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activities for non-swimmer in the Great Barrier Reef?

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Aug 11th, 2009, 11:18 AM
  #1
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activities for non-swimmer in the Great Barrier Reef?

Hi, Fodor travelers! I don't swim and can't submerge myself in water for medical reasons, but I am traveling with a friend who does/can. I do like, however, being near water, on boats, dipping -- can anyone recommend activities in GBR that we can both enjoy together?

While I'm on the topic, can anyone recommend a good place (hotel/hostel) to stay in GBR (2-3 nights)? We're undecided about which island, so it's flexible. We're in our late 20s, big doers but not big partiers, and budget is up to $100US/nt. We would be flying in from Melbourne.

Thanks in advance!!
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Aug 11th, 2009, 04:17 PM
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The best way to see the reef for a non-swimmer is to take a trip which provides a semi-submersible, for this you'll need to take a larger boat with a pontoon mooring. Reef Magic out of Cairns, www.reefmagiccruises.com has a semi-sub, underwater viewing platform, plus good snorkelling (and diving) on Moore Reef. There's several other pontoon operators out of Cairns and one out of Port Douglas, all take more passengers than Reef Magic, so can be crowded.

Island accommodation is expensive, and in most cases still involves a further trip to outer reef, so to stay within your budget you'd need to stay on mainland and take reef trip from there. Plenty of accommodation choices in Cairns and a few in Port Douglas in your price range.
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Aug 11th, 2009, 05:51 PM
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Could I suggest a nice place to stay would be with Pat Woolford at her B&B - she has written above. Her B&B email address is [email protected] and she can and will book you all the things that you need and the ones that will pick up from her B&B. She will save you more money than doing it yourself and has lots of suggestions on where else to go - better to stay 3 nights or more as there is soooooo much to do up there. No island accommodation would fit with your budget.
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Aug 12th, 2009, 01:38 AM
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Couldn't agree more with the previous poster. Lilybank is THE B&B to stay at in Cairns (or in Oz for that matter!). It is also close to the airport (no noise) so you wont waste precious time which is important when you only have 2/3 days. You will save alot of time and money using Pat's extraordinary knowledge of the area (great breakfasts too!). As Pat to point you in the direction of the fish and chip shop just up the road - the best I have ever tasted.
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Aug 12th, 2009, 05:15 AM
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I'd recommend Heron Island, a very small coral cay near the southern end of the GBR. Unlike most of the other resort islands in Queensland, it is right on the reef, or rather, is actually part of it. The snorkeling is fantastic, and more importantly for you, there is a semi-submersible that gives people the option of seeing the reef without having to get wet. Also, at low tide, you can explore the exposed reef flats, walking out some distance from the island, knee deep in water at the most. You'll see all kinds of stuff - sea cucumbers, fish, starfish, large clams, maybe the odd sting ray or turtle. The resort also offers helicopter rides to view the reef from the air (beautiful!), fishing trips and trips to nearby uninhabited Wilson Island for picnicking (and more snorkeling). There are no roads on Heron Island - the resort and the Univ. of Queensland research station constitute the only development on the island. If you happen to be there in the "winter" months, you can spot humpback whales migrating off shore. If you go in the summer, you can see the spectacle of turtle egg hatchings. And if you just want to relax, the beach that wraps around the island is very nice, and since there are no daytrippers on Heron, you can easily find a private spot of your own.

I've been to Heron 5 times and would go back in a flash!
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Aug 12th, 2009, 07:11 AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions! I'm getting really excited for the trip. I welcome suggestions on further islands, accomodations, helicopter/semi-sub companies too. Can always rely on Fodor experts in the know!
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Aug 12th, 2009, 04:34 PM
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The only problem with Heron is that it costs far more than the O/P's budget to get and stay there also the flight costs are more to the closest towns because they are not on popular flight routes. Then, once there, there is absolutely nothing else to do. By far and away, the main gateway to the GBR is from Cairns and because of that its also the cheapest
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Aug 12th, 2009, 08:01 PM
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Missed the $100/night part.
RalphR is offline  
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Aug 12th, 2009, 10:34 PM
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No worries. Thx everyone for squaring me on Cairns as a reasonably priced gateway to GBR -- that's very helpful!
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Aug 12th, 2009, 11:43 PM
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The other place you could look at is Mission Beach which is one of the closer places to the GBR. We stayed at http://www.sanctuaryretreat.com.au/ which has some rainforest cabins which are fun at around $65 (AU) plus some more expensive lux rooms. There are also some nice places in the town which would be withing your budget. Being so close to the GBR it does not take too long to sail outthere . We did a days diving trip and were two of the only four diving the rest were snorkelling. The trip also included stopping off at an island on the way back (sorry can't recall the name)
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Sep 30th, 2009, 08:14 AM
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Thx for all the recs. We've settled on Cairns as our home base and want to do a GBR tour that has semi-sub as an included option and helicopters as an additional fee option.

Reef Magic and Great Adventures are 2 tour companies I found. Are there others?

It seems Reef Magic is slightly less per ticket and you spend 5 hrs at the Reef. Great Adv allows 3 hrs at reef. Will I get bored spending 5 hrs at the reef with Reef Magic since I don't swim? Do they allow unlimited semi-sub time? Besides the underwater observation deck, how else can I occupy myself? Grazie!
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