I HAD always dreamed of holidaying on a deserted island, living off the land, snorkelling all day and sleeping under the stars by night.
In all honesty I never expected a place like that existed – fortunately for me, it does.
Located 75km off the coast of Gladstone is the most beautiful place I have visited – North West Island.
This remote 100-hectare coral cay is one of the southern islands in the Great Barrier Reef.
Home to rare species of flora and fauna, this spectacular spot will capture your heart from the second you lay eyes on it.
For me, that moment came after a long and painful – I get really seasick – barge trip.
After spending most of the trip asleep at the back of the barge, I got up and walked to the front and from a distance saw the white sand of North West Island.
As I stepped off the barge and into the warm water, I knew I had found paradise. But in reality even paradise has its barriers to overcome.
For starters, I am the sort of person who is used to creature comforts and in my dreams of living on a deserted island, I never imagined it would be such hard work.
With no running water, we showered in the salt water which meant by the end of the week my hair was like straw and I couldn't get my brush through it.
If you ever go to a place like North West Island make sure you pack conditioner and every evening put it through your hair.
It doesn't fix the problem or stop knots from forming but it stops dreadlocks.
As well as bathing in the sea water, we washed our dishes and clothes and caught our food in the Pacific Ocean.
When you are living on an uninhabited island, you must do everything for yourself and in some cases go without.
There was so much to see and do on the island; at times its beauty was overwhelming.
Snorkelling was high on my list as was photographing the creatures which called the island home.
It was about a half a kilometre walk out to the reef drop-off zone. The walk was the scariest and most beautiful experience I had on the island.
For most people who don't think about accidentally stepping on a stone fish or cone shell, it is a relaxing and peaceful walk, but for me, every step felt like an aquatic form of Russian roulette.
Snorkelling on the reef should have scared me more, swimming with stingrays, jellyfish and sharks.
But floating on the surface, diving down to snap a photo, of green turtles, coral, fish, sharks and stingrays wasn't that frightening.
The only time I got worried was when a few spear fishermen came too close to us and the water became bloody.
As clichéd as it will sound the sharks that had been casually circling below us slowly made their way up higher. I am no shark wrestler, so that was my cue to exit the water.
There were many firsts on the island, from seeing green turtles up close to watching the sunset over the ocean – so many amazing experiences.
I had never seen the sun set on the ocean. I saw the sun go down six times and each time it was just as magical as the first. By day, when I wasn't laying on a blow-up lounge a couple of metres from shore making shell necklaces from the white shells that covered the beach or fishing to catch my dinner, I was photographing the beautiful birds which inhabited the island or documenting the male green turtles fighting for a female to mate with.
At night the moon lights the way and you can watch as turtles mate on the shoreline, or just wander around on the secluded beach, listening to the waves lapping on the shore. It takes about two hours to walk the circumference of the island and it is worth the effort.
North West Island is beautiful and untouched. Its blue green waters are cool and refreshing, its birds and turtles abundant.
It makes a wonderful holiday for those of us who like to get back to basics, who love the smell of the ocean and marvel at the underwater world.
IF YOU MAKE THE TRIP
Curtis Ferry Services Gladstone provides beach drop-off and pick-up and can transport up to 70 visitors to the island. Phone 4972 6990. The island can also be accessed by charter or private vessel. For charter companies in the Gladstone region, phone the Visitor Information Centre on 4972 9000. National Parks charge is $4 a person per night. Phone the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency for camping permits within the southern section of the marine park.
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