I am a local to the area, however I had interstate guests with me. Our ANZAC day on the Mantaray was good but there are a few things I hope management change or at least review in order to keep their guests happy and the reef safe.
Things we liked about the day:
The staff were friendly and informative. Being a local I absolutely agree to their hard stance on protecting what is left of the reef. To those that complained about not having flippers then further complained about there being dead coral about, let that be a reminder and an eye opener to how precious the reef is.
Hill Inlet is beautiful - not it's not Whitehaven beach... But you can see the beach from the view spot. I am of the firm opinion that Whitehaven be kept fairly secluded. To have it cluttered with hundreds of guest a day, with their smoking, rubbish and overbearing presence on the ecosystem, would ruin the beauty that is Whitehaven. There are people that pay thousands to private picnic on that strip of beach. When I can afford to spend that much money on a tour I wouldn't want hundreds of tourist ruining my moment.
Snorkling- we had a great time, the suits worked well, the pool noodles for floatation were a great idea. We saw turtles, stingrays and a wide variety of fish and coral. The guides kept an eye on us and threw fish food around and we got some great photos.
Things we think the Mantaray staff and management need to review.
The boat was packed. Luckily it was an overcast day as we had to sit without shade at the back of the boat, which wasn't a problem for me, however we had a pregnant friend with us. I'd like to think if it was a hotter day another person would have given up a shaded spot for her. Between Hill Inlet and snorkelling the crew set up the divers equipment on the rear seats, which left us with no seating.
We were offered morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch. With the option to purchase soft drinks and snacks. We also were able to have unlimted tea and coffee but there were not enough mugs so we had to share with another couple. Lunch was served after our swim at the hill inlet and we were asked to not fill our plates at first but we could go back for more once the last people arrived from the beach. There were 3 small boat loads of people from hill inlet back onto the Mantaray. The final boat load of people ( those that lazily took their time getting back to the boat ) were 'rewarded' with full plates of food leaving NOTHING left for those that were mindful of the time restraints and filled quarter to half plates. My pregnant friend had a vegan pregnant meal ( she is not vegan) which was lettuce tomato and some pinapple. Her gluten free husband had an equally disappointing meal. After snorkelling fruit and crackers were served and the same rules applied, again the food ran out far too quick. Everyone was starving after the snorkel and the dive.
The normal buffet food was tasty and a good variety but they needed at least twice as much food as it is a long day. (Or half as many people...which would also solve the aforementioned seating problem)
The crew were really good at telling everyone about the importance of the reef, the heritage listed hill inlet etc, but there were some things that concerned me regarding their actions, which If Mantaray management can comment would be greatly appreciated.
Smoking- the only person I saw smoking was the skipper. He didn't smoke on the Mantaray, but he did have at least one cigarette on the small boat while we were all snorkelling. After his talk to the guests about how important the reef is, I would hope that he didn't flick his cigarette butt into the reef, but unfortunately I am to the thinking that he did. Unless I can be reassured that he disposed of the cigarette in a better way I will forever assume he threw the butt into the coral reef.
Soapy water. On the return journey all of our stinger suits were disinfected in a pink soapy solution, as were the masks, snorkels and some diving gear. They keep a large bin at the back of the boat for cleaning. I was absolutely appalled to see them empty this large soapy solution into the water. My husband and I worked in sustainable and enviromental solutions and hope that management can clarify how safe it is to dump this solution into the reef?
Also another little thing that would have been nice way to show respect and involve the international guests to Australia's history was for their to be a minutes silence for the ANZAC day holiday. We were told this was going to happen and disappointed that it didn't.
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