I went to the Barrier Reef as part of my holiday in Cairns. I went with the people who run the boat "The Falla".
The Falla is an old wooden boat that has been maintained so that tourists can enjoy a more authentic experience than they'd get if they were going on a cruise liner.
The folks on the Falla sailed us out to a part of the ocean where people who could dive get further instruction and credit towards their diving certificate and then we were taken out to Upulo Quay which is a small strip of white sand in the middle of clear blue oceans.
When you're from a country where your sea is grey this is truly a great experience.
The water was nice and warm and the crew offer swimming aids for those who aren't confident in the water and you can swim over the coral and the tropical fish.
A complimentary meal is provided but there was no drinks provided so I'd take that with you if you choose the Falla. You also need plenty of sunscreen as I came back badly burnt but it was an amazing experience.
We visited the Great Barrier Reef in November 2007. My husband and I went on a day trip with Great Adventures, which we booked the day before at the ticket desk on the wharf in Cairns. It's also possible to book at the tourist office in town.
We chose a trip which included a stop at Green Island on the way out to the reef. This was an excellent decision. Neither of us had snorkelled before, and at Green Island you have the opportunity to practice snorkelling from a gently sloping sandy beach rather than just being tipped out onto the somewhat daunting reef. There wasn't a huge amount to see in the water here, although perhaps we didn't go out far enough. However the setting was beautiful and the island had plenty of facilities, we were even able to have a shower before getting back onto the boat.
Then the boat travelled to the Outer Reef and moored next to a permanent pontooned owned by Great Adventures which offered a number of activities.
Firstly we went on the semi-submersible boat which took a smaller number of visitors at a time. It was amazing, there was so much sealife just below the surface. We went alongside a giant wall of coral, huge and formed in different shapes. There were all sorts of beautiful fishes, mostly in large shoals. Over a deeper part of the reef I saw a reef shark. We had a live commentary from the boat operator explaining what we could see.
Then we had a small lunch from the buffet selection. We are vegetarians so stuck to the potatoes, pasta salad and fruit, but there was a wide selection of seafood on offer (which didn't seem quite right somehow considering what was swimming around under our feet below the pontoon!).
Then it was time to collect the snorkelling equipment and jump off the side of the pontoon into the water. It was quite choppy, but not as deep as I had expected (although still a bit daunting to a novice!). There were floating rest points at intervals, so you could swim between them and stop for a rest and just to look downwards. You could get very close to the coral at some points, and it was fascinating to watch the fish swimming in and out. A lifeguard was keeping an eye out for everyone (although there were a lot of people in the water to watch!).
Back on the pontoon we were able to have a quick freshwater shower, there weren't that many though and we were lucky to be early enough to beat the queues. The water just went straight out through slats onto the reef, so you couldn't use any soap. There were no toilets on the pontoon so you had to return to the main boat to use the ones there.
We also stopped briefly in the underwater viewing observatory which was a large window looking out with pictures to identify the fish. Even here there was no escape from an ever present photographer swimming around outside. There was an opportunity to view and purchase these photos on the return journey and they were also available on the internet for some time after our return home.
For us, as novice snorkellers, this was the best way to see the reef. The trip was very well planned and organised, and nothing was missing. We had a wonderful day, and really felt that we had experienced something special.
The Great Barier Reef is an amazing area of natural beauty. It is set off the coast of North East Australia in the state of Queenstown. It is made up of an amazing ray of different colours of coraland is simply stunning! We experienced it in two ways.
1) We went on a day trip on a catamaran from Cairns. We went with a company called 'Passions'. The staff were great and friendly, but the boat seemed a bit overcrowded, not a lot of space to relax and enjoy the sunshine! Our first stop was at a small Island called Michaelmas Cay. Here we were able to relax on the beach and go snorkelling in Reef. There is such an array of fish of all sizes and colours and we even came across stingray and sharks. After this stop and a hearty lunch we anchored in the sea and went snorkelling again. This time the sea was rougher which made it harder to swim, but the views under the water were just as spectacular. We even saw a sea snake! The whole trip was a great introduction to the Reef but left us wanting more. However, if your time is short it is a must do! They did offer scuba diving as well as snorkelling. This is at an extra cost, but if you have any health conditions (including asthma) they won't let you do it much to my disappointment!
2) We booked a 3 night/4 day tour of the Great Barrier Reef on a yacht setting sail from Airlie Beach, on the Queenstown coast. Airlie Beach purely exists to cater for the tourists and backpackers wishing to experience the Great Barrier Reef and there is plenty of accomodation. However, as we were there at Christmas we had to book well in advance as it is very busy! There are plenty of bars here as well! We set sail to tour around the Whitsunday Islands . We sailed on the Anaconda III with about 20 other guests. The highlight of the first day was snorkelling in the evening and then anchoring close to Hook Island to watch an amazing sunset with a beer in hand! Again Scuba Diving is an optional extra but the same rules apply regarding medical conditions. Our second day saw us reach the Outer Barrier Reef and snorkelled in a coral garden, words can't explain the colours and shapes! We even came within a few feet of a Giant Turtle - what a sight, but not uncommon out here! The highlight of the trip was Whitsunday Island which we were lucky enough to arrive on Christmas Day!! The island has pure white sand and the staff arranged a crew v's guests 5 aside football match on the beach. What a way to spend Christmas Day! This island is a must visit if at all possible!
All in all, experiencing the Great Barrier Reef in these two ways was great. We really felt we had experienced some of it and were lucky enough to see some amazing wildlife!The only downsides are that is is always very busy and everything must be booked in advance. Due to the popularity the costs are high but worthwhile! As we went in the summer months we were in what is commonly referred to as Stinger season. In other words Jelly Fish Season. Due to this you are only allowed in the sea in stinger suits - thin versions of wet suits. Not the most comfortable or flattering way to swim, but better than a deadly sting!
For my 50th review on Dooyoo, I wanted to write about something very special. Whilst I dabble in other reviews, travel reviews are what I like the best and whilst I have a number of reviews in the pipeline, it seems very appropriate that this review is about The Great Barrier Reef. I hope you enjoy the review as much as I enjoyed the experience......
They say it is the only living thing that can be seen from space.
They say it is the largest living thing on Earth.
They say it is an area of outstanding Natural Beauty.
I am not too sure about the first two claims, but whoever they are, they are absolutely spot on about the last.
There is some dispute as to how big The Great Barrier Reef ("GBR") is but it is somewhere between 2300-2600 km long and consists of between 2700-2900 individual reefs and 900 islands. Each individual reef is made up of billions of individual coral polyps between 3-50mm in size and colony sizes between 75mm-1500mm. As each polyp dies, new growth starts on top of it building the size of the colony and the GBR is around 600,000 years old although the modern reef started growing on the older reef platform around 20,000 years ago. This is relatively young compared to other reefs around the world.
There is a wide diversity of life living within the reef, some of which are rare or endangered. You are likely to encounter some of the 1500 species of fish, 5000 species of mollusc, 400 species of coral, 30 species of whales, 6 species of sea turtle as well as sea snakes, birds, seagrass, dolphins, sharks, porpoises as well as a whole range of other living things.
It is situated just off the Queensland coast in North East Australia from around 250 miles north of Brisbane to the tip of Cape York Peninsular (the pointy thing on a map in the top right hand corner of Australia). A huge area covering nearly 350,000 square kms.
It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, became a World Heritage site in 1981 and has been part of The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park since 1975 and attracts over 2 million visitors pa.
Given the sheer length of the reef then there are literally dozens of places on the mainland you can travel to and use as a base for your trip. The likelihood is that a trip to the GBR will be done as part of a trip to somewhere else (or vice versa) for example a trip to Cairns to visit Cape Tribulation/Daintree (another World Heritage site) and Atherton Tableland can be used to also have a trip out to the GBR.
If traveling from outside Australia you can fly direct to Cairns/Brisbane and take in the GBR from there. I am not going to cost out flights to Australia as they change daily but there are a large number of carriers and flights can be got for as little as £700 return. One point to note if booking from outside Australia is to ask your travel agent for free internal flights as these are often thrown into the equation or sold cheaply. Internal flights within Australia when booking in Australia are very expensive so any travel arrangements should be done before arrival.
The reef itself is between 40-80 miles offshore (there are actually two reefs in places named the Inner & Outer reefs. The Inner reef is nearer the coast and the Outer reef out to sea). Unless you are staying on an island and can toddle down to the beach to see the Inner reef you will also have a 90 minute boat ride or seaplane journey to get to the Outer reef.
***Things to Do***
I have actually done three trips to the Great Barrier Reef in three different ways from two different starting points and this review is to cover my experience of these trips but note there are dozens of other options available.
Trip one - from Airlie Beach by sailboat
Airlie Beach is said to be the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef given its proximity approximately halfway down (or up) the reef. It exists purely as a tourist centre and is serviced by Proserpine Airport (circa 60 minutes away) as well as road. It is an area that looks totally misplaced given it was only set up to give tourists access to the reef as well as access to the Whitsunday Islands and is just a mass of bars, restaurants, tourist shops, gift shops, scuba outlets and places to book trips out to the reef for an immeasurable number of operators.
We had booked on-line a one night stop over at Sunlit Waters apartments which cost around £40 for a double room and was clean, great location and excellent value for money www.sunlitwaters.com. The plan (this was in November) was a one night stop over then three days/two nights sailing around the Whitsundays and out to the reef on the Avatar (www.airliebeach.com/sailing-adventures/sports) a trimaran that generates tremendous speeds and which was a different way of seeing the reef and one which we fancied. It was a bit of a luxury though as this cost around £200 per person and was booked in advance on-line. The experience of doing it this way was worth every penny though as you get to meet other like minded people (21 in all plus crew).
When we set off the weather was gorgeous although within an hour it had turned terrible with high winds and lashing rain. As a result the itinerary had to be changed as the weather was not fit enough and we had to detour to Hamilton Island on the first night to dock in the marina. Despite the weather two friends of ours who had not put sun cream on due to the clouds got serious sunburn and had to get off the boat on Hamilton Island for treatment. As a result of this detour the trip to the Outer Reef would no longer go ahead as there was simply not enough time to sail there and back in the remaining time. This would later turn into a blessing in disguise.
The next two days were generally clear but the first days weather had stirred up the sand so the waters were not very clear. The beauty of being in a boat was we could largely go where we wanted and the crew were very accommodating in this regard and over these two days we stopped off around 6 times at various points to get out and snorkel with the fish and see the coral.
The trip was fantastic although the experience of actually seeing the reef was somewhat under-whelming and I was left feeling very disappointed in a "is that it" kind of mood. I had been seduced by picture perfect post cards and National Geographic documentaries and was positively drooling at the prospect of diving into turquoise coloured seas, seeing coral of all colours and marine life swimming up to me for a closer look. The reality could not have been further from the truth with murky water, coral of various shades of gray and the odd tiddler swimming in the other direction. The site of a great white devouring one of the crew would have been a welcome bit of excitement at this stage.
One memorable stop off was at Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. This is 7km long and pure white made from 98% silica (which is great for cleaning jewellery apparently) and is simply a stunning piece of natural beauty. We were surprised here by a 4ft monitor lizard walking down the beach but in the rush to get the camera it scuttled off into the undergrowth.
Trip two - from Airlie Beach by seaplane
When we got back to Airlie Beach and met up with our friends (who had of course missed out on seeing any coral) they didn't believe that we hardly saw anything and certainly nothing with any colour in it and as a result had been making some enquiries to fly to the Outer Reef the day after and did we fancy it. Well we had come all this way so why not and this was the second trip out to the reef and a totally different experience to the first one.
We managed to book four seats with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes, Reef Adventure (circa £100 per person) and departing from Whitsunday Airport near Airlie Beach. This was booked direct with them on the phone at the time but can be booked on-line here www.airwhitsunday.com.au. Out of interest there is a video clip on the front page of this web site which gives you a feel for the trip. There were only six people plus pilot on the flight and from taking off you immediately saw so much more than we saw three days on a boat. It was actually fantastic to see many of the places we had sailed to including flying straight down Whitehaven beach which we had been stood on the day before. The true beauty of this flight though and the sight that justified every single penny of the cost was the first view of the Outer reef and specifically Bait Reef, Hardy Reef, Heart Reef & Hook Reef which we flew over and which nestles off the East Coast of Whitsunday Island, about 40 miles away. From a distance you could see the different blue/greens of the shimmering water and the reef below it and at low tides some of the reef is exposed above the water. It was a truly mesmerizing sight and even the pilot said he was transfixed every time he saw it. The first view of Heart Reef was truly awe inspiring, a near heart shaped reef in the middle of all this beauty. Despite it's beauty and the crystal clear water it is also clear that the vibrant colours I was expecting to see were not apparent with no evidence of any brilliant reds or yellows although the pure beauty of what I was seeing made this a minor inconvenience.
We then landed near the reef on a special pontoon that is moored there and spent 90 minutes looking through the glass bottom and snorkeling. It really was an eerie place as there was absolutely no noise other than the soft lapping of waves against the pontoon. The water was millpond still with no wind. Here the water was much clearer than the experience on the boat although sadly there was indeed a lack of brilliant colours and it would appear that good camera work in the brochures enhances the reality. There were a lot more fish here that simply enveloped you when you went in, especially the Sargeant Major fish that came up to kiss your mask.
Finally, the trip back gave us a last glimpse of the reef from the air and we strained our necks looking at it until it was too far in the distance. Without the seaplane trip I think I would have left feeling cheated. The view from the air gave a different perspective on it and whilst there is nothing better than actually being in the water, the snorkeling, once seen from above, seemed so much better.
When we finished we realised that if part of the boat trip had not been cancelled then we probably would not have done the seaplane trip and this was a journey we were mightily relieved not to miss out on.
Trip three - from Hamilton Island by boat
This trip was in December when we stayed on Hamilton Island for three days. On this trip there was around 15 in our party and the vast majority wanted to go out to the reef so we booked through the hotel a trip out to Reefworld via Fantasea (http://www.fantasea.com.au/Reefworld/). You can pre book on-line and the cost is around £100 adults/£45 children. You go out to the reef on a large boat which takes 90 minutes and once at Reefworld (where you are at for around 3 hours) you are free to do whatever you like. Reefworld is a huge pontoon permanently anchored at Hardy Reef (or just on he edge of it) and offers snorkeling, scuba diving, submarine trip with glass walls, viewing platforms - it is set up to give you the maximum experience in a short space of time and whilst enjoyable, it was a bit of an anti climax as it offered nothing I had not seen before and I think the previous seaplane trip we did spoilt us. It was totally commercial with probably 100 people on it so it's just a hustle and bustle to do things whereby our previous trips had been relatively serene. One thing it did offer differently was that there was a 4 foot Mauri Wrasse fish that lived under it and was used to people so whilst snorkeling it would simply swim between everyone.
After our final visit there I read that during November & December the coral spawns and this can cause the water to go murky. This explains why the water wasn't crystal clear in places.
Of course being a Natural Heritage sit as well as part of The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park demands a certain amount of environmentally friendly actions as well as steps to preserve the reef. It was clear that the staff are very protective of the reef with regular notices/warnings not to step on the coral and only a few places you can actually snorkel or dive.
Conservation is high on the average Australian's psyche given they grow up with the message and wherever I have been in Australia this message is hammered home and the Great Barrier Reef is no different. Whilst catering for over 2 million tourists per annum this is not the main threat to the reef and every effort is taken to minimize this impact. It would appear the main threats to the reef are items such as climate change whereby any drastic water temperature increases can kill the coral and also effect marine life that has to move away to source food thereby affecting the food chain on the reef. When it comes to global warming I have no idea who to believe because from a layman's point of view who cannot say that the reef has experienced significant climate change already in it's history and replenished itself. One of our guides also said that the reef already has temperature swings of 4 degrees pa anyway and so a 1 degree increase in global temperatures should not affect it but who knows for sure?
The crown-of-thorns starfish is also a major predator as it feeds on coral polyps and can wipe out vast areas of reef. This is apparently a cyclical event and we can only surmise has been going on for thousands of years and again the reef has recovered.
The various pontoons moored throughout the reef are actually anchored outside the reef and not directly over it so do not appear to be causing any damage to the reef at all.
This is a must see attraction if you are in North Eastern Australia and there is a huge choice of where to go from on the mainland and companies to go with/places to book so shop around.
I am sure there are other reef systems around the world that offer anything the GBR has got but the sheer size, options available and world famous notoriety the Barrier Reef has will undoubtedly continue to draw tourists in their droves for many years to come.
If you are thinking of going to the Great Barrier Reef then stop thinking and go. It is an experience you will never forget.
Also posted on Ciao with pictures.
The Great Barrier Reef, what can say apart from WOW! Having never been to a destination like this before I didn't know what to expect apart from having seen it in books or on TV. The reality of it was a million times better than any photograph. I travelled from Cairns with a day-tour company to the outer reef which has not suffered from quite as much tourism as areas further down the coast. I've never done any diving and although this was still an option I opted to snokel. The coral and fish are so near the surface that diving isn't really necessary. Also, i'm not a particularly strong swimmer but with the aid of a 'noodle' I was able to float on the surface looking down and enjoying the incredible view. Of course, you can experience it without getting wet in the form of a glass-bottom boat but nothing beats jumping right in and swimming with the fishes. Words cannot describe how amazing the Great Barrier Reef really is, it is something that must be experienced in a lifetime. I would recommend it to everyone!
As part of my recent holiday in Australia I was determined that I would visit the famous Great Barrier Reef (GBR) off the East coast. My cousin and I flew to Cairns from Adelaide - via Sydney and Brisbane (that's another story!) We arrived at our resort at 2.30am and were picked up by a coach at 7.45am for our drive to the quayside to pick up the boat that would take us out to the reef. There are a huge number of boats and planes offering all sorts of reasons why we should view the GBR with them - our tour was pre-booked by a friend so we had no expectations. We boarded a huge catameran run by the Ocean Spirit company. After paying the A$150 fee and preliminary safety talks we found places to settle down and enjoy the cruise to the reef. There were around 85 fellow passengers on board - many nationalities including Japanese, Americans, Germans and French. As we approached our destination (Michaelmas Cay) we dropped anchor and our attention was drawn to a large shoal of fish on the port side of the vessel. A member of the crew threw food scraps and we were treated to a feeding frenzy usually reserved for sharks! A boat came alongside ours and we were invited to go aboard in small groups to veiw the GBR from this, the semi-submersible. This was to be my only way of viewing the reef close-up as I am not 'good in the water'. For 20 minutes we were treated to turtles, giant clams and vast nubers of amazing tropical fish meandering around the coral. Back on board the 'Cat' we were treated to a sumptuous lunch fo salad, meat, fish, and fruit before being taken on another small boat over to the Cay (island). Michaelmas Cay is a coral expanse of sand in the middle of the sea. A small secion of the Cay is roped off for the humans to visit. The rest is for the birds. Anyone with a fear of our feathered friends would not be too compfortable here. There are literally thousands of squa
wking gulls, boobys, and many more seabirds nesting here. It is uncanny how they seemed to know to keep to their side of the rope. The humans seemed to have more trouble understanding that rule - lookouts were continually having to remind tourists to stick to the right side! From the beach snorklers and divers meandered around the shallow waters whilst others, myself included, paddled along the warm waters edge. I was amazed to see tropical fish actually at my feet! The sea was clear and blue. The sun was bright and warm (I was there in mid-winter!) It was truly paradise. I was very impressed by the Ocean Spirit's strict observance of rules. Keeping people away from the birds, insisting no-one should take any souvenir pieces of coral or shells from the area. Eventually, we returned to the 'Cat' and were treated to a singer/guitarist on our journey home. An unforgettable day which I would dearly love to repeat - perhaps I'll learn how to snorkle next time! My only other experience of the GBR was when we left Cairns. Our plane went up over the reef and we were treated to spectacular view of many areas of reef. I was able to take lots of photos and video from this 'eye in the sky' viewpoint. Truly awesome!
The Great Barrier Reef remains for me one of the most stunning places I have ever seen on my many travels. Australia is a great natural habitat and has many wild and beautiful terrenes that although vast and difficult to get at sometimes knock you out with the pure scale of them. Cairns is the main gateway to the reef although The Whitsunday’s and Townsville will tell you different but a rule of thumb is the further down the coast you are the less accessible it becomes. Cairns offers all sorts of boat trips out and at reasonable fares .We went out with Noah’s Ark, an old rickety wooden job with an authentic captain, peaked cap n all. Not bad at $50 oz dollars for an enjoyable day. Warning even though the reef dampens the swell it is a little rough on the smaller craft so if you are prone to seasickness take one of the bigger and a touch more expensive party/diving boats. We took four hours to get to our allocated spot although the wait was well worth it once you get out and swim around. The iridescent marine life just under the clear blue sea is quite breath taking. Snorkels are thrown in although I never mastered that but didn’t miss out on the experience one little bit. You can be a complete novice with an aqua-lung and still get to dive the same day for little or know money as they tempt you into more complete dive packages as you stare in awe at the submarine splendor. Our instructor was charging $25 dollars (Tenner) to go under for half an hour whilst he fed the Reef Shark with shiny Tuna fish. You can also feed the marine life from the boat with allsorts of sexy fishes nibbling from your fingers. P.A.D.I dive courses ($350+)from 1 to 3 are available all the way up the coast with certain hostels running them at pretty good rates. For the more experienced there are some good wrecks and the Famous Cod hole where you get to see the seriously big and strange beasts. Sadly such is the richness and varied sealife here that high summ
er brings lots of venomous creatures seeking tourists legs to sting. The Blue ringed Octopus loves the seasonal warmer waters and enjoys clamping his tentacles around things causing almost instant paralyses .The meanest of them all can be found clamped to the eco system waiting to fire of a venomous dart at hostile intruders. Known as the Cone Shell avoid at all costs by wearing sandals. If he or she don’t get you a Blue Bottle (Portuguese Man o War) will. Coupled with these guys all sorts of Jellyfish and stingers are filling in the gaps between December and April.Any further North you will run into Sea Crocs and nasty currents and sharks. Green island offers a day out on the reef but its swarming with Japanese tourists who s country bought it so their countrymen can unofficially rip bits of for souvenirs which is highly frowned upon and very illegal as this eco scape is a world heritage site. Cairns is the Backpacker dive center so the more discerning customer should try the beautiful Whitsunday islands where you can take 1-7 day yaught holidays or the rowdy booze cruise whilst taking in the majestic isles and of course The Great Barrier Reef at its magnificent best.
If you are in Australia I guess that the great barrier reef is a must. However be prepared to be disappointed. It is a long journey from Sydney or even Brisbane. To reach the reef you will have to go on a boat or plane. Either way is potentially expesive. The accomodation seems very expensive although my experience is only of Lady Elliot Island. I thoiught the treastment of the birds and turtles to be rather cruel. The whole place stank of bird droppings and the air was full of feathers. It really was unhygenic. The hotel was spartan-OK; but dirty as well is not necessary. The pool was filthy. I guess the most importnat feature is the coral and the fish. I prefer the Hurghada on Red Sea where the coral is better the fish more plentiful and yes the accommodation cheaper and cleaner. I did not get to Cairns which should be well worth a visit and from there a Reef Cruise would tempt me. However if I wanted to see ggod coral I would go, as I say, to Egypt or to the Bahamas. I know a lot of people like the reef but a further disadvantage was the cold rough sea and the warnings of box jellyfish.
I went to Heron island just off the Great Barrier Reef after it was recommended to me by a friend and although it took me over a year of saving to be able to pay for this holiday, it was truly worth the wait. I'd never heard of the island before but fell in love with it after seeing just a few photos. Heron is the only international resort on the Great Barrier Reef exclusively devoted to island guests. The Great Barrier Reef consists of a maze of reefs and islands stretching two thousand kilometres along the Queensland coast. It is the largest coral reef system in the world and the richest in biological diversity and in fact, of the 1500 species of fish to be found on the Reef, you'll find 1200 of them off Heron. On Heron Island you walk straight from the beach to the Reef's edge and the waters are literally teeming with life. I explored acres of living coral just minutes from my room. A once in a life time experience, I'll never return but I'll never forget.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, composed of roughly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands that stretch for 2,600 kilometres (1,616 mi) and cover an area of approximately 344,400 km². The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.