Great barrier Reef visit with Cruise Whitsundays
Many people have “Visit the Great Barrier Reef” on their bucket list, and for good reason. The reef is made up of 2300 kms of living coral, and hundreds of thousands of fish, shark, Jellyfish, turtles and more. Located in the sunny state of Queensland, Australia, the reef is a marine reserve covering more than 340,000 square kilometers. To put it simply, it is HUGE!
I journeyed to the reef with the guys from Cruise Whitsundays and spent a day out at their purpose-built ReefWorld pontoon. A trip to the reef costs $225 per adult and $99 per child. There is also an option to sleep over at ReefSleep, a second pontoon on the reef. I chose this tour company because they offer one of the best day trips to the reef with plenty of inclusions and activities to do. They are also a sister company to the Fiji day trip cruise I blogged about recently too. So I knew they were going to be a fantastic day out!
I was picked up from my hotel early in the morning, for me, it was 7:40am as we had to get a ferry from Daydream island first, but those staying on Hamilton Island do get a bit of a longer sleep in. The main ferry to the reef leaves at 9am from Hamilton Island, and takes 2 hours to reach the final destination. During this time the crew explain safety procedures, and run through the activities offered on board. Morning tea of fresh fruit is also served, and tea and coffee is available free of charge all day long.
The day trip option gives you around 4 hours on the reef, which is plenty of time to enjoy the activities on offer. For those who don’t want to get their feet wet, there are still some fantastic ways for them to enjoy the underwater world too.
The Semi Submersible is an included excursion that seats 44 passengers at a time.The boat goes out every half an hour or so, and the journey lasts around 20-25 minutes. From the bottom of the boat, we were able to gaze through the glass windows at the reef while a marine biologist explained what fish we were seeing, and let us know a few special things about them. My favourite, was the Maori Wrasse, one of the largest fish living on the reef. There is the resident Wrasse under the pontoon who loves to photo bomb the underwater photos- he was massive! No one knows exactly how old he is, but you can almost guarantee he will be swimming about there when you visit.
Also on board was a viewing deck, which worked much the same as the semi submersible, only it was static the whole time. I highly recommend getting on to the semi sub first, and visiting the viewing deck on the pontoon later.
For those who like to experience the reef first hand and get wet, snorkelling equipment is included on board, along with stinger suits. They have both adults and kids sized snorkels, and the staff are happy to help fit them if your unsure of your childs fit. If you require prescription lenses, they do also have a limited supply available. The staff run free snorkeling tours at various intervals throughout the day, giving you the option to swim with them, and have someone show you all of the best spots to find fish.
Wether you are PADI certified or not, you are able to scuba dive with the instructors a certified diver can go deeper, and only requires a buddy to dive. Make sure you bring along your dive book to log the dive. The introductory dive ($125pp) includes 2 instructors guiding you on your first ever dive. They will ensure you are safe and comfortable at all times. You will only go down to a maximum of 6 meters. Scuba gives you the opportunity to view the reef from below, it’s a wonderful sight!
If you are certified, you can do down to 30meters and you can book up to 3 dives for the day.
High fliers will enjoy booking a scenic helicopter flight over the reef- make sure you book in right away as spots do fill up quickly. There are 3 options, a 10minute ride, 20minutes or the big one- a helicopter ride all the way home from the reef! Prices start at $125 per person, and take in the sights of the reef, with a special fly over the romantic heart shaped reef. If your planning anything special, this is the place to do it, just let the pilot know beforehand.
The buffet lunch is served at 12pm, and stays open until 1:30pm. Vegetarians rejoice! The buffet has plenty of salad options, Cous Cous, Green Bean Salad, Coleslaw, Chickpea Salad, and regular green salad. For the meat eaters, Chicken drumsticks, Ham and fresh prawns add to the feast. There was also plenty of bread, rolls and flat breads, and a yummy hot corn soup… no one will go hungry!
Drinks are available for purchase: cans of soft drinks, beers, ciders and pre mixed spirits, all at reasonable prices. Don’t worry if you forget cash, you can pay with eftpos or credit card by setting up a tab and paying it before you leave the boat at the end of the day.
For families, one of the best features of the day trip is the photo package. Make sure you ask the staff about this when you board the boat, and they will follow your family around taking pictures of the day, so no one is left out of the family snaps. They can take underwater shots while you snorkel, or through the window of the underwater viewing deck. You will get a variety of shots throughout the day on a CD, along with a reef documentary and additional professional reef shots for only $125. A Single image is $25. Fantastic value!
The day trip to the Reef was Amazing! Make sure you book this in with your travel agent before you leave home, as over peak season the trip does reach capacity and you will be left in Hamilton Island if its already full!