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Poseidon. This advanced eco-certified operator conducts guided snorkeling and PADI-style diving trips to sites at three separate parts of the Agincourt Ribbon Reef on a small, usually uncrowded boat, and longer cruises to Outer Great Barrier Reef sites, with excellent pre-dive briefings by a marine naturalist, high safety standards, and a wider-than-average choice of dive sites. A day's cruise to three Agincourt sites is A$220 for snorkelers, and includes morning and afternoon tea and a buffet lunch (Lycra suits, masks, snorkels and flotation devices, and wet suits are A$5 per day). The cruise with introductory diving, including dive gear and up to three underwater forays, is A$280 with one dive; subsequent dives are A$40 each. For certified divers, a full day in the water is A$240–A$275 (gear is an extra A$20 per day). Everyone pays a reef charge of A$6 on board. Port Douglas transfers are free; from Cairns or the Northern Beaches, it's A$30. Grant and Macrossan Sts., Port Douglas, QLD, 4877. 1800/085–674 or 07/4099–4772. www.poseidon-cruises.com.au. From A$220 (cruise and snorkeling); from A$240 (with diving); A$6 reef/admin tax. Daily 8:30–4:30.
Quicksilver Connections. This company runs fast, modern catamarans that speed you from Port Douglas' marina to a large commercial activity platform at Agincourt Reef on the outer Barrier Reef, where options include marine-biologist-guided snorkeling tours (A$54–$72), introductory or certified scuba dives (extra A$110–A$155), 10-minute scenic heli-tours (A$159), and "Ocean Walker" sea-bed explorations (A$155). There's also a semi-submersible underwater observatory, included in the A$215 rate. A quieter sailing excursion to a Low Isles coral cay, closer to shore (A$167), includes a biologist-guided glass-bottom-boat trip and snorkeling. Everyone pays a A$6 reef tax. The staff is patient, efficient, and knowledgeable. The trip includes a varied lunch buffet and dive/snorkel gear. Transfers are available from Port Douglas accommodations, Palm Cove, the Northern Beaches, and Cairns (A$10-A$26). Port Douglas Marina, 1 Wharf St., Port Douglas, QLD, 4877. 07/4087–2100. www.quicksilver-cruises.com.
Eye to Eye Marine Encounters. On these all-inclusive dive/snorkel live-aboard trips, you can visit world-renowned northern Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea sites, including 2,000-foot drop-offs and pristine coral gardens, top shark-spotting sites, and turtle-nesting grounds. John Rumney, who pioneered swim-with-whales in Queensland, brings 30 years of experience on the Reef and extensive ecological knowledge and nautical expertise to the expeditions, working with highly skilled divers, scientists, and skippers to ensure each trip is as exciting as it is eco-friendly. 10 Captain Cook Hwy., Port Douglas, QLD, 4877. 07/4098–5417 or 0417/726–622. www.marineencounters.com.au.
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