Paradise within paradise, Sailing to Vlassoff Cay

Vlassoff Cay is paradise on earth.

Which is why last December I had to pinch myself to make sure life hadn’t become one massive, ridiculous dream. Wasn’t I the girl who ended up in London selling Swedish furniture, destined for an ordinary corporate life, condemned to forever wear shirts and thus never be able to do up the buttons properly (#bigboobproblems)? How did I end up here, standing on the bow of a sailboat looking down in to water so clear I can see a reef shark sleeping on the ocean floor several metres below?


As per usual I have my mother to thank for this. She had sailed up to Cairns with her friend Doug who had kindly let us join them on board for a few days of fun. Ever since my scenic flight I’d been obsessed with the idea of spending a night at Vlassoff Cay and Doug had promised that, providing that the conditions were okay, we could indeed go for a play to my favourite sandy spot.


Clearly someone was smiling down because the weather could not have been more perfect, with clear skies and barely a breath of wind. Sadly this meant no sailing, but the clarity of the water was astounding and we were happy to motor out in return for an ocean of glass.


It took a few hours to get out which obviously required lots of liquid (cider based) sustenance, and Mikey got to perfect his best “I love my mother-in-law” face…needs more work though, yes?


Pulling up towards the cay I could look down and clearly see the coral bommies in the water, which was excellent news because it made it a lot easier to not hit them and consequently sink the boat. I was put on bommie spotting duty with Mikey but was slightly distracted by the fact that standing up there was like a glass bottom boat tour, only without the glass bottom and Chinese tourists.


I may have forgotten to tell Doug about a few danger spots because I was admiring and photographing them instead. With such a calm surface the only ripples came form our bow moving through the water and I was mesmerised, although it could have been the cider that made my eyes as glassy as the sea…


I’d stared jealously at the boats anchored up during my scenic flights with Nautilus and GBR heli and now it was my turn to wave to the people circling above.


Because it’s such a scenic sight from the air we had a helicopter hovering over us every ten minutes; you definitely wouldn’t want to sunbathe in the nuddie. Unless you wanted to end up on quite a few peoples photo albums. I don’t know, maybe you like that kind of thing?


Once the anchor dropped we changed into our swimmers and hopped in, keen to make the most of the afternoon light. Well, I say swimmers but in fact Mum was very worried about jellyfish and so we squeezed ourselves in to some exceeding flattering ‘stinger suits’. Don’t we look just gorgeous in them? Mikey near enough fell over laughing at us. Better are than sorry though right? Right??

photo 1

The shark I’d spotted earlier appeared to be a resident and swam around to check me out on more than a few occasions. I don’t know if you’ve ever been alone underwater with a lungful of air and had a territorial shark swim within half a metre of your face…but lets just say a few bubbles may have escaped. He seriously eyeballed me!

photo 2

We didn’t fear, however, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with the shark who seemed to be this little patch of reef’s equivalent of a grumpy old man. “Get off my yard you pesky kids!”


^^^The little pink bubbles under the surface are coral spawn, more about that in my Low Isles post!


While Mum and I splashed happily around with our new friend, Mr Shark, Mikey ventured further off with his spear gun in search of dinner. His patience lasted longer than our desire to drink some champagne so we hopped out, showered and were ready in our finest to enjoy our bubbles while we watched him try to simultaneously fish and shout at the shark who was pretty keen on getting involved (though probably less so with sharing the resulting catch).


It turned out that Mr Shark the grump wasn’t the only reef resident who wanted to say hi. A gorgeous batfish kept swimming around the boat, clearly used to being fed, and made little slurpy bubble noises at us. He was christened Batty (inventive, we know) and gave us literally hours of entertainment. Sure, we might have simple needs but Batty was a right little cutie pie.


Of course being a champion spear fisher Mikey did not return empty handed. I’ve never seen him swim that fast after he shot the fish, but then I think being chased by a hungry shark is incentive to kick a little harder…


Poor little coral trout, he’d only been swimming around an hour before he was in our tummies. At least he died a little quicker than if the shark had got him, I like to think.


Not long after the sun had set over land the moon decided to peek above the horizon and say hello. I’m a huge fan of moon rises so this finished off a rather wonderful day, even if getting a picture was nigh on impossible on a rocky boat. One day I’ll learn to put the camera down and be content to not constantly look through a lens, but that was not one of those days.


It was a hot night with no breeze at all and so of course we had to make sure we could get to sleep, by drinking as much wine as possible. After putting the world to rights for a few hours and seeing how fast we could empty the wine cellar everyone drifted (stumbled and toe stubbed) their way to bed excited about stepping foot on to the cay in the morning.


We woke up to a few extra breaths of wind, but nothing that could really ripple the surface. The ocean was like a still lake and the water just as crystal clear as before. We loaded the dingy up with all of our photography equipment and started over there, a little dismayed to see that we’d already been beaten to it by a couple of jet skis and smaller boats! Don’t worry though I managed to frame them out, so lets pretend we had the place all to ourselves, our own private island. Okay? Okay.


Every year I make a Christmas picture and I think the one for this year was my best yet!


What do you think? It certainly gets the ‘Merry Christmas from Paradise’ message across doesn’t it?


I’m also a big fan of reflections and thankfully Mum’s sunglasses were like mirrors. Hi me!


I think we could have spent all day out on the cay, but there would still be no way of capturing just how genuinely perfect it is. It’s every picture of paradise ever all combined into somewhere that actually exists and is actually accessible. When Mikey talks about buying a boat my criteria is always “and will we get to Fitzroy and Vlassoff in it?” because if we can’t what’s the bloody point!


I mean, will you just look at this place.


One of the small boats had been moored there overnight and we saw it belonged to a little family with a few kids splashing and playing in the shallows. Growing up our family outings were more likely to be walking in some muddy fields or trying not to stand on needles on a beach near Rhyll. Kids growing up in TNQ don’t know how lucky they are to have so many natural playgrounds on their doorstep. “Hey kids, want to take the boat out to Vlassoff a place people would pay literally thousands of dollars to visit and have a little splash and a fish?”.


As we were prepping the boat to leave for Low Isles we saw a gazebo being erected, good plan guys because the only thing missing is some natural shade.


Motoring back to the boat I didn’t even wait to get back on board, choosing instead to jump right in with my fins in hand. Not thinking about the effect this might have on the little dingy’s balance I almost upended everyone else too, oops! I was just so keen to play with our friend batty again!


Now usually on a boat anything that can move gets tied down, but the breeze was so light and the night so clear that I thought my towel would be safe dangling over the rail…hmm not so much! It had fluttered off and quickly floated away in to the darkness while we’d been eating dinner. So, imagine my surprise when I spied something sitting metres below on the ocean floor… Gulping air in to my lungs I swam down to the bottom to cries of ‘what have you seen!’and emerged, victorious, clutching the towel we’d assumed lost forever! It was so heavy that even the ocean currents couldn’t shift it far.


There was definitely a feeling of regret having to leave such an intensely beautiful spot, but with the winds predicted to get up over the afternoon it wouldn’t have been quite so lovely later on. Plus it was time to visit another tropical paradise (I know, my life is extremely difficult to live sometimes) up at Low Isles!

Have you ever visited a place and instantly lost your heart to it? God knows I’ll love Vlassoff forever, here’s hoping it doesn’t get wrecked by a cyclone anytime soon!


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