Did you know the Great Barrier Reef is one of the largest living organisms?
The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space, your not going to be able to see all of the reef in one go… so when you get there take my advice, slow down, enjoy your snorkeling time at the reef and look for all the really cool tiny little marine life on the reef not just the big fish you have just scared off with your new found kicking skills.
The reef starts around Bundaberg, stretches up past the northern tip of Australia, it’s approx. 2300 km in length, and it covers an area of 344,400km2, Cairns is one of the closest, easiest access points to the GBR, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean you can land in Cairns, grab your snorkel gear, and swim from the waterline here in Cairns, you still are at least 50 km away from the reef.
Most boats depart from Cairns or Port Douglas, and they do full day or overnight tours.
Depending on experience, will depend on the type of boat that will suit you as they all go to different reef sights, and have a slightly different approach to things.
Generally tour operators heading to the outer barrier reef, will provide you with snorkel + fins, lunch (full day boats), all meals (overnight boats), and the trip itself to the reef/accommodation on the reef. There are currently only two half day options out to the reef, one is from Cairns the other is from Cape Tribulation (Daintree Rainforest). They are both very fast jet boats.
Are close to Cairns, usually reachable within an hours boat ride, and suit those that prefer feet on land, rather than the wobbles of a boat, some classify this as the “inner barrier reef”.
Fun, family friendly, necessities available for purchase at Green & Fitzroy Island…
Green Island has staff members that speak multiple languages, generally has a lot more people visit on a daily basis, they have multiple activities like helmet diving, and the semi submersible.
Fitzroy island is slightly less touristy, staff generally only speak English, the Turtle Rehabilitation center is on the island and although they offer fewer activities you can get them included in a package (eg. Raging Thunder offer half day kayak tour out to the little island)
Islands around Cairns will satisfy majority of snorkelers, however for the avid snorkeler or diver it’s recommended to do the day boats or liveaboards to make the most of the Great Barrier Reef.
Tie up to a mooring and you swim of the back of the boat, the motion of the ocean doesn’t affect you so much and you want to see more than one reef sight this is usually the best option.
A pontoon is a fixed floating platform on the reef which is secured a poles into the water, pontoons suit families, nervous swimmers, those who tend to have travel sickness etc.
In the morning you will board the boat for the journey out to the pontoon, on arrival you disembark off the boat and spend the day on the sturdy pontoon, where they have a variety of activities you can do. Then when it is time to go home, you all board back onto the boat and make your way back to Cairns again.
Live aboard or Overnighters
Are overnight trips to the reef, generally they tend to go out a little further than some of the day boats, they often visit more sights, and are great for snorkelers and really keen divers. It is recommended for people with medium – excellent swimming skills. One we recommend checking out for the avid diver is Coral Sea Dreaming, a small personal 12 bed boat.
** If you know anyone heading to Cairns or feeling a little overwhelmed by all the boats, choices, and varieties don’t forget to share our link with them & tell them what’s up 🙂 ** This post is written by Chelsea @ Barefoot Tours. **