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-   -   Great Barrier Reef tour operators (https://www.fodors.com/community/australia-and-the-pacific/great-barrier-reef-tour-operators-544913/)

travelingjoy Jul 17th, 2005 11:26 PM

Great Barrier Reef tour operators
 
My husband and I will be in Cairns in Sept, 2005 for 4 days. We'd like to do a day-tour to the reef. Any suggestions on tour operators - who to avoid, who to choose? Any thoughts on Compass Cruises? They looked pretty good.
Also, we wanted to see the rainforest, Karandu and Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Can we do all of this in 1 day? What tour? Is the nigh show at the Cultural Park separate? Can we incorporate it into the same day?
I appreciate all suggestions.

pat_woolford Jul 18th, 2005 04:39 PM

The boat "Compass" has seen better days and is slow, still its about the cheapest trip you'll get to the reef. If you give a few more details can narrow down choices, ie, snorkelling, scuba, introductory scuba, sailing, large or small groups, sem-submersible or glass bottom boat.

Its very easy to combine Skyrail/Kuranda Train/Tjakupai (day show - Skyrail is next to Tjakupai) in one trip. Tjakupai at Night with dinner, although in the same place, is a different experience and starts at about 7.30pm. Tjakupai is about a 15 min drive from Cairns city, doing Tjakupai by Night would involve another trip out of Cairns, as there here is nowhere to fill in time around Tjakupai after the last Skyrail at about 5pm.

petermichelle Jul 19th, 2005 01:39 PM

Hi there, Compass took us out to the Reef Encounter for a live aboard - 2 days/1 night and that was great. Compass is a very old skow and not very pleasant or comfortable. If I had time for only for a day trip, I would not use Compass. It seemed that those who stayed aboard (did not go on to Reef Encounter) we not very happy. Diver's Den has a better boat and is well worth it.

If you have time, I highly recommend the overnight trip on Reef Encounter. The trip out to the reef on Compass is long and then to turn around and head back in the same day must be miserable. Reef Encounter had great accomodation (we had a queen bed), very good meals, and very new dive equipment. We really enjoyed it.


amrdia Jul 19th, 2005 06:54 PM

We took a different tack than aboaqt to Barrier Reef. WEe took a plae flown by Daintree Air out of Cairns. No wasted time on boat or rough seas. Got a birds eye view of reef. You can go to Lizard islanmd or green island.

pat_woolford Jul 20th, 2005 04:55 AM

Well, its comparing a $60 Compass trip to a $550 day trip to Lizard Island, undoubtedly the latter is vastly superior. Also there is no comparison between Lizard and Green Islands, Green is so close to mainland that it can be done with a half day trip by boat, for about $53. Its proximity to mainland makes it very popular with mass tour groups, there's not a lot of coral left. Plenty of fish about and still a nice beach, safe for kids.

Ocean Spirit to Michaelmas Cay is a lovely day out of Cairns at $175pp - their smaller vessel goes to Upolo Cay and Oyster Reef at $99 pp.

Before any reef trip visit Reef Teach in Cairns for an informative and entertaining couple of hours. The major dive schools include this session as part of their course. From 6.00pm every evening except Sunday.

Tassietwister Jul 29th, 2005 11:35 PM


I have been a couple of times to the reef, once with Calypso from Port and another time from Cairns and I can't recall which vesssel it was. Once to Green Island and once to Dunk Island.

My husband is a certified diver and after only maybe 6-8 dives in total on the reef and spending SO much money to get those fews dives recorded in his little padi book he went with compass (either compass or nothing at that stage)

I think he enjoyed himself diving pretty much the same on any vessel but does not have the knowledge yet on the GBR to be expert enough to notice the good from the not so good. It is all great to him! However he had a ball on Compass with the trip back when they had a net everyone jumped into with the guys who volunteered to hold up the net losing their shorts lol. He doesn't realise he has gone up a few age brackets yet!

So unless you are expert and had many reef experiences the dive/snorkel site should not necessarily be the deciding factor.

However I have found both trips to the reef painfully boring. Like being on a long train trip (well not as bad as that) I enjoy the reef itself but as yet have not had any great onboard experience. It is a long day out and only such a small time is spent flapping my flippers so I really want to find a boat that provides a good onboard experience.

When we were in Tasmania we spent up big and went on the captains deck of the Lady Franklin for a cruise up the Gordon River. This day out broke our budget into smithereens but it is worth it because we will never forget such a truly magic day out. It is a treasured memory for us now forever.

I am trying to find a similiar experience to the reef. I have booked us on the Ocean Spirit because of Pat's recommendation and also because three of us going are one diver, one snorkeller and one too afraid to go into the water and they cater to all of us. Also hope the food is somewhat better than what we have had so far! Another deciding factor is that it goes to Michealmas Cay, a bird sancturay., so offers yet another type of experience so hope it is a great day out. Will report.

Green Island was great because we wanted a shorter day out. I recommend as a second trip after seeing the reef proper. There is some colourful fish but I saw a lot more larger fish and it was a little scary. I thought some were sharks actually but was corrected. Not so much coral but loads of fish hang about the end of the wharh area. So great. The beach it self was not crowded compared to Sydney beach but the resort area seemed busy. Was not bad affternoon out.

Dunk Island. Just love it. No snorkelling at all as it is not on the reef, actuallly not far off shore. You can see it quite clear from the mainland. We caught an old charcter filled ferry across and saw turtles, dolphins and flying fish enroute. So we saw a different marine life. Nice rainforest walk up to the summit with gorgeous view of the mainland and the blue green Coral Seal in between speckled with little white sailing boats. Just magic.

So all different experiences. All good in their own way.


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