As a pure measure of Mother Nature’s ability to wow us with her beauty, there are few places in the world as beguiling as the Coral Sea.
It doesn’t hurt when it’s home to the world’s largest reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, as well as stunning and culturally diverse places such as New Caledonia and Vanuatu. And while most places in the world are best reached by plane or enjoyed by car, the Coral Sea is best explored by boat. As a sailing destination, it is both welcoming and challenging, with an itinerary that could stretch for months, if you allow it.
But where to start? Perhaps you’ve already settled on the idea and have begun searching for the best place to buy yachts in Australia, have already begun dreaming of salty skin and warm, long afternoons that extend in every direction. Well, to keep that dream afloat, here is a guide to sailing the Coral Sea.
Cast-off in style
When it comes to travelling—when it comes to many things, let’s be honest—there has always been a strong debate about whether it’s all about the journey or the destination. The truth is, it’s about both. The issue with the debate itself, though, is that it fails to acknowledge the starting point, and in the case of The Whitsundays, it has a strong claim to be better than both the journey and the destination put together.
Pristine beaches, lush rainforests, an ocean that looks as though it was made by a glass-blower, all the cliches are here; doesn’t mean they can’t excite and inspire you. The Whitsundays sets the bar high, yes, but it also sets the tone wonderfully for the rest of your trip. Just make sure you don’t get too sunburnt too early.
Oro Bay. Enough said
Forgive us if we have the urge to begin every sentence in this article with “few places…”, but honestly, Oro Bay, in New Caledonia is one of those places. You simply can’t deny it. This coral lagoon—which is largely sheltered from the currents—is a strangely gorgeous place to swim. Translucent water, a multitude of sealife, hemmed in by pine trees; it certainly makes for a unique postcard.
While Oro Bay is gorgeous, it’s also versatile. Snorkelling, boating, even just admiring from the shore are all possible, and the fact that it’s within reach of restaurants and places to anchor makes it a must on your adventure.
Get your heart singing
If you were to make a shortlist of truly unique spectacles to witness in the world, seeing Ni-Vanuatu ladies perform water music deserves to be on that list. Standing waist-deep in water and using their hands to make music, there really is nothing else we can say about this centuries old tradition that will do it any justice. Just make sure you witness it, as the energy these ladies project will keep your soul’s battery at full charge for the rest of the trip.
Combine history with leisure
Whether you consider yourself a historian or just someone who loves adventure, diving amongst the countless WW2 wrecks in the Solomon Islands is something you should mark down on your list of things to do while sailing the Coral Sea. Given that the Solomon Islands was a strategic location to Australia, a lot of naval and aerial conflict occurred in the region. And while these events have lasting, invisible emotional scars, the remnants of the vehicles and equipment that fell are still visible today. There is something genuinely haunting about diving amongst wrecks, a strange juxtaposition between vibrant sea life and ghosts of the past, that makes this activity a must. You won’t regret it.
No, we’re not talking about the set of King Kong. This is something else altogether. Skull Island—a 30 minute boat ride from the village of Munda, in the Solomon Islands—is a sacred shrine—a graveyard of sorts—to the once ceremonial tradition of ‘head hunting’ by local warriors.
As is often the case in this part of the world, Skull Island is not the only place where this tradition took place; rather, the arrival of Christian missionaries meant that skulls from all over the surrounding region were dumped here as a way to cleanse the practice from everyday life. Luckily, the skulls have remained intact, and with a fee paid to the traditional owners of the land, you can visit the graves of fallen warriors.
The wonderful thing about exploring the Coral Sea is that you could spend months—years even—and never experience the same day twice. That’s the beauty of sailing the open ocean; it has that endless quality that makes you want to reach further, regardless of where you are reaching. And if you get the chance to visit the places mentioned in this article, keep your eye to the horizon for places and adventures nearby.