The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage listed natural wonder of the world stretching 2600 kilometres from the Bramble Cay in the Torres Strait to Frazer Island in the Coral Sea off the north eastern coast of Australia.
There are 3000 individual reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, a large part of which are protected in the largest marine park in the world. The closest access point to the reef is from Port Douglas where you can visit sites such as Low Isles, Agincourt, St Crispins, Opal, Tongue and Ribbon reefs.
The most important factors to consider when planning your trip is the wind – choose a day when the wind is between 5 and 20 knots – winds over 20 knots are fine if you are a good sailor however the trip out to the reef will be bumpy and snorkelling conditions will be harder work. If you don’t have the luxury of waiting for ideal wind conditions then choose a day when low tide is in the middle of the day – the reef will actually provide some protection from the choppy water conditions caused by the wind. Lastly consider your situation, ability and fitness – if you have young children, a health problem or prefer not to get into the water there is still a boat to the reef which will suit you.
There are up to 13 vessels departing daily from the marina in Port Douglas to various sites and one is sure to be right for you. Included in most tours is a complimentary pick up and drop off from your Port Douglas accommodation.
ISLAND BASED TRIPS TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF
Low Isles is a small group of two sand cays 45 minutes from Port Douglas. It is a wonder example of a fringing reef with an abundance of mainly soft corals, hard corals and marine life. When planning a trip to Low Isles it is important to select a calm day when the wind is under 15 knots as the sand will be churned up in windy conditions and this affects the visibility. The positive aspect of choosing to visit this sand cay is however that you will see green turtles who frequent the islands for most of the year and nest in the sandy beaches.
There are four sailing boats which visit the Low Isles –
Wavedancer – a 30 metre catamaran carrying 150 passengers - would suit a young family (boat size makes it safe moving around the deck) includes lunch, snorkel gear and glassboat
Sailaway- a small catamaran for 23 passengers – includes lunch, snorkel gear and glassboat
Aquarius – 62 foot catamaran for 23 passengers– includes lunch, snorkel gear and glassboat
Tallarook – 90 foot yacht which offers half day trips to Low Isles for small groups.
Reefsprinter is a jet boat which makes three trips to Low Isles per day. A 15 minute trip to and from the Island and 1.5 hours snorkelling – includes glass bottom boat tour.
TRIPS TO THE OUTER BARRIER REEF
QUICKSILVER has 2 or 3 vessels (depending on numbers) travelling to the reef from Port Douglas. Quicksilver 5 and 8 travel to a pontoon at Agincourt ribbon reef on the edge of the continental shelf. The wave piercers carries 350 - 400 people in comfort and takes 1.5 hour to get to Agincourt reef. Included in the price is your snorkel gear, travel in a semi-submersible, access to the underwater observatory and the fish feeding platform. There is a charge for a bus pick up and drop to your accommodation in Port Douglas.
Additional activities available not included in the fare include - guided snorkel tours, diving, ocean walker - helmets diving or a scenic helicopter flight.
Quicksilver has a smaller boat Silversonic which travel to 3 sites in one day. Lunch, snorkelling gear and a free guide snorkel tour is included in the fare. Diving is available for an additional charge.
- CALYPSO – has 2 boats travelling to the reef. A small snorkel only boat PURE SNORKEL which carries 25 passengers. Include in the fare is lunch, snorkel gear and tours and lycra suit and transfers to and from your hotel. A larger dive and snorkel vessel carries up to 50 passengers in comfort to Opal or Escape reef.
- POSEIDON – is a dive and snorkel boat carrying 70 passengers to 3 sites at Agincourt ribbon reef on the edge of the continental shelf. Included in the fare is lunch, snorkel gear and tour, lycra suits and transfers to and from your hotel. Diving is available at an additional cost.
- SYNERGY - is a small catamaran for a snorkel and sail option carrying 12 passengers to Tongue reef. Included in the fare is a gourmet BBQ lunch, snorkel gear and tour, lycra suits and transfers to and from your hotel.
- WAVELENGTH - is a small snorkel boat carrying 30 passengers to 3 sites on the outer reef including Tongue, Opal and or St Crispins reef. Included in the fare is lunch, snorkel gear and tour, lycra suits and transfers to and from your hotel.
All companies offering tours to the Great Barrier Reef with the exception of Quicksilver provide complimentary transfers from your Port Douglas accommodation. The staff at reception at Coral Sea Villas have a wealth of local knowledge and can advise you of the weather, tides and the boat most suited to your needs. Bookings through reception at your accommodation in Port Douglas are at no additional charge and can be billed to your room.