Snorkeling in Great Barrier Reef

Old Sep 20th, 2004, 09:38 PM
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Snorkeling in Great Barrier Reef

We are avid snorkelers. We are taking a cruise next year through the Great Barrier Reef, stopping at Darwin, Cairns, Townsville and Whitsunday Island for a day each. This is our first time in the Great Barrier Reef. Ship offers a snorkeling excursion to reef pantoon in Cairns. Many snorkel boats out of Cairns seem to go there. I'm wondering if I should charter a private boat to take us to other spots, or is the pantoon best there is around there? Any recommendation on the outfit?
Are there good snorkeling in Darwin and Townsville? How about Witsunday Island? The ship's excursion is to Bali Hai Island. Is is the best spot to snorkel or should we arrange for a boat to take us someplace else?Is there any good operator you can recommend for a private trip there?
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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 07:14 PM
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hi simonv
There are several large pontoons on GBR out of Cairns - Moore Reef and Norman Reef are two and Quicksilver out of Port Douglas at Agincourt reef. These are used by the larger boats which of course, carry more passengers. Out of Cairns there is also GBR snorkelling from Michaelmas and Upolo Cays as well as many vessels which will take you to various parts of GBR for snorkelling and diving. Wavelength out of Port Douglas specialises in snorkelling only (no scuba) and a pick is available very early in morning out of Cairns. Cairns is closer to GBR than Townsville, and Darwin as you probably know, is nowhere near GBR. There's some good snorkelling around the Whitsundays but you need to go beyond them for GBR proper. I don't know of Bali Hai in Whitsundays, think it might be another name for Black Island which is between Hook and Hayman - maybe someone else can help here.
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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 07:18 PM
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Sorry, that was supposed to be "pick-up" from Cairns, not "pick".
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Old Sep 21st, 2004, 08:50 PM
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Pat, thank you for your helpful information. Living in US, GBR is far for us, and I want this sampler to be good enough to induce me to come back for a longer serious snorkeling trip. I'm wondering if coral around pantoons are stresssed because of big boats and too many people? Do you think we'd be better off on a small boat that can take us to other spots? I realize it would be more expensive, but after spending so much time and money to get to GBR, a little more is worth it. I want to see the best if I could in the short time I have there. I appreciate your help.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2004, 10:27 AM
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Hi simonv,
We are just back from a trip to Cairns, where we took the Wavelength tour to 3 different snorkeling sites on the outer reef. We are not experienced snorkelers, having only been to the Caribbean before, but I cannot imagine snorkeling could be any better than what we experienced on the Wavelength tour. We also did the Michaelmas Cay trip, which was very good, but were awestruck by the Wavelength sites. You might want to search this forum for Lizard Island and Daintree Air; we didn't do that but it sounds magnificent. Have a great trip!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2004, 05:27 PM
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simonv - I too, would prefer to take a smaller boat than those that visit the pontoons. As both Aren and I have mentioned Wavelength does a superb job for snorkellers only but its a long day if, as you are, coming from Cairns. Have a look at Tusa Dive out of Cairns, whilst their main emphasis is on diving they do take snorkellers and you'll have the opportunity of taking an introductory dive if you like. You may even decide to get diving certification and come back for a liveaboard dive trip - Tusa's "Spirit of Freedom" is just one for top reef diving experiences.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 08:41 AM
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Thank you, Pat. Wavelength sounds wonderful. Unfortunately their time doesn't work for us, but Tusa Dive will be OK. I was hoping to charter a small boat all for ourselves in Cairns and Whitsunday, like they do in Thailand. I haven't found anybody who does it. Does such thing as charter for 2-6 person max exist in GBR?
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 12:49 PM
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Does anyone know if you can go scubba diving without being certified? I'm going up to Oz in November, and I don't have time to get certified. A friend told me that some companies will take you out with an instructor. Is this true? Anyone know? Thanks for the help

Chris
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 01:09 PM
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it's called a ``resort course'' amd they will give you basic training and take you out with an instructor. you can only go so deep. it's a great intro.

we used calypso out of PD. excellent.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 01:55 PM
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When I was last in the Whitsundays - about 10 years ago - you could take a sea - plane trip to the outer reefs and snorkle around the reef lagoons on which they landed. These get you to the great spots quickly and you have more time to snorkle. I cannot see that they would not be operating still.
I am very envious of your trip as I have always wanted to do that one you are going on. Why don't you write to them and ask specifically the information you have asked here as only they can tell you if you will have sufficient snorkling time.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 06:06 PM
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simonv - I don't know of any one day only GBR reef charters out of Cairns except for fishing - there's already many snorkel/dive operators catering for small groups- max 20 on Ecstasea out of Cairns to hundreds on the big cats. Tusa only takes about 25 per boat and visits a couple of reefs - they pick the best of the day according to tides and weather.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 06:11 PM
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occhris - yes, it's called a resort dive sometimes, usually referred to as "introductory" dive. You will be asked to complete a medical form before they'll accept you - Queensland Diving rules stipulate that you will be refused if you suffer or have suffered from high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 06:41 PM
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We used Calypso for diving and snorkeling last summer out of Port
Douglas. They were phenomenal.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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Pat, thank you for all the information. From all I've heard, I need to come back and take a liveaboard out of Port Douglas. Liveaboard is the best way to go snorkeling. The only catch is that they cater to divers, and snorkelers are treated as second class citizen. I was fortunate to find a good ship and a good dive master in Indonesia. Ten days out of Bali was fantastic. I might get lucky in GBR also.
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Old Sep 24th, 2004, 08:39 PM
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Hey there,
Such a pity the timing doesnt work out for you to get on Wavelength - the reefs are simply better out of Port Douglas than Cairns, and Wavelength has got THE best sites from there because they had the pick of sites 20 years ago before any one else went to that reef. They are also the smallest to the outer reef and there are NO DIVERS on board !
Pity, like I said.
Anyhoo... if you had time, a liveaboard heading north (more north the better) is an excellent way, both in terms of efficiency and locations, tosee the GBR.
Oh and a note about the company Calypso - their trips are only phenomonal when they go to someone elses sites (kinda illegal/immoral) as their own sites are few and poorer quality.
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Old Sep 27th, 2004, 06:19 AM
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Hello Simonv , Our family did the day tour with daintree air to Lizard Island.

We flew up there in a two engine plane from Cairns.

That was the best snorkeling we ever did. The reef was perfect, the beaches were beautiful and the marine life was varied and plentiful.

We walked all over the Island with our kids and the guide, and snorkeled on three different beaches.

If snorkeling is what you want you will have a ball with daintree.

Ask Greg to take you down to the mangroves. Say Hi from Marlean and family. Contact them on www.daintreeair.com.au
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Old Oct 2nd, 2004, 10:50 PM
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Thank you everyone for the information. I'm leaning toward Lizard Island on Daintree. In National Geographic I've read the more north you go in GBR, the better the coral. It checks out with my experience in Indonesia which is almost at Equater. I am a little afraid of flying in a small plane, though. Have Daintree ever have any problems?
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Old Oct 2nd, 2004, 11:37 PM
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Hi Simon - Daintree Air has an exemplary safety record and Greg won't fly in bad weather - well, there'd be no point in going to Lizard Island then.
Do book as far in advance as possible - plane fills up very quickly, especially in peak season.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2004, 11:32 AM
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Simon, I, too, would recommend Daintree Air with this one caveat--check the tide schedule. If it is low tide around noon, you won't get in much snorkeling, at least in our experience. The trip was wonderful, but we didn't get to snorkel as much as we wanted because of the tide. Also, be sure to tell Greg how adamant you are about snorkeling or he might take you on a hike instead, I think it might have been an issue with the other people on the trip not wanting to snorkel as much as we did.

Sally
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Old Oct 3rd, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Thanks. I'll check the tide table and reserve as soon as possible. It will be an exciting trip!
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