Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Old Mar 9th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Hello, we need some assistance as although we would love to go to the Great Barrier Reef my wife is not a good swimmer and would not go snorkelling but be happy on the boat. Is there anything that would accommodate this i.e. glass bottom boats?
We are already spending a lot of money on the whole trip so we would also like recommendations on who can provide a good value for money trip to the reef.
Some accommodation ides would also be good.
Thank you in advance for you time
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 03:02 PM
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Reef Encounter does: www.reeftrip.com
Pat W will give you some good advice (lives in Cairns) when she sees your post.

In the meantime, there has been a lot of chatter about the GBR recently, so you might pick up some useful info if you use the "Search" facility - or just trawl down the Australian threads for the last couple of weeks.

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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 03:04 PM
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An Australian would never tell you this, but as a rude American, I suggest you tell your wife to stop being a baby and go snokeling. I can't swim either, am 50 yo and grossly overweight, and I'm not thinking twice about going snokeling. (I believe but you should double -check) that they park the boat by land and you wade out to water in a life vest. You dont have to go further than you can stand. And the life vest holds you pretty well. You put a breathing gadget in your mouth and stick your head in the water. They use bait to get the fish to come to you. Once you see the beautiful fish, you forget that you even have a gadget in your mouth.

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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 03:15 PM
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Normally I wouldn't even bother to respond, Skai, but your post is so outrageously over the top, and yes, it does make you look like a rude American. You, who won't even drive on your trip and plan to be carted about like a princess.
Some people are afraid of water, and your description of a snorkle trip will give you a big surprise (park the boat next to land...?) Please don't say anything else that gives the very few anti-American posters here more ammunition.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 03:41 PM
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Hi, OliverandHarry, how are you? Well do you have glass-bottom boats to see the reef with? How will ever she see the reef without snokeling? And by the way as for expecting to be carted around like a princess, I have been living on my own since 16 and have supported myself fully since the age of 20. I now make $60,000 a year and save 1/3 of my salary (not easy) to be carted around like a princess for 3 weeks. And at least now, SBeard will get some responses to his post.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 04:35 PM
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I believe the poster said his wife was"not a good swimmer" as opposed to a non-swimmer. Skai, congratulations on overcoming your own issues, but not everyone can.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 04:38 PM
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There has been some chatter about certain reef trips from Port Douglas lately, Bokhara and a couple were quite detrimental. One regarding Calypso out of Port Douglas which was removed by Fodors. The other was a complaint about Poseidon, a very long established operator, having been out on both boats I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either of them if staying in PD.

Skai -I answered SBeard's queries about reef trips on his other post and others also responded. Most boats, including Wavelenght, are not "parked" by the water to wade out - the reef is about 40km offshore over very deep water until it shallows out on reefs. Unless you take a boat to an island or a sand cay, such as Ocean Spirit's to Michaelmas Cay, there's no wading out into water. This is why the Michaelmas Cay trip is so popular with first time snorkellers who can, quite naturally, be overwhelmed by leaping straight off a boat or pontoon into sea miles from land.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 07:11 PM
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This was the reply from wavelength following my panicked question.

Hello Skai

As you haven't mentioned the date your travel agent has booked for you I am not able to confirm that she has done this.
However as for your question, it is no problem with snorkelling as we take non swimmers, first time snorkellers to experienced. We have floatation noodles on the boat which you can use. These are designed for snorkeling and make it very easy for guests to use and feel comfortable in the water. The crew are in the water and on the boat observing and giving assistance in the water at all times. The crew also explain how to use your equipment safely and effectively.
Hope this eases your mind.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 05:15 AM
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Thank you ALL for your help. It is appreciated even if it does cause a little hooha! SkaiSW, I actually appreciate you telling me that it is possible to 'snorkle' whilst standing as this may be the compromise I was looking for.
It looks like I have suggested something of a money spinner as no one has it. A glass bottom boat would make a fortune there?
Anyway, thanks again.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 06:32 AM
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It looks like Bokhara's answer that yes, there are companies which offer tours with glass bottomed boats/semi-submersibles option has been overlooked. So your wife can see a bit of the reef without getting her feet wet.

Another possible option for her, would be for her to do a helicopter trip over the reef whilst you are out snorkelling. It has its own special perspective. Obviously the helicopter trip would not be cheap, but it may be one way of her getting a very special experience as well. The helicopters take off from the pontoon so it is all part of the same trip. I am not suggesting that the two of you would be undertaking completely separate trips.

I know that Reef Magic offers the above and there will be other companies that do as well. Bokhara mentioned Reef Encounter as one.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 06:36 AM
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Skai, the breathing "gadget" is called a snorkel, a very simple piece of equipment. Fishes are not "baited", there's no need. And please don't attempt to stand on live coral, the crew will be down on you like a ton of bricks. Don't touch it or lean against it either, apart from the likelihood of damaging a living organism you could easily suffer a coral cut, which can take months to heal.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 11:48 AM
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hi SBeard-

i am not a good swimmer either. in fact i am not a swimmer at all. however, perhaps your wife can get acclimated with the water in a pool before your trip. it helped with the water "freak out". also knowing the water is sea water helps cause then you won't sink and it helps you stay bouyant. i would not have traded the experience for anything. she can definitely use the floaties and wear a life vest and maybe you can be her snorkel buddy?
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 02:16 PM
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We took the Quicksilver Trip and although there were a lot of people - thoroughly enjoyed it - neither of us snorkled or dived - but took several trips in the glass bottomed boat, spent time in the aquarium etc.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 02:19 PM
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Sorry, should have said we went in the submersible rather than glass bottomed - had great views of the fish, coral etc.
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Old Mar 11th, 2008, 02:49 PM
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Important -SBeard please read below
From [email protected]

Good Morning Skai,

Thank you for your email.

With regards to our cruises, on the Michaelmas Cay tour the boat can
hold up to 150 people. There is adequate seating inside as well as out side the boat on the front and back decks.

When you arrive at the Cay we run a smaller boat which can hold up to
about 20 people from the main Ocean Spirit boat that you travelled over
on to the Cay itself. This way you can swim just off the Cay and not
have to worry about climbing up and down into a boat.

The Cay itself is also a natural bird nesting site, so there will be
areas that you can not enter, but the staff will advise you on this when you arrive.

We have staff who are positioned on the beach as well as staff in a
small rubber duck which patrols near the outskirts of the designated
snorkelling area, just in case any of the passengers get into a little
trouble and require assistance. They are also handy if you have
questions on things that you might have seen in whilst snorkelling and
the boat even offers guided snorkel tours if you would like to observe
the animals that inhabit our reef.

We can arrange for a pick up from the Thala Beach Lodge which would be
an extra cost on top of your tour price. The Michaelmas Cay cruise is
$189.00.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Regards
Erin
Reservations
Ocean Spirit Cruises.

-----Original Message-----
From: [email protected]
[mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Monday, 10 March 2008 10:07 AM
To: reservations
Subject: Enquiry from Web Site
Several questions (need help!)

This would only be my second time snorkeling, and the first time the
boat was parked by land and we simply waded out to where we could stand.
I am currently booked with Wavelength but people on Fodors.com told me
it would be too difficult for me. (I am also 50 yo, somewhat obese and a
weak swimmer. I really want to go snokeling though. The people on
Fodors.com told me to contact you. Can you help? Do I need to cancel
Wavelength and book with you? This would be in the first few days of
August.

2). Do you pick up at Thala Beach Lodge? If not could a taxi bring me
in the early morning?

Please advise. Thank-you so much!
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 08:48 PM
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I'm not a huge fan of being in super deep water, but if you take a QuikSilver reef tour, your wife could snorkel in the corded off areas where they have lots of staff watching over the tourists in the water and you can take as many floatation "noodles" as you want. She can also do the submersible tour (provided she isn't claustrophobic - I watched some woman completely freak out and start crying and she had to be escorted back upstairs). They also have helmet diving which is totally geared towards non-swimmers - all she needs to do is put on the helmet and walk 15 feet down a flight of stairs to a platform underwater. The helicopter tours are expensive, but completely worth the money.

From Port Douglas, I took a day trip on a Chinese Junk owned by a local couple that sails very small groups out to a private island for snorkeling and lounging on the beach. This was by far the best snorkeling we had in the Reef - the visibility was much better than any other place we had been. Again, they spend a lot of time with beginner snorkelers and those who are timid in the water. You walk straight out from the beach and they hook you up with floatation devices to hold onto if you aren't a strong swimmer. You can go out as deep as you feel comfortable - provided you don't try to stand on the coral.
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Old Mar 14th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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SkaiSW - Hope you dont get beached when they park the boat next to land.
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Old Mar 15th, 2008, 06:18 PM
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My 80+, non-swimming aunt did the Ocean Spirit trip and loved it. She snorkeled off the beach at Michaelmas Cay, and then went in the semi-submergible thingy.

She saw heaps and had a ball!
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Old Mar 15th, 2008, 07:49 PM
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I sprained my ankle 1 week before out trip -- I hobbled about ... we went on the large cataman which had the glass submersible -- which I did while daughter took the scuba lesson. Plenty of room to sunbath on deck ... I didn't snokel as I didn't want any more pain. No regrets .... a few swimmers had coral cuts on their legs which needed to be treated. I wouldn't worry about it now .. she can easily change her mind while on board and every one will have a good time.
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Old Mar 26th, 2008, 11:50 AM
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Hi SBeard -

I am not a confident swimmer, have a congenital heart condition that limits my activity, and panic when in deep water ... but I was able to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef last week. It turned out to be the highlight of my trip, so I can't resist giving your wife a pep talk to encourage her to try it!

When I first put my head in the water and saw the reef and the amazing, colorful fish, I experienced a feeling of wonder I have not had since childhood. I literally could not stop smiling. I completely forgot about the depth of the water and didn't notice the motion of the waves once I was engaged in the snorkeling.

Luckily I was traveling with a very patient friend who hung on to the same "noodle" with me, and basically escorted me around the reef the entire time. If you could be this kind of "snorkeling buddy" for your wife, she would probably feel a lot more comfortable. Since my friend did most of the work, I didn't even exert much energy kicking.

The tour operator also gave me a wet suit, which helped with floatation. Lifejackets and kickboards were available, too, and the staff was willing to get in the water and help anyone who was uncomfortable. The staff was also very alert to what was going on, and prepared to respond immediately if any snorkler felt in danger.

That said, I know this fear is often hard to overcome. So, you might consider taking a tour that offers snorkeling plus a glass bottom boat/submersible. That way the snorkeling is available to you and if your wife wants to try it, but she still has a way to see the reef if she doesn't. Quicksilver ($186) offers a submersible unit, a glass-bottom boat and snorkeling, and Haba ($155) has a glass-bottom boat, although it costs an additional $10. You could also go to the Low Isles on Wavedancer. They have a glass bottom boat, and snorkeling is off the beach, so may seem less scary. People who don't want to snorkel can also hang on the beach and take guided beach walks, so it might be a better way for a non-snorkeler to pass the time.

Good luck and have fun!
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