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richarddd Jul 6th, 2008 10:35 AM

Cairns: Tusa Dive & Sebel Harbour?
We are visiting Cairns in November to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. We are thinking of Tusa Dive and the Sebel Harbour Lights.

Do these seem good or do you have another recommendation?

Should we book the boat in advance or can we wait until the day before for a Saturday trip in late November?


pat_woolford Jul 9th, 2008 12:03 AM

Tusa Dive is an established operator with good record and new boat which gets out to reef quickly and smoothly. Essentially a dive operation, but of course does take snorkellers. I wouldn't leave booking until the last minute, I have had had the experience of not being able to get people on with only 24 hours notice.

Harbour Lights is huge (by local standards) and new, totally dominates Cairns city's waterfront and quite dwarfs the nearby Hilton - imagine the views would be excellent down Trinity Inlet. Dundees has its restaurant on boardwalk of Harbour Lights, good food with an Australian "bush tucker" touch and popular with locals and tourists. Its only a short walk to boardwalk restaurants on harbour side of Shangri-La hotel and Cairns Esplanade. Very close to Marlin Marina where boats depart to reef.

Hope this helps.

richarddd Jul 9th, 2008 02:28 AM

Very helpful, thank you.

Is there a different boat you would recommend for snorkelers?

Sunbird Jul 9th, 2008 02:36 PM

Hi Richardd (and Pat!)

A couple of comments about Sebel Lights (we're locals and stayed there recently on an overnight shopping trip) - although our one-bedroom apartment was very modern and very well-appointed it faced the outside lights of the Hilton and as there were no curtains or heavy blinds (only those light see-through ones) our room was as bright as day - all night!

And during the day there was a lot of internal construction noise going on - not a problem, I guess, if you are out all day but I would certainly recommend asking for a quiet room facing the water, away from most city lights. (We could see Trinity Inlet - if we stood on our balcony and looked left.)

We still think the Reef Casino, just over the road from the Sebel, has the best rooms in town!

pat_woolford Jul 9th, 2008 05:49 PM

Good tip, Sunbird, I should have mentioned to Richard to ask for a room looking over the water, rather than the city or the Hilton.

Richard, as long as you don't mind snorkelling straight off the boat (rather than pontoon or sand cay) Tusa is great, it gets you out to reef earlier than most of the other boats.

richarddd Jul 10th, 2008 12:49 PM

Sebel Harbour Lights seems to have harbor view rooms and city/inlet rooms. Are you recommending harbor view?

The Reef Casino looks very nice. Is it about the same distance from the marina?

My hesitancy about the Reef Casino is that we have approximately zero interest in gambling. Should that be a concern?

We'll be in Cairns for about 48 hours - arriving Friday at about noon from Aukland and leaving about noon for Tokyo. A nice room with an easy trip to/from the airport and boats is the main priority.

Sunbird Jul 10th, 2008 02:59 PM

As Pat says, Richard, I would definitely ask for a harbour-view if you are staying at the Sebel.

Like you we are definitely not interested in casinos, but the hotel itself is at the other end of the building. We like the rooms as they are spacious, the beds very, very comfortable and the bathrooms are beautiful with a one-person spa and the shower doubles as a steam-room.

The only time we EVER go into the casino is just to get to Flinders Bar and Grill on the far side where they serve excellent food at very reasonable prices!

The Reef Casino is virtually over the road and round a corner from the Sebel so is also close to the marina.

Otherwise one advantage with the Sebel is that you have a fully-equipped small kitchenette and laundry.

richarddd Jul 12th, 2008 12:05 PM

We ended up booking a harbour view studio at the Sebel Harbour Lights. 30 sqm seems more than big enough (a one bedroom was 59 sm). The Reef Casino was appealing, but we like a nice view.

We'll book the boat in advance.

Many thanks, Pat and Sunbird

richarddd Jul 12th, 2008 01:08 PM

On second thought, we'll probably switch to a one-bedroom.

thanks again

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