GBR for non-Swimmers

May 1st, 2004, 08:45 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 102
GBR for non-Swimmers

Hi Folks,
What is the best way to see the Great Barrier Reef if you can't swim?

Who has the best glass bottom boat or semi-submersible?


KSC2003 is offline  
May 1st, 2004, 09:49 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 52

I don't know where you will be staying but the further north you go in Queensland the closer the outer reef is to the mainland - Port Douglas is, I believe, just about the best jumping-off point and for non-swimmers I would definitely recommend Quicksilver.

Although it IS a large vessel and I know many people would prefer something smaller it offers many different options, especially for those who may not be confident in the water. The boat ties up to a huge pontoon right on the edge of the outer reef (i.e. a stable surface) from which you can take a glass-bottomed boat; or walk down a few steps to an underwater-viewing platform to watch the snorkellers, divers and of course the marine life; watch the staff feeding the fish; even go for a helicopter ride or, if the mood takes you, simply settle down back on the boat in a comfortable chair with a bottle of wine!
Daff is offline  
May 1st, 2004, 10:51 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Hi KSC2003 - if you're staying in or around Cairns city, and I include Palm Cove my favourite reef trip with semi-submersible is Ocean Spirit to Michaelmas Cay, which is also a seabird sanctuary. It's a lovely motor/sailer catamaran with a crew ratio of 1 crew member to 9 passengers, has a qualified marine biologist and doesn't take too many people. Great lunch, too.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 2nd, 2004, 01:57 AM
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I'd have to agree with Daff - we went to the reef with Quicksilver and there were quite a few people who didn't enter the water at all. There is quite a bit to do if you are a non-swimmer - though I think it's more fun if you do get in the water. If you can't swim but are not afraid to be in the water, there are staff who will help you with snorkel equipment and the snorkel area is roped off so you can go out in the water wearing flippers and a lifevest and hang on to the rope which floats with buoys attached. I'm not a good swimmer and scared of deep water and found this a good option.
KayF is offline  
May 2nd, 2004, 05:17 AM
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Heron Island has a semi-submersible - good views of the reef and often the odd turtle, manta ray or (harmless) reef shark.

Heron also has an intertidal lagoon where the water is very shallow in between tides. You could try your hand at snorkeling in water no deeper than your waist. Not as much to see in the lagoon but you do see stingrays, turtles, fish and clumps of coral here and there.

At low tide water the lagoon is almost completely exposed. At that time you can walk out quite far among the patches of exposed coral. Quite a lot to see...starfish, sea cucumbers, fish darting around in the remaining pools and large clams. Guided "reef walks" are run daily by the resort. These are free.
RalphR is offline  
May 3rd, 2004, 07:22 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 102
Thanks everyone. This is great information

KSC2003 is offline  
May 6th, 2004, 06:51 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 102
Are there ways to do a tour for non swimmers privately or in a very small group?

KSC2003 is offline  
May 8th, 2004, 08:51 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
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If you are heading to the Whitsundays, Fantasea have day tours to the outer reef daily with a semi-sub and underwater observatory. I recently went on this trip and found it to be very good, although I can't give you a comparison between this trip and those venturing off Cairns. this is their website
navgator is offline  
May 9th, 2004, 11:15 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 392

We have just returned from Pt. Douglas and a day on Quicksilver and the GBR. Since you are a non swimmer, you might want to consider a small group excursion to an island as suggested. Quicksilver goes to a huge pontoon -- a large floating platform with decks -- but there no view of land. Lunch is included.

My comments are not intended to take anything away from those who enjoyed the Quicksilver experience or to discourage you, but as a non swimmer (my husband), and myself not a strong swimmer, there were other options which would have suited us better.

The Quicksilver IS very large ship holding (we think) probably 200+ on three decks and the trip takes about an hour or more from Pt. Douglas to the pontoon. There are many instructors and lifeguards to assist swimmers and non swimmers, and snorkelling equipment is provided. There is a tank-like structure for those who feel more secure snorkelling there, or for those who want to acclimatize themselves before going into the roped off reef area. There are diving sessions, helicopter flights and snorkelling expeditions at additional costs. If you do not go into the water you can stay on the pontoon decks or on board ship which is alongside the pontoon. There is viewing in an underwater observatory or by semi-submersible vessel. Unfortunately, we only saw brownish coral and schools of small brown fish. The same when I snorkelled outside the pontoon. This might not have been the best of days or best of times (we had one previous snorkelling experience in the Carribean).

Had we considered our options, we probably should have taken a small group tour to an island where we both could snorkel and swim in shallow water, had a beach to laze on and nature to enjoy. It all depends on what is important to you. The Quicksilver was crowded with so many people but still, it was an experience and we met a nice couple from New Zealand.

Email me at [email protected] if you're interested in some photos of Quicksilver, the pontoon and activity. Some suggestions have already been given on small tours to the GBR and you can do a search for others. Whatever you decide, have a good time.

michi is offline  
May 9th, 2004, 02:28 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 6
The bigger boats have invented various ways non swimmers can view the reef.

You will not have any problems finding a boat which can cater to you needs if you do not swim.

Most of the people on the bigger boat we went out on were either elderly or could not swim and all of them or most of them did get to see the reef one way or an other.

The big boat was not for us but other people did enjoy the fact they got to see the reef and were very safe.

The weather was not great, and the sea very choppy, but the staff all did their very best with the non swimmers and we did not hear any thing but praise for them from any one we spoke to.

uandme is offline  
May 30th, 2004, 05:43 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 64
I'm not much of a swimmer either KSC. We went to Hardy's Reef from Hamilton Island. Along with my wetsuit I wore a life jacket and felt really comfortable and safe. There is a 'rope tour' for people with swimming problems - I grew more confident and ventured off on my own and got to experience quite a bit of the reef. I'm glad I made the effort as it was well worth it. I've been snorkelling a couple of times now and either always wear a life jacket or get a body board and submerge my head over the front of it. For a non swimmer it is an alternative.
claret is offline  

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