We took a trip aboard the Falla while in Cairns last week and are so glad we did. It was great to have a reef experience that felt rustic and relaxing as apposed to an over-crouded frustration. We booked through bookme and got a great deal, but even at normal rate it would be a good price.
Falla is a historic Pearl Lugger built in 1956, and rebuilt in 2004. The boat has been through it's fair share of ups and downs and it's passionate Captain, Doug, tells a great story of the history of the boat.
We set sail around 9am and headed for the Coral Gardens where we anchored with only one other boat and went snorkeling. Then had some lunch and headed for Upolu Cay where we went for another snorkel and hung out on the sandy cay in the sun.
We arrived back at Marlin Marina at 5pm. The trip home was very relaxing, a highlight being when the engine was shut off and we sailed our way back in. That was something very special!
Like other people, I go to Cairns for visit the Great Barrier Reef. I went there since February 2011. I brought 1 day tour to the outer GBR. Tour Price is included snorkeling, 1 dive or intro dive, and 10 min on helicopter. Cover all I need in 1 day (only 1 day is need coz plan was changed since flight to Cairns delay for 3 days)
I enjoy all day with this trip. Cruise name ‘Osprey V’ is clean, comfortable, and also have nice and friendly staff team. If you see my pictures you will see how happy I am.
You can't go to Cairns without going to the Great Barrier Reef. I have been to the reef on 3 different vessels, but nothing compares to the live-onboard vessel called Reef Encounter. Try their night dive if you are into diving.
Tour package with Quicksilver group. I highly recommend them -- their bus picks you up from your hotel for about $15 additional, if you are in the Cairns area (probably not so much if you are in Pt. Douglas). Catamaran takes you out to a far outer reef area, so you get the benefit of not being amongst more spoiled area. Morning tea is served before the catamaran leaves (you can have coffee or tea, along with cookies). The catamaran goes out to a huge station where a very nice buffet lunch is served for about 2 hours. Also served afternoon tea just before the catamaran set sale for land -- crackers and cheese with the tea this time.
I was there during stinger season, so stinger suits were pushed and recommended. They weren't "rented", but a "cleaning fee" of $5 is required, which is quite reasonable.
I had brought a waterproof camera, but they rented digital cameras for $66, with a capacity of about 250 pictures, and you got the card out of the camera -- kinda wish I had done that.
Fresh water showers are available on the platform, but not many. Just a few changing rooms. I made the most of my time in the water, but was very lucky in my time jumping in the shower and changing room. They are not kidding when the talk about heading back to shore.
They have feeding times at one of the platforms, and I swear there are fish that are pets -- is quite something to see. One fish was GY-NORMOUS, but couldn't get a picture of him.
There are tables all about the platform to set your belongings out on, but no place "secure", although it did not seem to be a major problem.
Cost per person was U.S. $148 for everything (stinger suit the $5 additional).
Of course you have to see one the seven wonders of the world when to opportunity arrives. You can take boat rides every morning from the habour.
It's possible to either snorkle or dive, diving is prefered, since you can get closer to the reef sharks when diving. Don't worry they aren't dangerous, they're not bigger than you are.
‘Of course’ everybody who comes to Cairns wants to visit the Great Barrier Reef. But do we really know what we want to do, or book we just one of these cruises without knowing what they are offering exactly ??
Do you want to go just to a tropical island (with or without snorkelling), diving , snorkelling, sailing ??
Are you looking for a big boat with lots of tourists, which brings you to a pontoon to spend the whole day ??
How many staff members are on a boat and available for divers or snorkellers ??
Do you want to see the reefs with a ‘submarine’ or glass bottom boat and how long are such trips ??
Questions which you should ask yourself and afterwards your travel agent in Cairns to be sure you get what you wanted !!
first time snorkeller
Tell you the story of our visit to the reef. We never had been snorkelling before, but intended to do it on the Great Barrier Reef. We had a recommendation of a friend to take Great Barrier Reef Dive & Snorkel Adventures (also called Compass Cruises).
- we got some almost unintelligible – noise and Australian accent – instructions;
- the staff was more interested in divers than snorkellers;
- there was just ONE staff member for first timers !!
- my wife didn’t dare to snorkel at all under these circumstances and I (and others) had to practice myself.
I would NOT recommend other ‘first time snorkellers’ to make the cruise to the Great Barrier Reef with Compass Cruises !!
The main reason for most people to visit Cairns is to go out to the Great Barrier Reef. There's a big choice of operators offering all kinds of trips. It's not really cheap, expect to pay around 100 AU$ for a snorkelling trip. When booking a trip, make sure the quoted price does include the reef tax and fuel levy.
If you want to learn scuba diving, quite a few schools are based here and offer all kinds of courses.
How can you come to Cairns and not see the reef? There are many tour options available. I went with Quicksilver cruise to the Low Isles and couldn't have been happier with the choice. The boat moors just off-shore of a private island and gives you several hours to snorkel, swim, sunbathe, etc. Lunch and all snorkeling equipment is provided. They also run a smaller glass-bottomed boat with a marine biologist on-board. As an inexperienced snorkeler, this allowed me to see some of the aquatic life that I may otherwise not have seen (including a large sea turtle!) I also took my turn at snorkeling and saw beautiful species of fish and coral. The ride back to shore was almost as fun as the snorkeling - the sails came up and we flew across the water while a guitarist played on deck (including "Down Under", which just felt so appropriate).
We had to show up early in the morning, because the Compass was leaving from the Marlin Marina at 8 am. First we had to fill a form with a kind of a health check (don’t understand why they don’t do this when booking your cruise !!). The Compass is one of the smaller boats and not too modern, but it has its own charm.
On the way to the reefs we first had to do some ‘ridiculous’ gymnastic exercises. Later on we got instructions about our snorkelling adventure, specially the safety procedures and there was a video about the sea and reef life.
We made a first stop at Hastings Reef, but to be honest snorkelling was not as easy as it seemed at the instruction on board. We were happy with a trip by a glass bottom with a very nice and patient staff member. He explained a lot about the reefs and the fishes we saw in this wonderful world.
After lunch on board of the Compass we sailed to Breaking Patches, another reef. First I and my wife did some swimming together in the Coral Sea (just fun to do), before I tried again to do some snorkelling and the second attempt was much better.
It was really amazing , overwhelming and breathtaking; the colours, the different kinds of coral, the fishes sometimes in schools together, the clear water.
On the way back to Cairns we enjoyed the sun and the wind (don’t forget your sunscreen), a fruit buffet, cheese and a glass of wine. Fore the youngsters the Compass offered ‘boom netting’. There was also a possibility to buy pictures, which had been made during the day, but asking AUD 15,- for just one photo is a kind of a tourist trap.
It was 6 pm when we arrived in Cairns after a wonderful day, which really was ‘a once in a lifetime experience’.
Great Barrier Reef Dive & Snorkel Adventures (or Compass Cruises).:
Full day Outer Reef: AUD 60,- , including lunch, coffee, tea, fruit and cheese, wine, snorkel equipment, boom netting. Not included: wet suit, bus transfers, reef tax, port charge, fuel levy and management levy.
Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, the only living organism that can be seen from outer space, so you definitely have to make time to swim, snorkel, or dive the reef! I'm not a great swimmer, but I was able to snorkel for a little bit, and it was amazing how clear the water was. It was also neat to see the colorful fish and the different types of coral.
Go out and see the great barrier reef! The reef, one of the natural wonders of the world, is easily accessible by coach to Port Douglas (about 1.5 hours away from Cairns). Most companies have their own shuttle services.
We chose to snorkel with quicksilver. I was hesitant after reading some reviews about going with very large companies, but I decided that the large boat was probably better because I get sea sick. We had a great experience with them!
First, they pick you up from aroudn Cairns (or wherever you are) and shuttle everyone to the pier at Port Douglas. If you did not prepay, you will have to go inside and get your boarding passes before getting on the boat. The boat was a large and spacious boat with plenty of room for everyone! There were outdoor and indoor areas. Inside you could order drinks/snacks.
We went out to the far section of the reef, right off the continental shelf. It took about 1.5 hours to get there by boat. Once there, they served lunch almost right away. There was plenty of snorkel gear (enough for everyone). When we started snorkelling, they had some fish feeding near the platform -- it was really interesting to see some of the fish fight and devour the food!
The reef itself was really shallow where we were - in fact parts of it were above water! This was great because all the coral was shallow and it was really easy to see the coral and the fish and the different colors. Just remember not to touch or harm the coral!
In addition to snorkelling, we were able to take a submarine like vessel (free) to get a tour of the coral up close. This was fantastic because it was guided by a marine biologist and is perfect if there are any non swimmers in the group. They also have helicopter rides, scuba diving and sea walking if you want.
All the companies charge about the same. I highly recommend quicksilver.
My 2nd reef outing was with CDC Cairns Dive Centre on board the "Sun-kiss". This is a much larger operation that the "Noah's Ark Too", so the group is larger and certainly less personal.
The "Sun-kiss" is a much larger and newer boat though it did little to withstand the 25 knots wind toying with the boat that day. The winds were rocking the boat from one side to another out in the open sea and quite a number of folks were turning blue. The team of enthuiastic young minders were pretty strict, refusing to let anyone stand up. The good thing about a more powerful machine is that we reached the calmer waters of Moore Reef a lot more faster (at about 1.5-2 hours).
Same safety wetsuits and safety vests requirements. (I guess that was the standard) No buffet lunch but cups of hot tea/coffee instead. (Then again, it is a torture snorkeling with a full stomach!)
I got to snorkel at different parts of Moore Reef..but in slightly deeper waters. The corals are more colourful here as well.
Again, emphasis was placed on the divers...then again, they paid more (grin)
Like the "Noah's Ark Too", the boat leaves from Marlin Jetty at about 8.30-9.00am and you'll be back in Cairns at around 5-5.30pm.
Was charged A$70 for the 1-day session (circa June 2003).
From Cairns you can take about any boat out to the Great Barrier Reef. You can always go snorkelling and scuba diving there and some boat trips allow you to have a couple of scuba lessons for a bit of extra money. Don't forget to bring an underwater camera to fotograph the colourfull fish, reef, turtles and rays.
An absolute must! Book one of the very popular and also completely touristy daytrips to the reef. But the beauty of Gret Barrier Reef is all the touristy crap worthwhile. They get you out on their plattform at the Outer Reef by boat. There you spend an entire day with different activities: snorkelling, glass bottom boat, semi sub (well you sit in some kind of underwater glass tank and they drive you around great barrier reef where you can enjoy the beauty of world's largest reef. And if you care: you don't even get wet), large BBQ. Everything is included in the price for the trip. If you choose other activities like scuba diving, helmet diving or a helicopter triper over great barrier reef, you have to pay extra. But you don't need to do those extra things. Your day is fully packed, at least if you like to snorkel as we did.
GREEN ISLAND, OCEAN FREE, if your looking for a small (only 58 people) friendly relaxing day, this is one of the smaller boats that takes you out, the staff are v v friendly and remember everyones names which makes it all that more friendly, its $99 per person and you have plenty of food and drink with a nice glass (or 2) of wine and cheese on the way home, you get to snorkel with all the equipment included and the stinker suites to, you get to dive for $70 extra with someone where u also get a certificate, and the staff are great they make u feel very safe and relaxed, you only go down with yourself and one other person, maybe sometimes a third so its v v safe and personal, after lunch you get to go to green island for an couple of hours, cannot say wot that was like as i decided to go for a 2nd dive, on the way back they switch the engines off and let the sails take you home while looking out for dolphins over a glass of wine, or like me fall asleep. well worth the money,