Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Honeymoon Part Two: The Great Barrier Reef!

Hello again! Welcome to day two of the honeymoon recaps... I sat down and banged these out and didn't get up from the computer for hours. I wanted to make sure I recorded all of my memories for posterity so I can always go back and remember how amazing the trip was :)

So! From Fiji, we left and flew directly to Brisbane for one night. This was just a stopover, because there were no direct flights from Fiji to Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef. To be honest, I was not psyched about having to stop for a night, but our travel agent made reservations for us at a restaurant right on the river in Brisbane and even though we were exhausted and kinda jetlegged, we went... and it ended up being the BEST meal of the trip! Funny how that works out :)

The next morning we woke up and flew to Hamilton Island, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands. When we had started planning the honeymoon, the GBR was high on our list, and our travel agent had insisted on us going to Hamilton Island, and staying at one resort in particular - Qualia Resort.

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Let me just say this - I am a very lucky girl and am part of a family who loves to travel. I have visited lots of amazing places and stayed in beautiful hotels and I never take that for granted. But never in my life have I stayed anywhere like Qualia before, and I don't think I ever will again. It was by FAR the nicest, most luxurious resort I have ever been to in my entire life. We didn't even know this, but apparently in 2012 it was chosen as the best resort in the WORLD. I kept saying to Rami, "This is way out of my paygrade" and he kept joking "Why the hell did we stay in Fiji so long if we could have been HERE instead?!" #wejoke #justkiddingfijiwestillloveyou

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From the moment we stepped off the plane and were greeted by two Qualia employees, who handed us ice cold water bottles and glasses of champagne and explained one of them would take us to the hotel directly while the other waited for our luggage to come off the carousel (Rami and I were literally blown away by this) to the absolutely stunning state-of-the-art room with a full living room, ipod docks and speakers, a giant soaking tub and a huge steam shower, a beautiful patio with chaise lounges overlooking the reef itself, to the genuine kindness and helpfulness of the Qualia staff... we were in heaven. The whole time. It was just pure luxury. I can't describe it better than that.

Look how beautiful this place is!

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And here is our room. We stayed in the Leeward Pavilion and it was just beautiful. I very much enjoyed that enormous tub.

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There were a couple highlights from the entire honeymoon and both of them took place while we were on Hamilton Island. Probably the coolest thing we did on the entire trip was snorkel the Great Barrier Reef! We booked a half day snorkeling tour and sailed on a boat out to the reef itself. I was REALLY scared because I get nervous in deep water but I knew I would be very disappointed with myself if I didn't make myself go. So we suited up and jumped in!

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I am so glad we did it. My cousin lent me his underwater camera and we got to take up close photos with all the fish - we saw soooooo many different kinds in all different colors and really beautiful pieces of coral and seaweed too. I was honestly expecting to be swimming at the top of the water gazing down at the fish below us, but I was genuinely surprised once we jumped in and I realized that these fish are NOT scared of humans - they swam right up to us at the water's surface! A few times we were literally swimming THROUGH the school of fish. It was unbelievable.

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The instructor who was with us gave Rami some food to feed them with - I was terrified one would bite me so I didn't do it - but Rami did it. As soon as he put his hand with the food in the water a MILLION fish swarmed him to eat it! He said it felt like little ripples on his hand. See them jumping out of the water to get to the food?!

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And the second major highlight? We got to hold koalas!!! When we first booked the trip, we told our travel agent that this was a MUST. Since touching koalas is illegal in New South Wales, we knew our only option was to do it while on Hamilton Island, so off we went to the Wildlife Park!

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Let me just mention that we had an appointment to hold them booked for 8:30am our first day and I was so excited I could barely sleep and woke up at 6am that day... and when we arrived, they LOST our reservation and I SOBBED. LIKE A BABY. Rami had to take control of the situation and give me a popsicle and do an imitation of a koala while simultaneously making arrangements to come back at a different time. WHAT A GEM. Anyway - when we came back for the afternoon "koala cuddle session" it was amazing. We didn't get to hold them long - only about a minute each - but they are so cute!!! Rami calls them "teddy bears who hug you back" and they were scratchy but cuddly and kind of smelled like menthol cuz they eat eucalyptus all day. I loved them. Ours was named WILLY!!!!

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Here were two other things we loved about Hamilton Island.... Number one: barely anyone on the island drives cars. Instead, everyone drives GOLF CARTS!!!! Even on the main roads! When we checked into Qualia, they gave us the keys to our very own golf cart - which they call a "buggy" - for our entire stay. It was crazy driving on the wrong side of the road! Number two: anywhere you go on the island, even if you're off your resort property - restaurants, bars, drugstores, clothing shops - lets you charge whatever you buy back to your room. So we were literally in the equivalent of Australian CVS and we were able to just tell them to put it on our room tab! It was very cool and I'm not sure why I liked that so much. Maybe because it meant I didn't have to carry a purse anywhere?

Some other fun things we did: we had lunch everyday at the hotel by the pool overlooking the waters of the reef. So gorgeous. When we checked into the room, the hotel had left chocolates and chilled champagne for us (actually, every hotel did that! #honeymoon perks). We went to delicious dinners every night off the resort property on the island - our favorite was a place called Coca Chu, which served Asian fusion. Yum!

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We were only in the Great Barrier Reef for three nights and I am not kidding when I say I was SO SAD to leave. I could have easily spent a whole week there. I am not sure when we'll ever be able to go back, but I vow to return one day! 

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