Great Barrier Reef, Cairns
Beginning off the coast from Bundaberg and extending 2300 kilometers north to New Guinea, the Great Barrier Reef truly is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Cyclones, coral bleaching caused by global-warming, and tourist trample have all had a negative effect on the reef in certain places, but areas where the reef remains intact are as pristine and spectacular as anywhere in the world. The diversity and color of the fishes and corals has to be seen to be believed. Colors usually only found in Crayola’s largest box of crayons come to life here like nowhere else I have ever seen. Throw in an occasional turtle gliding by or stingray or shark, and you have the makings of an unforgettable day. As is true anywhere, diving will bring you closer to larger species while snorkeling in the shallows will allow you to see all of the colorful fish more vividly. You really can’t go wrong either way, but I would suggest spending several days on the reef to permit enough time to do some of both.
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).
I went in a smaller group with "Noah's Ark Too" on my 1st trip to the Reef.
The setup was smaller but it also meant that the group was cosier too. There were about 20 of us on the boat and we quickly mingled in the 2-2.5 hours journey out to the reef. The boat departed at about 8.30am from Berth A10 Marlin Marina and returned at about 4.30-5.00pm.
The boat was indeed much smaller than many of its competitors. It was almost like David against Goliath. But a smaller craft also meant that it could reach shallower waters that the other competitors could not. The main areas for diving/snorkeling were around Michaelmas Cay and Moore Reef. The boat would park itself in waters at about 6m deep and the group would then separate into the snorkers and the divers. One of the operators would lead the divers. (Free lessons can be obtained on board should you choose to dive for the first time) The snorkers were not ignored; the operators insisting that you carry float buoys even though you may be a good swimmer.
The fishes around the shallow waters of Michaelmas Cay (the island is off limit to visitors as it is a marine bird sanctuary) seemed to recognise the boat. Having had our buffet lunch (included in the package), the folks were throwing scraps into the water and this drew all the fishes very close to the boat. My first jump into the Great Barrier Reef was into a swarm of fishes on a feeding frenzy. The scraps were attracting not just the small players, but also, literally the big fishes - giant size garoupas and triggerfishes. It was just amazing to have scraps of food around you (which was kinda yucky) and having a galaxy of fishes dancing around you.
The corals were by so far, the best and most beautiful I have seen. I guess having little traffic coming thisaway had meant that the reef had been subjected to lesser stress. Despite the waters being a little cloudy, pink, red, green and yellow were everywhere.
I was charged about A$70 for the day trip with an additional A$5 for the wet suit, circa Jun 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.
The Great Barrier Reef offers some of the most spectacular diving in the world and to miss it would be a true shame. I can only describe the experience as being one in which I felt like I was actually inside a tank of exotic fish. Numerous companies offer dives, but I strongly recommend that you certify before you go. You get treated with more respect, you dive first, you're not nannied. Just as a diver, I don't think this is a good place to learn. The salt, the waves, the hustle, the time, the number of students, all this contributes to a rushed and incomplete training package that won't get you killed, but will lessen your enjoyment. If I were to recommend one thing above all, certify before you go!
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,
Cairns is a great place to base yourself...if you'd like to see the Great Barrier Reef and Cape Tribulation.
When I wen there the first time...I was on a shoestring budget...and just wanted a nice place to call home in the evenings...so I booked the Lake Cairns Resort & Spa off of Orbitz...and booked a trip to the Great Barrier...and rented a car to see Cape Trib.
I was one of those crazy people who wanted to see the Great Barrier on my way to New Zealand...and stopped there for 3 days...and I"M SO GLAD I DID!!!!
I travelled with a guy friend of mine...so we got a 2 bedroom suite and only paid $126 for a huge apartment with kitchen, family, deck...the works. It was away from the town...but it was an unimpressive town...and close to the highway to check other things out.
We booked a Sailboat Cruise to the Great Barrier Reef for $101 and they picked us up from the hotel around 8:30am. Ocean Spirit Cruises (tel. 07/4031 2920). It was a smaller sailboat, so it was not overcrowded and obnoxious...and it included the snorkeling and glass submarine to see the reef. We even got a glass of champagne while we listened to an acoustic guitar player on our way back home.
And I love to scuba...but it's not necessary to scuba in order to see the amazing fish...it's out of this world!
Cape Tribulation is a MUST SEE if you're in Cairns. It reminded me of Costa Rica with the big rainforest, huge blue butterflies...and bright flowers everywhere. There is a cool spot called Dragonfly that is a definite cool spot to go and have lunch.
Doing a day trip to the outer reef is a fantastic experience. We did the day trip on The Falla. This was a fantastic day and much nicer then the huge tourist ferries that seemed to be overloaded with day-trippers. There were no more then 20 of us on the boat, we went right out to Upolo Cay (??) and snorkled the reef. From there we were taken right to the cay and we snorkled off the beach.
The crew were wonderful and Doug, the captain and owner of the boat, was informative and made sure everyones needs were catered too. Doug took those that didn't snorkel out on the dinghy and they got to view the reef from there.Not only did we have fun, we learned quite a bit about the reef during the course of the day.
Scuba diving was available and even if you have never dived before, there are two fully licensed diving instructors onboard to take you for your first dive. I passed on that particular adventure.
Excellent day, great crew and memories forever.
If you have no diving certificate and you don't have time to take the full open water padi diving course, you can still do one or two introductory dives. On the boat you get some basic fysics then you get your diving gear and have to do some exercises under water. These exercises will be explaned on the boat. then you do a dive with an experienced diver. You will have to dive with your arm around the other divers arms.
Although diving with a certificate is more fun it is still a great way to get introduced in the world of scuba diving.
Who could come here and not go to the reef?
I went with Down Under Dive which cost $79 and you get morning tea/coffee, wine & cheese on return, mask, snorkle and fins. Free Scuba lesson then if you decide to go on the first dive costs $50, the second $30. 4 hours snorkling at two different locations and a glass bottomed boeat trip. It was a fantastic day, the staff were great, very helpful and obviously knew their stuff.
I held a sea cucumber and put my hand in a giant clam, it was great to get so close to all the fish.
You can sign up for one of many daily cruises to the Great Barrier Reef for a day of snorkelling and scuba diving. The water is so clear and the clarity so god, that it feels like you're snorkelling in a pool. The colurful reefs are not very deep, so you can see the reef life clearly from the surface. Of course, if you prefer a closer encounter, you can opt for scuba diving.
Went scubba diving on the reef. Wow!! The most amazing thing I did in the whole month I was there! Seeing the reef close up was an experience I wont forget. It was like being in another world. Good crew on the boat and experienced diving instructors made the whole day a pleasure at Michaelmas Cay. If you have the chance just do it!!