EX­QUIS­ITE IS­LAND MORE THAN 0-CAY

UN­BE­LIEV­ABLE BEAUTY AWAITS THOSE WHO MAKE THE TREK TO SUD­BURY CAY, TWO HOURS OUT OF CAIRNS

Life & Style Weekend - - ESCAPE - WORDS: ANN RICKARD www.an­nrickard.com

Ask Wikipedia just ex­actly what a cay is and it will tell you it is “a sandy is­land on the sur­face of a co­ral reef ”. Good enough in­for­ma­tion for us, peo­ple who cau­tiously trust Wikipedia. It will also tell you it could be pro­nounced “keys” or “key” but we pre­fer to say it how it looks, “cay”. We were off to Sud­bury Cay, a place you may not be fully ac­quainted with, but as sug­gested, it is a sandy is­land … this one about two hours sail­ing out of Cairns. I’d seen pho­tos of this glo­ri­ous cay, a small patch of shim­mer­ing white sand float­ing serenely on the sur­face of a deep and vivid blue ocean with a cir­cle of pure aqua wa­ter sur­round­ing it. It looked like a pic­ture that had been pho­to­shopped. It was far too ex­quis­ite to be real. But there we were, ap­proach­ing it on a pri­vate boat af­ter sail­ing out of Cairns, past the man­groves, along an es­tu­ary where we were told we may see a croc­o­dile bask­ing on the banks (we didn’t, very pleased). A small stop at Mis­sion Bay, then Tur­tle Bay, to gaze in won­der at the gi­ant rock for­ma­tions on shore, gi­ant dream-like sculp­tures, soar­ing from the em­bank­ment, some bal­anc­ing their own small for­ma­tions on their tips … all against a back­drop of the Mur­ray Prior Range moun­tains, shaded colours of mauve and green, in­fin­itely fas­ci­nat­ing in their unique Aus­tralian beauty. Tur­tles aplenty here. Al­ready, the an­tic­i­pa­tion was high. So much un­spoilt beauty, so close to Cairns – vel­vety blue ocean against green rain­for­est – vis­tas so spec­tac­u­lar and nat­u­ral peo­ple would hap­pily travel from the other side of the world to see for just a day. Then it was on to­wards and past Fitzroy Is­land, where the rain­for­est meets the reef, as the tourism peo­ple tell us, a very ac­ces­si­ble is­land from Cairns by a reg­u­lar ferry. Marine life, walk­ing trails, a mod­est ho­tel, wa­ter sports … fam­ily friendly. It looked tempt­ing to stop at one of the pub­lic moor­ings and jump in the deep blue wa­ter but we were on a mis­sion, the en­chant­ment of Sud­bury Cay and its float­ing colours just around the cor­ner. The ap­proach was ev­ery­thing and more than ex­pected. First the sight of the cay in the dis­tance, the white sand peek­ing out from the deep blue of the ocean, then the pure turquoise of the sandy-bot­tomed rib­bon of wa­ter en­cir­cling the cay. “Is this real?” is the first thought. It is a post­card, a cal­en­dar, a tourism brochure. Noth­ing can be this ex­quis­ite. But it is. Ide­ally you need this place alone, but there are usu­ally a cou­ple of boats hov­er­ing in the wa­ter and no one should re­sent shar­ing. Ten min­utes to take our gear off the boat – food, wine, cham­pagne, chairs, um­brel­las, fish­ing rods – and then it was sim­ply a mat­ter of sit­ting back and mar­vel­ling. The wa­ter lap­ping softy at the white sand is Bom­bay-gin clear. Warm. Pure. Clean. You must float in this unique wa­ter, look down to dart­ing fish: co­ral trout, black tip reef shark, long-tails, span­gled em­peror. No need for a snorkel, in our opin­ion. It is pinch-your­self stuff, a dis­be­lief that any­thing could be so pris­tine, so sim­ply glo­ri­ous. We were on a pri­vate boat but there are small char­ters that will take you out twice a day – not so comfy we are told, more back­packer-style sail­ing, where they must tie up at a free pub­lic moor­ing a dis­tance away from the cay and have their pas­sen­gers get in and swim to shore. There is also a com­mer­cial boat that stops on Sud­bury Cay at sun­set ev­ery Fri­day evening where the crew dis­em­barks with es­kies of good­ies be­fore the pas­sen­gers gen­tly step off, sit, sip and ab­sorb the sun­set beauty … and prob­a­bly think, as we did, “is this real?”

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