The Great Barrier Reef Tour: Snorkeling + Helicopter Flight
Upon booking my trip to Cairns, I knew exactly what topped my list of things to do: The Great Barrier Reef. Lucky for me, I not only had the opportunity to see it from beneath the ocean, but also from the air above. After much research into different boat tours, I booked a full day reef tour with Down Under Cruise & Dive on their brand new yacht, The Evolution. They have 12 exclusive moorings at six different reef locations and offer semi-submersible tours and scenic helicopter flights. The tour was really well run and the staff very friendly!
After a smooth, 90-minute boat ride, we arrived at our first dive spot: Norman Reef. There were a lot of people on board, but the reef was big enough, that it didn’t feel crowded at all.
The snorkeling was great, but I have to be honest, the coral was not as colorful as anticipated. I had the expectation that THE Great Barrier Reef was going to resemble the stereotypical rainbow-colored postcard we’ve all seen, with its bright reds, yellows, and purples, but that’s just not the case. The coral was more beige in color than anything. I know a lot of that may be due to bleaching of the coral and destruction by tourists, but it was still disappointing. Nonetheless, it was still a great place to snorkel and the fish were beautiful.
After being on the first reef for a couple hours, they served up a delicious BBQ lunch. There was sausages, prawns, steak, and an assortment of sides. After lunch, we headed to the second dive spot, North Hastings Reef, and I got ready for my helicopter ride!
Helicopter Tour over Great Barrier Reef
The scenic heli ride might have been my favorite part of the whole day! The only negative I have is that the helicopter was a bit cramped with 6 people plus the pilot.
They originally were going to seat me in the middle seat up front with the pilot and a very large man, but there was no way I would’ve been able to see out the window and get good pictures. So what did I do? Asked for the window… it might be awkward and they might tell you no, but doesn’t hurt to try! And I’m so glad I did because just look at these photos:
Had to get a helicopter selfie 😉
The views from above were incredible and well worth the $150 for a 10-minute flight, I promise you.
Semi-Submersible Boat Tour
After the helicopter was the semi-submersible boat tour. It was cool, but by the time we got to the second reef, the tide had come in and the water was a bit murky.
To go on the semi-submersible tour was only $10, which isn’t expensive and does give you some cool views granted the tide doesn’t muck up the water.
If you’re going to do the helicopter and the semi-submersible, then be prepared not to snorkel at the second site, there isn’t enough time to do all three. If you do the semi-sub, beware of the gas fumes, as they did make me a bit nauseous toward the end.
On the way back into port, the tour boat provided a complimentary glass of wine and cheese plate (read: box wine and 3 cheese cubes with crackers). But hey, I am never one to complain about free booze!
All throughout the day, the tour boat had photographers taking pictures underwater and out and about on the boat. No surprise, I was a sucker and bought 2 photos for the not so low price of $50. Yes, that’s crazy expensive for 2 photos that I probably could’ve taken better myself, but they are great quality and worth it for the memories.
All in all, I would highly recommend going out with Down Under Cruise and Dive. And remember, it’s not every day you’re on The Great Barrier Reef, so splurge on those cool extras — you won’t regret it!
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