Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

For as long as I can remember, I have been enamored with visiting the Great Barrier Reef. The vastness of the reef, coupled with the variety of animal and fish life, inspired my imagination. In reality, the reef is much more delicate, sensitive to warming sea temperatures and in need of protection from the one animal on the planet that holds the most influence and power – humans.

In order to really understand the reef, you need to see it from the air. We decided to catch a ride with Nautilus Aviation on one of their helicopter tours, which would bring us out to the platform, where we’d be spending the day with Reef Magic Marine World Tours.

The platform sits at the edge of the reef, far from shore. They offer something for every level of fear, um, I mean skill: glass bottom boats, submersibles, helmet diving, traditional diving, and my favorite, snorkeling. There is also a lunch buffet. Everyone loves lunch!

Australia has a reputation for harboring the most number of species that can kill you. We didn’t encounter any, but November is jellyfish season, so they provided us with full wetsuits, so we wouldn’t die getting stung by the box jellyfish. Nasty things.

Keeping that in the way-back of my mind, snorkeling was otherwise so exciting, it was hard to calm my breathing. There was so much to see, and there really wasn’t enough time. I felt that the whole day just whooshed by. Wisely, I booked a different tour for the following day with Seastar, their Michaelmas Cay & Hastings Reef Tour.

The Seastar tour was a simple catamaran ride out to two different anchor locations, one on a sandbar and another in deeper waters. They offered some of the same things as the other tour, but the catamaran was home for the day, and quarters were tighter.

My advice here is to allow yourself more time on the reef. The tours seem to go so fast, and you’re not the only one there. As with anything popular, the more money you spend, the more individualized tour you can have.

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