CAIRNS REEF TOURS FAQ
Are there prescription lenses on boats?
Yes. Most boats have prescription lenses however please let us know your prescription when booking so that we can make sure you have the best opportunity to see the reef.
How deep is the Great Barrier Reef?
The reef boats that you travel on when visit on the outer reef will generally anchor in sheltered coral lagoons. The water on the Great Barrier Reef can be very deep however, your reef trip vessel will be moored in water up to 35 metres deep but, more likely to be about 15 metres deep.
Can I touch the bottom?
No. You will be moored in water that is too deep to stand in. Coral bommies will be close to the surface and in some cases above the surface depending on tides, however you cannot touch or stand on the Great Barrier Reef.
Do I need to be able to swim to snorkel?
All boats provide life jackets and flotation devices however it is important that you’re confident in the water. All boats do have life guards. Ideally it is best to have swimming skills to enjoy snorkelling.
When is the best time to visit the reef?
Fish and reef colours are much more vibrant on sunny days. The water in North Queensland is warm year round.
Can we still visit the reef when it’s raining?
Yes. The fish and coral continue to go about their daily lives. Once you are in the water you will not notice it’s raining. Often it is raining in the early morning in Cairns but clears during the day.
How long is the boat ride to the Great Barrier Reef?
Most tours to the Outer Reef from Cairns cruise for ninety minutes to get to their destination.
Do I need a wetsuit?
The waters off Cairns are quite warm. It is not necessary to wear a wetsuit when swimming and snorkelling. Waters average between 18 and 23 degrees.
Do I need to bring my own swimmers and towel?
Yes. The lycra suits and wetsuits are not swimsuits. Towels are not provided on any reef trips.
Can I bring my own underwater camera?
Yes. However, you cannot use it when you are doing an introductory dive.
Can I bring my own mask, snorkel and fins?
Yes. That’s no worries at all.
What is a pontoon?
A number of operators have a fixed steel platform that is anchored to the sea bed at their snorkel/dive site. Their boats moor up to the activity pontoon where there is usually an underwater observatory, wide stairs and lowered platforms for easy access into the water, undercover tables and chairs, changing rooms, marine life touch tank, in some cases…sunlounge on an upper floor and access to the glass bottom boat and semi-submarine tours. Pontoon trips are great for families with young children and non-swimmers. Pontoon trips only visit one destination at the outer reef.
What is a semi-submarine?
A semi-submersible or semi-submarine is a coral viewing vessel with stairs that go down into the hull where you will find seating and many windows. These semi-submersible tours usually run for around 25 minutes and cruise around bommies at the outer reef. It is an excellent insight into the underwater world without swimming or getting wet. All pontoon operators have a semi-submarine tour included in their day. Some also have a glass bottom boat additional to the semi-sub.
Is the Great Barrier Reef dead?
No. There have been severe bleaching events on parts of the Great Barrier Reef especially in Northern areas of Cape York. However, thankfully the reefs off Cairns have been relatively lucky. Reef tour operators visit reefs that have not been damaged by bleaching events. The most recent bleaching was in 2016 and the reef is currently recovering well.
Are there sharks on the Great Barrier Reef?
Yes. The sharks we see most commonly are black tip and white tip reef sharks. They are shy and harmless. Usually these sharks will swim away before you see them. Large sharks such as the Great White prefer cold water in the Southern Ocean and does not visit North Queensland.
Can I take seasick tablets?
Yes you can, but it’s not recommended if you’re diving.
Will I see turtles, dolphins or whales?
It is very likely you will see turtles. Dolphins are sometimes seen splashing behind the boats on the way back into Cairns. Humpback whales make an appearance in our waters between June and September. Whichever outer Barrier Reef tour you decide to book, there is no doubt you will see a multitude of colourful marine life.
Can I swim with the dolphins?
No. We do not have a tour where you can swim with dolphins in North Queensland.
Where can I learn about the Great Barrier Reef before I go?
There is a small organisation called Reef Teach that runs talks on the reef 3 evenings a week. Many visitors highly recommend this as it gives them a richer experience once at the reef. The Cairns aquarium is also a great place to visit.
If the reef trip is cancelled due to bad weather do I get my money back?
Yes, if the reef trip is cancelled by the operator you are refunded in full.
If the weather is not good can I change the date of my trip?
Yes, but please make sure to confirm this with us the day prior. We are happy to change if there is availability and the operator is not going to penalise. It is not possible to change the date on the day.
Can I fly after diving?
It’s fine to fly in and do a dive straight away however you will need to allow 18 hours before flying after your dive.
What footwear should I wear?
Once you are on-board you will be asked to remove your shoes.
What’s included in reef trips?
All reef trips include snorkel gear, mask, fins, snorkel. A cup of tea or coffee in the morning. Lunch. Afternoon tea or coffee. The price of the trip will dictate the difference in the quality of the vessel, the quality of the gear, the quality and abundance of the lunch, morning and afternoon tea.
I get seasick. Is there a closer reef destination?
No, but there are some beautiful islands only 45 minutes from Cairns.
Green Island is a beautiful small coral cay only a 45 minute cruise from Cairns. Formed approximately 6000 years ago by waves depositing sand onto its coral foundation, the island is protected and in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The beach is sandy and is surrounded by shallow waters. There are pretty coral gardens and sea grass beds surrounding Green Island however if you have flown to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef in all its magnificence we do not suggest this daytrip as your best opportunity to view the Great Barrier Reef. However, we do suggest this is a wonderful island daytrip or holiday destination where you can soak up the magnificent tropical beauty in clean clear waters.
Is Fitzroy Island on the Great Barrier Reef?
Fitzroy Island is only a 45 minute cruise from Cairns. Fitzroy Island is a continental island that separated from the Australian mainland about 8000 years ago. The island is surrounded by a reef system that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef. If you have flown to Australia to see the Great Barrier Reef Fitzroy Island would not be your best opportunity to see the Reef in all its magnificence. However, Fitzroy Island is a fabulous island to spend a day or a holiday in the pristine waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
Are there any half day outer reef trips?
No, but there is an outer reef trip that departs at 10.30am. This is the latest departure.
What does EMC stand for?
EMC is Environmental Management charge or reef tax. This charge is compulsory and paid by every visitor to the Great Barrier Reef. Some operators include the EMC in the total price and some operators don’t. All of the prices on this website include the EMC so there will be no surprises for you at check-in. Although it is compulsory to advertise the price of reef trips with the EMC included please be aware that some websites advertise the price of the reef trip without the EMC included.