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I have a chance to visit Sydney and GBR Dec 2013-Jan 2014

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My adult daughter and I have been given the chance today to take an 8 day trip to Australia December 26, 2013 returning January 2, 2014 Departing LA-Sydney.
Our main goal is to snorkel at the GBR.
I have read many threads and it sounds like we could take a reef tour from Port Douglas if we chose to stay there. We both love the beach.
I do not really want to rent a car if possible, but if staying in Port Douglas causes a need for one, I will rent a car.
I expect we will fly into Sydney, transfer to Cairns and take a shuttle to Port Douglas.
How much time do we need at the GBR area. The only other thing we might want to do is see the Daintree rainforest area and possibly go jungle surfing. Could we pick up a tour to do that in Port Douglas or would that need to be from Cairns. We would then fly back to Sydney, spend a day there and fly home. Lots of travel for a short trip but with our work schedules it is the best option.
Is there a semi-submersible submarine trip from Port Douglas or is that also something we would need to take in Carins. Thank you for helping us plan this very exciting trip.
sandilbeach

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