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!
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. 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. But, 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!
PS – stay tuned for posts on the rest of my trip up to North Queensland!