Great Barrior Reef with non-snorklers

May 23rd, 2004, 08:32 PM
  #1  
HBR
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Join Date: May 2004
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Great Barrior Reef with non-snorklers

Has anyone taken any of the Great Barrior reef trips from Cairns/Port Douglas with children who are somewhat frightened to snorkel? My husband and I love to snorkel, and don't want to miss experiencing the Great Barrior reef. However, our children, ages 10 and 12, are not enthusiastic, and I wouldn't be surprised if they don't go in the water! I'm trying to figure out if there are somewhat more affordable ways to experience the GBR other than a trip with hundreds of people such as Quicksilver, which I know offers submersibles, etc. Has anyone taken a trip with Ecstasea to Upulu Cay? Has anyone tried Reef Magic with non-swimmers? Any ideas would be appreciated! (By the way, we fly to Cairns late September for a week, we haven't booked accomodation yet so could stay in Cairns or Port Douglas). Thank you.
HBR is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 01:36 AM
  #2  
 
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We did a reef trip with Quiksilver which we really enjoyed (we both snorkelled but I'm a real beginner - there are staff who will help you if necessary) but there were lots of people on the trip who didn't go in the water. I'm not sure if one of the staff would watch the children for you but you could ask.
We have friends who went to Green Island and their children could sit on the sand or paddle while the adults went out snorkelling from the island. On Quiksilver you are on a pontoon in the middle of the ocean. I don't think the reef would be as good at Green Is as the reef out from Port Douglas. I think you can buy return tickets on a boat out to Green Is and take a picnic with you, rather than spending lots on a tour.
We did the reef trip from Port Douglas and walked 5 mins from our hotel (Port Douglas Queenslander) to the marina and straight on the boat. We talked to people who were bussed up from Cairns and they had to add about 2 hours each way on to the day. When we arrived back about 4.30pm we had a 5 mins walk again, they had 2 hours on a bus dropping people off at the different hotels. I know which I'd choose!
Kay
KayF is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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We just came back from Australia and took a reef trip out of Cairns on Ocean
Spirit. They go out to an island so
you can just walk into the water from the shore or just play on the beach if
you want. They also give you the option of wearing a life jacket while
snorkeling, which may make your kids feel comfortable enough to try it. I would say that about half of the people there wore them, including me since I'm not a very confident swimmer. It was our first experience snorkeling and the crew was great about providing instructions and giving support. I understand that the boats are a little smaller than Quicksilvers. We probably had about 100-125 people the day we went out. They also have a semi-submersible sub if your kids want to do that. We had a fantastic time and are eager to snorkel again.
jaschmidt is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 12:46 PM
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I was also going to suggest gpomg to Green Island, as a cheaper introduction for your kids. The coral is not so good, (well, not good at all, really) but they can go off the beach, so it's a fairly gentle introduction. I'm sure you'll find the kids are fascinated.

Remember, the sun will be fierce, so cover up. Nothing worse than an introduction to snorkelling and then kids who can't lie down for a week because their backs are badly burnt. Wear t-shirts at least.
margo_oz is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 02:04 PM
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margo: Too right about wearing a t-shirt while snorkeling. My wife and I went out on Quicksilver several years ago...it was a nice, bright day but the water was cool. Didn't think about wearing a shirt - even in July, I got completely fried without realizing it. We were staying at the Silky Oaks lodge and I was in total agony. Fortunately, the staff let me pick some aloe plants and after my wife rubbed it in, I felt a lot better and could enjoy my time there.

HBR: I know you may be committed to Cairns, but Heron Island may be a good alternative GBR location for you...similar to Green Isl. but no day trippers, great snorkeling for the adults and some shallow lagoon walking/paddling for the kids. We've taken our kids there a couple of times with great success.

There was a question a couple of weeks ago on the GBR for non-swimmers - if you scroll down you should get some more pertinent info on the subject.
RalphR is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 03:21 PM
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HBR - I second the suggestion for Ocean Spirit to Michaelmas Cay. I live here and have been on all day trips to reef, plus many a trip on our own boat The snorkelling is very easy from the sand cay, rather than going over the edge of the boat or off a pontoon - and the crew has the highest ratio to passenger of all. So the kids will get plenty of expert snorkelling instruction, and it has a semi-sub. as well. As Margo suggested, Green Island is an alternative and a much cheaper one on Big Cat which is quite new and safe but not comparable with Ocean Spirit's lovely sailer/motor cat. Big Cat takes many day-tripper package tourists to Green - but as they tend to cluster in groups when they get there, they're not hard to avoid at the island. As Margo says, the coral is degraded, but there's still a lot of fish which will lurk around the boat looking for a handout and parts of the beach are tree-shaded. There's an underwater observatory, too, on Green. Big Cat offers a full or half day from Cairns or full day only from Palm Cove Jetty.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 24th, 2004, 03:49 PM
  #7  
HBR
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Thanks. I had thought about Green Island but had heard that the snorkeling was not that good there due to degradation of the reef. Some additional research has turned up the following suggestions as well -- I'm wondering if anyone has heard of these places or outfits: Passions of Paradise, which apparently goes to both the outer reef and Upolo Cay in the same trip; and Frankland Islands cruise, which goes to Frankland Island and there is snorkling off the island. If you go to a place such as Green Island or Frankland Island, is that considered the Outer Reef or is it something different? How about Upolo or Michalemas (sp.) Cays? Thanks!
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May 24th, 2004, 05:51 PM
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HBR - Green Island is a true coral cay which has taken eons to form, with some fringing reef. According to a geologist friend it is now in the very slow process of of breaking down, which, apparently, is a natural process. I'm no geologist, and am only repeating what I've been told.

"Outer Reef" is not necessarily any better for snorkelling than other sections of reef, and on an over-used site it can be worse. Passions of Paradise does go to both Upolo Cay and Paradise Reef, Ocean Spirit's other boat takes in Upolo Cay and Oyster Reef and takes less people than Passions of P. Ectasea is a yacht and smaller again with maximum of 20 passengers. It goes to the reef surrounding Upolo Cay and doesn't actually land at the cay. Frankland Islands are not far from the mainland at all - most of the boat (average 50 passengers) ride is on the protected Mulgrave River, south of Cairns. There's only about 25 minutes travel on open sea. These are beautiful, unspoilt little uninhabited islands (no resort) and their closer proximity to the coast does not detract from the coral or marine life.

Would advise anyone wishing to learn about the reef to go to Reef Teach in Spence St, Cairns (6.15pm-8.30pm every evening except Sundays) where Paddy Colwell, a full time diver, will give an informative and often hilarious presentation.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 05:07 PM
  #9  
HBR
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Thank you for your helpful suggestions. I'm leaning toward the Frankland Island trip because it seems to offer some nice land options if my kids don't end up snorkeling. Has anyone taken this trip? If so, how would you compare the snorkeling experience to the outer reef or Michaelmas Cay? Thanks!
HBR is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 06:52 PM
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Yes HBR - I have been on both and the snorkelling in terms of what you see is comparable. For your needs I still lean a little towards Ocean Spirit as it has a much better semi-submersible. The kids can still swim off the sand cay (watch that sun!!), see the nesting birds, but I bet you anything they'll still snorkel when they see how easy it is. Ocean Spirit's vessel with shade is always accessible and snorkelling is marginally easier from Michaelmas than Franklands. If the wind is blowing in the wrong direction at Franklands it's not so easy to snorkel straight off the beach - you'll be taken out further in a small boat. This happened last time I was there and a couple of kids became a bit panicky.
pat_woolford is offline  
May 29th, 2004, 07:12 PM
  #11  
HBR
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Thank you Pat, for your insights. One additional question -- I see that Ocean Spirit has two separate trips -- the one to Upolu is considerably less expensive. I realize that the Upolu trip doesn't have a semi submersible (it has a glass bottom boat instead). Is the snorkelling itself at Upolo comparable to Michaelmas?

Also, do you have a sense as to how far in advance one needs to book? We will be in Cairns the last week of September into the first days of October (which I realize is school vacation week in Australia but we didn't have a choice). Finally, will we be able to swim at the mainland beaches at that time, or is considered stinger season?
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