GBR: snorkeling vs SCUBA

Old Oct 31st, 2004, 02:07 PM
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GBR: snorkeling vs SCUBA

We are an American married couple in our mid-20s planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand in Dec '05- Jan '06.
We have both been snorkeling throughout the Caribbean and I have tried SCUBA in Portugal, on a 1-day instruction and dive. I am not certified.
We plan on spending at least one day on the GBR, taking a tour from Cairns or Port Douglas. In addition we will take the Daintree Air trip to Lizard Island.
Do you think it is necessary to become certified divers before visiting the GBR, or is snorkeling sufficient to experience the reef?
Thanks for any advice! Liz
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Old Oct 31st, 2004, 03:38 PM
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Hello Tim_and_Liz,

Snorkeling definitely is sufficient. I went snorkeling in the GBR, and loved it.

I haven't gone scuba diving, so do not have a basis for comparison.

However, there sometimes have been posters here, seemingly experienced Far North Queensland residents, who have stated that snorkeling is better than diving. Their reason has been that the life forms that give the GBR its colour and fascination require sunlight, hence do not live at great depths.

Well, as I said, I haven't done scuba diving, so I haven't had an opportunity to test that claim.

However, I can tell you that snorkeling is spectacular.

It's great that you'll be seeing the GBR from the air too. It's wonderful to see it from below and above, if possible.

I remember seeing your names and questions before, but I don't remember off hand how much time you plan to give yourselves in FNQ. Do give yourselves a few days. I consider 3 full days (not counting travel to and from FNQ) to be the absolute minimum, but 5 - 6 days would be more ideal. Plan your GBR activities for the beginning of your stay. If the weather by some chance prevents you from going out to the GBR on your scheduled days, you can switch to land based activities, and postpone the GBR. The less time you have in FNQ and the later you leave your GBR activities, the less wiggle room you have.
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Old Oct 31st, 2004, 03:51 PM
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Thank you, Judy. I think we'll stick to snorkeling unless another Fodorite strongly urges SCUBA.

We plan on staying in Cairns for 5-6 nights-- we hope to visit Kuranda, Daintree, and an overnight to the Undara Lava Tubes as well. I will definitely plan the reef activities for the beginning of our stay, as is recommended in all GBR posts.

(Everything is contingent on DH's vacation approval-- we will either have 3 or 5 weeks for our entire trip--hopefully 5!!)

Thanks again!
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Old Oct 31st, 2004, 06:12 PM
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There are plenty of boats that head out to the GBR from Cairns or Port Douglas, that will do a 1-day Intro to SCUBA class, with a dive. This is an ideal place, as the water is rarely more than 10m deep. Snorkeling will be a great experience, but I would put in a vote to spend the xtra $$ to do the 1-day SCUBA class - you don't have to be a certified Open Water Diver to do that.
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Old Oct 31st, 2004, 06:41 PM
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Do they have a snorkeling class too? I've never snorkeled but think it would be awesome at the GBR. I'm not a strong swimmer. Do I need to start working out?
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Old Oct 31st, 2004, 07:53 PM
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Tim and Liz - as Alf says there are plenty of boats which offer an introductory dive for non-certified divers. You will be asked to fill in a medical form and diving won't be allowed if you suffer, or have suffered from high blood pressure, epilepsy, diabetes, asthma. queensland diving rules and laws are strict. Normally an intro dive lasts for 30 minutes, you are given previous instruction and a dive master stays with you. If you like it enough take a second dive -it will be available.

antlori - snorkelling is very easy, all you do is remember to breathe through your mouth and kick your fins now and then. Crew are all familiar with novices and will be happy to help out. Flotation devices are available if you feel at all nervous.
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Old Nov 1st, 2004, 03:51 AM
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As someone who has both snorkelled and dived on the GBR both are great experiences. However, if you haven't got a diving certificate I certainly wouldn't rush out and get one for jusrt one day on the GBR. As Pat said, most of the operators will have an introductory dive available if that is what you want. For myself, I actually prefer snorkelling when on the reef. Most of the preety coloured corals, fish etc. are quite near the surface. When you go diving you get down deeper obviously so there is less colour but you do get to interact with some of the bigger fish. Having a fish bigger than you swimming beside you is awesome but also a little bit scary even though you know it isn't interested in you. There is probably no reason why you can't do both. There should be time to do a bit of snorkelling either before or after the dive. Antlori -You do not need to be a stong swimmer to do either and as Pat said, the crews are used to helping out. Pat was also correct re them being strict about the medical conditions, my husband was not allowed to do a dive last year after he admitted that he uses a ventolin puffer about half a dozen times per year these days and he is a fully certified diver.
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Old Nov 1st, 2004, 12:50 PM
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Hi Liz,

We booked on a boat out to the reef from Cairns which turned out to be a very enjoyable day for our family.

There were divers and snorkelers on the boat. From what the divers were saying I really do not think their experience was much different than our experience. ( snorkel only )

We also did the plane tour up to lizard with Greg from Daintree air.
This was the best thing we did while on vacation. Greg swam with us to several different reefs where we saw turtles and so many different fish you could not idenify them all.

Swiming on the clam garden was just like being inside of a fish tank.
We were told not to use fins at all and to be as quite as possible.
There were seven people including us in the water.

After several minutes the fish came closer and closer until it seemed they did not even know we were there.
A completely different experience than the boat.

The flying over the Great Barrier Reef on our way to Lizard was incredible, as were the views over the rainforests on the way home. We even had a birds eye view of the reefs Captain Cook run a ground on.

We flew back to Cairns over Cape Tribulation,Cooktown and the daintree river valley.

All in all a truly unforgettable experience.

Enjoy your tour down under.
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Old Nov 1st, 2004, 01:58 PM
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Thanks to everyone for their opinions/suggestions. Mrsmayers, I loved your report on Daintree Air. We are very excited for our trip-- and have one more year to save up our $$!
Thanks again--Liz
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Old Nov 2nd, 2004, 10:36 AM
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I think you easily can get by without SCUBA on the GBR. Heron Island is a wonderful place for it. The Heron Resort runs twice daily snorkel boats out to the reef edge - about 5-10 min (at the closes point some 200 yds) off shore. They will often let you drift snorkel over the coral for a couple of km or so, depending on tide and wind. Snorkeling off the beach at Heron is also good, though not as spectacular as the reef edge. From the beach you often see big things like turtles, eagle rays, sting rays, and shovel-nosed rays. There is also the wreck of the Protector, which attracts cool things like octopus and lots of interesting fish. We've also snorkeled with manta rays on Heron, and on one occassion close to a humpback whale!
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Old Nov 4th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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I've been a SCUBA diver for 31 years (I started as an infant...sure I did... ) And while I really enjoy snokeling, to me it's just not the same as diving.

Imagine if you've never seen or visited a tropical island before, and you fly over one in an airplane, but don't land. You could truthfully say that you've seen it, and it was lush, green and beautiful. But did you actually see it all? Well, no, you didn't.

For me, it's the same with snorkeling vs diving. Depending on how deep the reef is, you can see fish while snorkeling, just not everything (well, you don't get to see EVERYTHING while diving either, I suppose...but you definitely do get to see more.) And the "more" is so MUCH more that it takes your breath away. And while the color does disappear as you go deeper, the variety of sealife changes, and creatures you've never imagined in your life become real.

Since my first open water dive in Belize 31 years ago, I've been diving around the world, and I have never, ever regretted the time it took me to get certified. (and I didn't know how to swim when I started, but also took lessons for that!) There's a world of total wonder under there. Diving's not for everyone, but it might be for you. Think about it.
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