great barrier reef visit

Old Apr 16th, 2004, 04:57 AM
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great barrier reef visit

my wife and i are retired and will vist cairns in may this year. we have 8 days and will travel to brisbane by camper.
our greatest ambition for this trip is to experience the best of the great barrier reef. we can snorkel but not scuba.
this is our one and only visit and we would greatly appreciate some advice for the best one-day trip locations
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Old Apr 16th, 2004, 11:39 AM
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8 days?!!!!! By the time you get there it will be time to go back - or are you driving one way?. Brisbane to Cairns is at least a 2 to 3 day drive especially with a Camper so you can count of driving more than sight seeing - can you possibly change from useing a camper. Also what time of year are you doing this?
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Old Apr 16th, 2004, 03:41 PM
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I would base myself at Port Douglas if I was you and book day trips (plenty to do). Especially with two children. I would highly recommend Hibiscus Gardens. We stayed there last year with our three teenage boys. In a great position, close to beach and town centre and marina.
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Old Apr 17th, 2004, 03:15 PM
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I think the last two 'posters' may have misunderstood your question! I gather you will be visiting Cairns in May and that you will then by driving by camper to Brisbane and wish to know where will be the best spot from which to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

If so, Cairns (or Port Douglas) is definitely the best jumping-off point as the reef in the far north is closest to the mainland and, in good weather, has the clearest visibility, underwater colour etc. There are many day-cruises from both Cairns and Port Douglas but whichever you choose do make sure they go to the Outer Reef as some only take you to small islands and coral cays inside the reef.

We have always liked Quicksilver which, although it is a larger vessel, takes you to a huge pontoon where you can walk around, snorkel, dive if you want to, go out in a glass-bottom boat, there's an underwater viewing platform and even a helicopter.

Further south, the Whitsundays is a fantastic place for visiting beautiful islands, but the actual reef there is a long way off-shore.

Hope this helps - have a wonderful holiday!
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Old Apr 17th, 2004, 03:37 PM
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If staying In Port Douglas, Try Wavelength, Haba Dive or Aristocat.
They are all good operators, small numbers on board and take you to the outer reef.If you are snorkelling only,Wavelength would be my choice, as they only snorkel ( no diving)and visit three sites during the day.
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Old Apr 18th, 2004, 01:41 AM
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Hi philippus,
Not sure if I have missed something here. You are travelling with just yourself and your wife?
Where do two children come into the equation? jfos?
Personally Port Douglas and Palm Cove are both lovely places and both great locations to get to the GBR.
Personally PC is my favourite, being quieter, more relaxed and having top notch accomodation. Its a great place for a base. However PD is bigger and livelier and an equal great base too.
How long will you actually be in the area? as lizF says it's a long drive from Cairns to Brisbane.
One tip, if you get the opportunity or the inclination to visit Green Island, try to avoid it. There are far better places to see. Check this forum, there are plenty of reports about the area.
Good Luck

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Old Apr 19th, 2004, 09:59 PM
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my wife and I would like to thank everybody for the good suggestions.
We will definitely make good use of your advice

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Old Apr 25th, 2004, 10:18 AM
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Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts <-- check out tours offered by diving operators in cairns & port douglas. don't worry if you aren't SCUBA certified, most operators offer an introductory dive; and if the site is good, snorkeling is just as nice! caveat: once you dive, snorkeling may never be the same
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 06:42 PM
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G'day Philippus,

I was a bit worried about your itinary until I re-read you are driving a campervan to Brisbane after visiting the Cairns area. Thats better !

Now regarding experiencing the best of GBR:

1. The further north you go, the better reef is. As a generalrule. Of course you can always find a "bad" bit of reef up north and "good" bit of reef in the south. But generally, north is best.

2. The outer reef is better than the inner. This is because reefs closer to land are affected by land influence, particularly freshwater runoff, sedimentation, nutrients and now herbicides, pesticides.

3. If you are not able bodied or very very poor in the water, Quicksilver may be your best option. It is however, in my humble opinion, the absolute worst outer reef product. Hundreds of people, giant pontoon with a dead-zone underneath it (blocks out the sun so kills coral underneath), a single small site that is heavily damaged by hundreds of thousands of people visiting it over the years and anything more/better than that on the day will cost you extra on top of a price that is about $40 MORE than far better products.

4. Scuba diving is largely a waste of extra money, time and hassle in terms of viewing coral reefs. Reefs are driven by sunlight, thus most life is very near the surface, say, not much beyond 5 - 10 metre mark usually. Scuba diving is heavily marketed and thrust down your throat because the operators make millions out of sticking a tank to your back, taking you down to 12 metres where you kick up some sand, smash a few bits of coral, hyperventilate and then get dragged back out. Meanwhile, all the snorkellers have been swimming above you looking at the coral reef.
In my opinion, only do scuba diving if you want to tick it off your list - eg. Skydiving, Bungee jumping, Scuba diving... Tick. Otherwise snorkelling is cheaper,quicker (more time actually seeing the reef), less risky and lots more fun.

In my humble opinion !

In Port Douglas, there is only one company that specialises in snorkel only ( The other companies are all dive boats that do take snorkellers but only to the Dive Site, where you wait for the divers to get in first, then wait for the divers to get back on before you leave for the next Dive Site. Get the picture ? The divers are the gravy train so they get the attention.

In my opinion, if you think your going to see more of the reef by going deeper, your going to be sadly disapointed. Dive if you want the experience but not if you want to see the reef.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 07:20 PM
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Not so sure I agree with the statement that "the further north you go, the better the reef is". I've been out to the reef from Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and, on several occassions, from Heron Island on the southern end of the GBR. I honestly can't say any stretch of reef I saw was much better or worse than the others, though there are some do not see giant clams on Heron Island for example.
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Old Apr 29th, 2004, 08:36 PM
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Fishy boy - re your point no 3 regarding Quicksilver's pontoon - I just read the following in the current "Passport to Cairns and Tropical North" publication - "Snorkellers travelling to the outer reef with Quicksilver can enjoy the new "On the Edge" experience ($55). Instead of snorkelling around the Agincourt pontoon, you'll be transferred to one of the 16 magnificent sites on the brink of the Continental Shelf, with stunning drop-offs, pinnacles and ledges just meters a day".

I too like Wavelength for snorkelling out of PD and their service is great - I had booked some of my guests at my B&B near Cairns with them and they forgot the pickup. Well, we all make mistakes. They couldn't have been more apologetic and instantly arranged and paid for a taxi for them from Cairns to PD - taxi fare $118.
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