Where to go and what to see in Australia!
Highlights | Visiting Uluru | Wine Tasting at Jacob's Creek | Driving the Great Ocean Road | Phillip Island Penguin Parade | Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef | 4WD on Fraser Island | Humpback Whale Watching | Sydney Sights

Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef

A bit about the trip

The Quicksilver tours from Port Douglas to Agincourt Reef at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef are very professionally put together. The catamarans are impressively modern and fast, carrying a couple of hundred people out to their reef platform which is around 90 minutes away.

Fortunately, if the seas are rough, the boats are staffed by very considerate Aussie crew who do a great job looking after anyone who goes a bit green and provide free herbal travel sickness pills!

Check in for the trip is in the Quicksilver shop inside the retail complex at Mirage Marina. The tours leave early, so check in is at 09:00 and the boat then departs at around 10:00.

The reef platform

When the boat arrives at the reef, it moors against Quicksilver's permanent reef platform to give you a base for the day. A few changing rooms and showers are on hand to get changed into the cheap and tasteful (!) stinger suits.

Not only do the stinger suits protect you from marine stingers (which are only really a summer problem generally), they also keep you warm and protect you from the sun without the need for sun lotions which are bad for the coral.

The free snorkel gear looked pretty good quality, but we've been a few times before and it's always nice to have our own snorkel and goggles with us!

A varied lunch is also provided, but don't forget not to swim on a full stomach! There are plenty of tables to eat at though and the boat has all the usual facilities.

If you have valuables with you (not recommended!), there are small safety deposit bags at the bar onboard.

The reef and snorkelling

The Great Barrier Reef is a truly world class attraction and, unsurprisingly, is a listed World Heritage Area. It is actually made up of around 3,000 individual reefs that stretch from Cape York Peninsula right down to the islands just north of Bundaberg.

The range of marine life is incredible, with everything from tropical fish and corals to giant clams, starfish, rays, turtles and reef sharks! Sadly, we didn't see a shark - I was quite looking forward to it!

The snorkelling was quite different to anything we'd done before. It is up to 8 metres deep in places and you have waves to contend with as you float. For the less confident swimmers, it's not at all embarrassing to wear a life jacket as you swim - it actually makes it less tiring to snorkel.

The floats in the water also help to give you an occasional breather.

Surprisingly, not everyone onboard seemed to go into the water. If you're staying dry, there is a semi-submersible boat and an underwater observatory to explore. Don't leave it until the end of the day to catch the semi-submersible - you might miss out like we did :o(

You get around three and a half hours to explore the reef from the platform before the boat leaves at around 15:00. The 90 minute return trip is quite amusing, as they have a carousel of all the photos scrolling around on the TV!

A day very well spent indeed!

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