A right royal rafting encounter
THE island monarch sits on his elevated throne and surveys his kingdom as far as his eagle eye can see.
While he wears no coat of many colours or priceless crown jewels, the dignified and confident way he carries himself is just as regal.
He is mesmerising in his grace and beauty, and his intense yellow/green eyes stop me in my tracks, piercing my soul.
Although well aware of the presence of strangers, he is alert, not alarmed.
With his enchanting queen by his side and bountiful riches on land and sea before him, he rules over a paradise he seems to enjoy sharing with humble visitors from all four corners of the globe.
We cannot believe our luck in securing an audience alone with this royal couple, so we do what any self-respecting tourist would do: we take their picture. The osprey - let's call them Will and Kate - are at home in their palace on Black Island in the Whitsunday Islands National Park.
We have arrived here aboard what we affectionately call the "banana boat" - Ocean Rafting Whitsunday's bright yellow, specially designed inflatable rescue boat, similar to those used by lifesavers but more rigid and with a "roof" for shade and storage.
The fleet of four 11m vessels is powered by 500hp engines and can take a maximum of only 28 passengers each. Its power-to-weight ratio makes it fast, highly manoeuvrable and a whole lotta fun.
We set out from Airlie Beach on the 8.30am Whitsunday Eco Adventure shore tour, courtesy of Queen Mary 2, during her maiden circumnavigation of Australia earlier this year.
The four-hour, small-group adventure takes participants on a thrilling, bumpy wave-riding exploration of the Whitsundays.
Ocean Rafting, which was established in 1997, has special permits to visit protected areas in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The exhilarating morning on the water takes in views of the newly refurbished Hayman Island and the pristine vegetation and rocky shoreline of Hook Island.
Within three-quarters of an hour, we have arrived at Mantaray Bay on the northern point of Hook Island to snorkel with giant trevally and maori wrasse, angelfish and parrotfish among others, and glide over the top of fields of blue staghorn, cauliflower and golden soft corals.
We are lucky enough to see graceful green turtles swimming close to shore and coming up for air on the sand cay known locally as "Lara Bingle Island" on Langford Reef - where the model and former partner of Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke filmed some of Tourism Queensland's notorious Where The Bloody Hell Are You? Campaign TV commercial.
But our morning tea break and pit- stop on Black Island is where my hubbie and I have our special osprey encounter.
After walking the few metres from our anchored vessel to inspect the views on the other side of the island, we decide to desert the rest of the crowd and "take a walk on the wild side" - a rock hop only a few more metres from the vessel in another direction to an inviting sandy cove.
There, while lolling in the turquoise waters on that picture-perfect day, we spot "Will and Kate" against the leafy green backdrop.
And this celebrity spotting to us is infinitely more interesting than Lara Bingle could ever be.
The writer was a guest of Cunard's Queen Mary 2.
GOOD TO KNOW
For more information on Ocean Rafting at Airlie Beach, visit oceanrafting.com.au or phone 4946 6848.
For more on Queen Mary 2, visit cunardline.com.au