, to which I stood up and insisted see I am large, Dane once again said I know what I am doing lady, definitely he is large.

And Hanish, Karishma were laughing like crazy saying " You know PT is large" and Sebastian was mumbling "She doesn't have manners she has to argue on something". I am still being teased for being offended at not being given Large size, later i realised how hilarious I was.

Moving on, we were given clear instructions and then were taken to the sea platform to d-board.

When you do Scuba, you feel tremendous pressure on your ears, also you breath through mouth instead of nose which most of are used to and not comfortable in breathing in and out of a pipe.

So one of our friend panicked when we were under 10 meters, he found it difficult and was taken above water to the ship. This is quite normal, its not a sport you have any compulsion to do, personally I was able to witness the reef via Snorkelling lot better then diving, since in dive you focus on instructions and keeping yourself comfortable instead of enjoying the views around.

Anyway, while the instructor returned and repeated instructions which we followed, it was over. I felt rushed, because I had done Scuba in Thailand as well, it was for a good duration and we were also shown reef, so this one was disappointing.

Musgrave Island

We were on the deck again, on the way to Musgrave Island there is famous for a specie of bird called black Noddies. The boat landed on the shore of the island with white sands. The island was buried in bird poop, the trees were completely coated white like plaster of Paris and it was just shit literally.

There were no reptiles on this Island as they are eaten by birds, so it was safe to walk in the bushes etc. The island looked like something from the book of Adventures of Alex Rover.

We walked the whole Island and the black Noddies were everywhere, I got a chance to take some good closeup shots of the nest and the families of the birds. Nandu again helped us with various group shots.

While returning we had lots of time, so we started our discussion again with new members. Sebastian as always was annoyed and complained about my loudness, well not his fault, that’s me, on trips specially I am super excited and loud, however we were on trip not in a library or museum.

We all were chatting, and I was helping Katie with some crash course in Hindi, she was learning quite fast, so I taught her, “CHUP RAHO” (Shut up), and asked her to say “Chup Raho” to Sebastian, he heard it and replied spontaneously, you CHUP RAHO… it was hilarious 😊.

There was some heated exchange of words and then Rajat, asked Katie to call him Bandar. He curiously asked what’s Bandar?, looking at an Indian couple who told him, it means Monkey, so he shouted at Rajat "you Monkey". And in rage stepped over Katrina who was trying not to be a part of this awkward, waste of time, nonsense argument but now she was dragged, she spanked him with her slippers, but he was enjoying it instead of being beaten.

Rajat shouted, Katrina try on the back which is exposed, and she hit him there and it hurt, we could all see the pain thru his expressions.

Without wasting a minute, he came running to Rajat with slippers in his hand and started beating him. Rajat was rolling in laughter and we all were so awestruck, with what just happened. None of us got a chance to shoot this moment of the trip.

He asked him to put his hands down, when Rajat was saving himself, exactly like our teachers used to do while punishing us and all we can do was burst in laughter. It was quite a scene and I am sure most of the Indians and our group enjoyed it, while other Asians were just giving a disgusted look of “who are these uncivilised bunch of people”. Well I am sorry people thats how we roll :), its all about fun.

After that, whole conversation just changed to this new feed we witnessed and there were several leg pulling sessions.

Finally, the cruise was done and we were waiting in line, ready to d-board the ship. I was standing in front, followed by my friends and Indian family was standing beside me, some Korean tourist were facing us from the other side.

Suddenly someone hit me with the slippers on head, I looked back and it was Sebastian. For a moment I lost my control and ran back to beat him in anger, my friends said we had already done so much nuisance let's ignore. I told him I will take revenge 😊 and I came back quietly.

Nandu and Family

However, Nandu’s wife said, "I wasn’t expecting this from you, you just gave up". I think that was the push, I needed, and I took off my slippers too, and ran towards him. The whole line was now chaos, Koreans started shooting us with cameras, some of the ladies on that side were scared and were holding their breath, we used chappals (Slippers) as swords and fought, moving complete length of the ship. No one could have missed that ordeal, I am sure and then we got down exhausted and laughing.

Garry who was our guide and 4WD driver, started walking towards the bus with heavy bags. I looked at Sebastian and said “ It’s a shame he has to carry all the heavy bags, while you being young and capable are standing and watching” He saw me and then him and ran towards Garry – “Garry let me help you. Let me help you” in a feeble, feminine voice.

From the left - Katrina, Sebastian, Me, Katie, Karishma, Hanish

Katie came towards me, put her arms around and whispered, so now all know who is the boss. We looked at each other and wickedly smiled.

The tour was done but the day was not over yet, we gathered at the common area of our resort, for dinner. Now our table has grown, we started as 4 and now there was, Katie, Amanda and her Dad, Denise and her two boys and two young girls from Tokyo.

Amanda’s father was in a very happy mood though earlier mostly he was in his shell, the whole trip we saw him sitting alone, enjoying the tour. This is the first time he was actively socialising, which was evidence enough that this trip was a blast.

Katie ordered, one Rose wine for everyone and I requested boys to get two more bottles.

We shared drinks with everyone and I toasted "to the great trip we had, to the new friends we found and to the new experiences revealed to us and the blessings of the God for all the happiness". After my toast there was a loud cheer and then, Amanda’s father toasted too "for all the friends and laughter, new experiences and new unions" followed by a loud cheer again. The Indian Family on the other side was also part of our toasting ceremony and they were cheering too. The emotion was high without drinks and it just went up from there.

Nobody wanted to go back to the cottages just yet, so I proposed a walk to the beach, our group agreed. Denise's son was very happy and excited and was moving his hand up and down to show his happiness. She told us when he is very happy and excited he does this gesture and it means he is really enjoying it. It made all of us sparkle with joy.