For my birthday I had booked a short trip up to Airlie Beach, Queensland and planned on spending one day of my trip snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef.
I have always been fascinated by the GBR and so I booked a full day cruise with a snorkel excursion departing from the Port of Airlie. I couldn’t have been more excited to explore the famous and imposing reefs!
In this post, I will show you what it was like, which fishes and other wildlife I encountered on this once in a lifetime adventure.
great barrier reef tours
I booked my day trip through Cruise Whitsundays. They are a major tour operator with many amazing cruises departing daily.
Since I was only able to take a couple of days of work, I was only able to do one tour. So obviously I opted to go on the Great Barrie Reef Full Day Adventure.
This cruise company has its own platoon 39 nautical miles from shore at spectacular Hardy Reef. Close to a spectacular reef filled with lots of wildlife.
The cruise takes you along the Whitsundays Islands offering a stunning view during the return trip. You spend 4 hours at Hardy Reef and they offer all snorkeling equipment including wetsuits and stinger suits. (So sexy both worth it).
They also offer a free semi-submarine guided tour which takes you along the reef, which is perfect for people who don’t want to swim.
You get a very good lunch whilst at the platoon and on the way back you also get some snacks.
THE TRIP TO HARDY REEF
You have to arrive at the Port of Airlie at 7.30 am for an 8 am departure. They left right on time and after some safety instructions, we were off. The ocean was calm, so all was well.
Our first stop was Hamilton Island to drop off and pick up some more guest. This island looks awful and I would not want to stay here… Ever 🙂 Just look at that blue water and waving palm trees, no thank you.
There were no more pick up or drop offs after that and we headed out to the reef.
The views along the way were pretty spectacular, though the entire trip didn’t feel like it was that long.
After a couple of hours, you all of a sudden see a change in watercolor. A crystal blue color is clearly visible from the boat, meaning that we had made it to the reef.
After strapping into my stinger suit, flippers, and snorkel gear, I took a leap of faith and jumped in. Once I was submerged, I was immediately surrounded by hundreds of fish. I guess they live near the platoon, hoping for some food. The reef was literally 10 meters from the platoon, so I kicked my flippers twice and I was right underneath the coral.
The coral is very impressive and the reef itself just doesn’t end. You can snorkel for hours just looking down, chasing fish.
I hired a GoPro from the cruise itself, but it turns out that 1) I am not a good underwater photographer and 2) that thing died on me during my guided tour, losing 30 minutes of footage. So great.
TOP TIP: The guy on the cruise told me that the best way to capture things underwater is by filming. That way you have things on film and you can take a screenshot of it. Often turtles etc just shoot past so you don’t have time, so keep the camera filming constantly, so you don’t miss out.
THE SNORKELING SAFARI
When booking my cruise, I also purchased a snorkeling safari. This is a guide snorkeling trip with an expert who tells you all about the marine life, the reef and points out interesting fish and lots of fun facts.
I got taken out by a small boat and got dropped off further down the reef from where the platoon is. Here there was no one else, just myself, the guide and a couple. The guide showed us the reef and taught us a thing or two about the wildlife there. Since you are in the middle of the ocean, it is pretty cool, and with no one else around and a steep cliff underneath you, you sometimes feel like jaws can pop up any minute. It didn’t happen and we didn’t even see anything remotely dangerous but still.
The safari is an additional $59 on top of the cruise. It is a bit steep, but it is a pretty cool experience. I booked it as I will probably never go back to the reef, so I want to get the most out of it. So yes, it is a lot of money and it’s your personal preference if you are willing to spend that money, but as I said: It’s probably a once in a lifetime experience.
After 3 snorkeling sessions, I was exhausted. So I grabbed some lunch on the deck which consisted of a buffet. Fresh fruit, seafood, chicken, salad and bread rolls where just some of the things you can have for free. There are some things that you have to pay extra for, like Chocolate and Ice Cream.
I had to eat quickly as I wanted to go on the last semi-submarine ride. This boat is half submerged underneath the water and passed along the reef for 30 minutes. It comes with a guide who provided a lot of information about the reef and its wildlife. We were very lucky to spot a pretty large turtle twice, which was pretty cool.
The platoon is the home base of Cruise Whitsundays. On there they have a massive lounge deck on top and all their equipment at the bottom. They have snorkeling sets, stinger suites and wetsuits, a lot of flippers and tables and chairs to relax on.
The platoon is mere meters from the reef, so you don’t have to swim too far to reach it.
It is well maintained and are (As far as I know) pretty environmentally friendly.
|Pack some insect repellent – Airlie beach is absolutely amazing! but unfortunately, the area is loaded with nasty mosquitoes that would love nothing more than to suck your blood and leaving you itch’n and scratch’n.|
|Tropical Beaches Harbor Hidden Dangers – Tranquil and lovely, as all people do you will hear the turquoise waters of Airlie Beach calling you to go in for a swim. HOWEVER! Take note…that Box jellyfish(most dangerous jelly in the world) and Irukandji stingers are dangerous and lurking around between October and May. Do not swim in the ocean(unless you’re a superhero with water changing abilities) instead choose the local free pool or lagoon to cool you down.|
|So cliche- but slip, slop,slap ! You will regret not taking a hat and applying sunscreen – the Aussie sun is unforgiving, even on cloudy days.|
|If you are not used to being at sea, make sure to bring some tablets that will help with motion sickness. I always take Travacalm, which helps me tremendously.|
|Be careful with your camera and other electronic equipment at Whitehaven beach– because the sand is so fine, it may get inside your equipment and break it. NOOOO!|
|Showers on boats are very limited. So bring dry shampoo and baby wipes to make yourself feel a bit cleaner unless of course, you like that ocean water feel, you do you dude! 😉|
Have you been to the Great Barrier Reef? What did you think? Enjoyed it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments below.
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