How to Choose a Great Barrier Reef Trip
No visit to beautiful, tropical Far North Queensland is complete without a trip to the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Personally I love going to the reef. I’ve been three times with three different companies, and each time was amazing. Plenty of visitors to the area are incredibly concerned with choosing the right company and boat to take them to the reef. There’s plenty of choice and different factors to consider, however I have to say I haven’t spoken to anyone who has been to the reef and returned saying that they WOULDN’T recommend the company they went with. That said, here are some things to think about…
Diving vs. Snorkelling
Some boats only take snorkelers, whilst others take both snorkelers and divers. So if you want to snorkel there are more options. Another thing you should know, however, is that even people who have never been scuba diving can enjoy an introductory dive on the Great Barrier Reef – how cool is that? Personally I think it’s too good an opportunity to miss. There are several boats that provide this, however I did mine with Diver’s Den – read all about it here. I would definitely recommend an intro dive with them, and they often offer free intro dives throughout the year if you book the day trip with them. If you prefer not to get wet at all, Quicksilver take guests to a platoon with a viewing room where you can watch the reef activity without swimming through it.
Price and time
To be honest, most of the full day tours cost roughly the same amount. They have to compete with each other after all. The ones that are slightly more expensive, it’s usually easy to see the extra value that you get. For example, I went to the outer reef with Sailaway which is a wee bit more expensive that some other companies. However in return for that extra $20 or so, you get to enjoy a gorgeous, big boat shared amongst just a relatively small number of passengers, indulge with plenty of space, and be fed snacks regularly across the day. If you’re on a tight budget, the best way to cut costs is to take a half-day trip. Of course, this is also useful if you don’t have that much time. Look at Calypso or Reef Sprinter for shorter reef trips.
So the Great Barrier Reef is huge. Most boats will take you to either the Low Isles or one or more locations on the outer reef. The outer reef offers better visibility, however this only really matters on a day with poor visibility in general. Personally I tend to opt for the outer reef, however pros of the low isles are:
Shorter travel time, increased snorkelling/ island time
Swimming from an island rather than a boat is preferable for some, particularly less confident swimmers
I’ve been told that its preferred by smokers as there is a smoking area on the island
The first time I went to the reef, I was with my partner and his family. We chose to go to the Low Isles with Wavedancer as Conor’s dad Noel isn’t much of a swimmer and didn’t fancy swimming from a boat. We all had a fantastic day, and when Noel had given swimming a go he could relax on the island, and even take a walking tour of the island whilst we went for another snorkel.
Small boat vs big boat
Small boats such as Reef Sprinter or Shaolin carry less passengers, whereas Quicksilver is a huge boat that can take plenty of people.
So there’s my top points to consider. I would love to work my way through all of the boats to learn the pros and cons of each one, however for now I will say that I had an amazing time at the reef each time, and these were the companies I went with: