The snorkeling excursion to the Great Barrier Reef was one that both Tim and I were looking forward to on this trip. Tim has always said that one of his life goals was to see the Reef before it gets extremely damaged or destroyed (because of human or environmental threats).
The excursion was through Quicksilver, and lasted the majority of the day. We were picked up from our hotel in Cairns around 8:00 AM and headed up to Port Douglas, where we would depart from the marina. It was about an hour and a half boat ride between the marina and where we would dock along the Agincourt Ribbon Reef on the outer reef. We even saw a pretty large shark on the way to the outer reef. A buffet lunch was served once we docked, and then we had the choice to snorkel, take a ride in a glass bottom boat, walk through an underwater observatory, or soak up the sun. For an additional charge, you could go scuba-diving or have a guided snorkeling tour. We did pay an extra $7/person to use lycra suits while snorkeling. They help protect against the sun, add a bit of warmth while in the water, and it was also the start of stinger (jellyfish) season.
We spent about three hours on the outer reef. We made sure to pack our waterproof Pentax camera to snap photos. We had been snorkeling in Maui a few years prior and had a great experience (the coral was colorful, saw a ton a fish, and swam with sea turtles), so we were expecting quite a bit with snorkeling in Australia. However, I think our coral expectations were set a bit too high. There wasn’t the amount of sea life as compared to in Hawaii and the coral wasn’t very colorful either. We learned that the rising water temperature is bleaching the coral. So we aren’t sure if the lack of color was because of the water temperature or the specific spot where we were snorkeling. Even with the coral being bleached, it was still amazing to see!
We saw several schools of fish while riding in the glass bottom boat. The windows of the boat actually magnified everything by 25% so we could see more detail in the coral. Not all of our photos turned out the best while in the boat though. There was a big roped area where people were free to swim and snorkel about. Some of the coral actually came up quite high and you had to be really careful swimming around it so you or your fins wouldn’t touch it. The lifeguards were feeding these huge fish off the platform, so you basically had to swim through the fish when getting in or out of the water. And I have to be honest, it made me a little nervous…I didn’t know if the fish would go after me! Haha. Some of the photos below are through the windows of the boat, and others are while we are in the water, so the color isn’t consistent.
The Quicksilver staff made the whole excursion enjoyable. They had complimentary coffee, tea and biscuits (cookies) whenever the boat was docked. Plus, they had a marine biologist on board that gave a presentation and answered any questions people had. I would recommend this company and excursion to anyone that’s in the area!