Farewell to Paradise
With the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef as the islands backyard swimming pool, Hayman was able to offer their staff truly unique opportunities. The island itself is a natural paradise, home to many wild Australian animals such as rock wallabies, kurlu’s, possums, kookaburra’s and many more. The vast species of trees, flowers and tropical rainforest allowed the island to lay claim to a botanical garden.
The luxury resort was built on a small section of Hayman Island as the rest of the Island is national park. The only reason Islands of the Whitsunday’s have resorts built on them is because the land has passed down by original settlers. Only two of the 74 Islands in the group are not completely or partially national parks which means that no more land can be developed on any of these 72 islands. The island has bushwalking routes that lead to beautiful views of the Whitsunday Islands and access to one of the most beautiful snorkelling destinations in the Whitsunday’s; Blue Pearl Bay. Imagine swimming amongst the most colourful friendly fish as they come right up to your mask to say hello while you are looking at giant clams and large boulders of coral.
I spent a day off on the boat heading to the outer Great Barrier Reef. I sat on the back deck mesmerised as I watched the Whitsunday islands disappear into the blue on a spectacularly perfect day. The water was like an oil spill, it was so clear and calm that once we got to the reef all you had to do was look over the side and you could see the colourful coral reef so clearly. We suited up in our snorkelling gear and jumped into the water. We swam with reef sharks and free dived through caves in the coral before heading back onto the boat to explore a different section of the reef. Just as we weighed anchor, the captain announced that a hammerhead shark, 1.5m in length, was circling us. The next destination had us swimming beside a pod of dolphins and spotting three reef sharks.
We enjoyed nights camping out on the beaches under the southern stars with beers in hand and marshmallows melting by the fire. Skinny-dipping became a ritual in the warm waters of the Coral Sea often celebrating the time spent with a friend and farewelling them from the island.
The most well known acronym for island staff is ‘NBO’ Next Boat Off. If your contract is terminated for reasons of misconduct or breach of contract, you may be issued with an NBO. You have until the next boat leaves to pack your belongings and get off the island. There has been a long standing ‘competition’ of who could come up with the most creative way to get booted off the island. The Hayman pool was the largest pool in the Southern Hemisphere, an icon that was featured in most of the islands photographs, it was also strictly forbidden to all staff. The cliché cases of NBO dismissals involved staff calling in an anonymous tip to security and then jumping in the forbidden pool. Others involved steeling kitchen/food and beverage supplies and calling in an anonymous tip to have their room searched. One of the worst was a housekeeper trashing an unoccupied guest room and then jumping into the pool. No anonymous tip required.
I didn’t make it into the NBO competition, however my short stay on the Island came to an end when I was offered a job working as a tour guide on Australia’s most iconic beach. “I have a host position open on Boomerang…but the boat leaves first thing in the morning”. I hesitated as I stood on the dock watching the Hayman ferry pull in to take me back to the Island after my day off on the mainland Airlie Beach. “It’s yours if you want it but I need to know now”.