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Sand Cay Diving – Michealmas and Upolu Cays

Cairns diving day tours visit Michaelmas and Upolu Cays, offering a combination of open water diving and lagoon-style diving. Several operators provide these tours, allowing you to choose between motor / sail boats and comfortable cruisers. These tours offer excellent diving conditions, suitable for beginners through to experienced divers.

The Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park is 41km north-east of Cairns and travel time is anywhere from 90-minutes to 2-hours. These sites are generally not affected by coastal conditions and visibility is variable pending weather and time of day, but is usually anywhere from 10 – 20m.

Michealmas and Upolu Cays Dive Sites

Dive site depth varies, but as all dives on Cairns sand cay dive tours are guided, the maximum depth you will reach is 18m. On the journey to the cays, Dive Instructors will check your dive certification cards, issue equipment and provide safety and information briefings.

Choose between one or two dives on these trips, spending the rest of the time snorkeling and visiting the coral cays. These trips are visually spectacular above the water, with the white sand rising out of the blue water and in the case of Michaelmas Cay, providing an important breeding ground for many species of sea birds.

Nemo at Michealmas Cay

Nemo at Michealmas Cay

Turtle at Upulo Cay

Turtle at Upulo Cay

Diving at Michealmas Cay

Diving at Michealmas Cay


All sand cay dive trips include a reef dive site and another dive around the cay. Depending who you choose, the maximum time at the reef is six (6) hours. The reef dive sites are generally limited to one or two operators and may be a bommie or wall dive. Either way, you can expect to see lots of different types of Great Barrier Reef fish, hard and soft corals, feather stars, clams, sea squirts, nudibranchs, sea fans and more.

Closer to the cays you are likely to encounter giant clams, soft corals, anemone shrimp, sea cucumbers and schools of smaller fish. In fact, the waters surrounding Michaelmas Cay are home to some of the largest giant clams we have ever seen, really impressive!

About Michealmas and Upolu Cays

Both cays are surrounded by clear waters with healthy reef systems and a diverse array of marine life. Michaelmas Cay has some vegetation and can be home to up to 20,000 breeding pairs of birds at any one time. People access to the cay is limited to the roped off areas, ensuring day visitors do not trample the nests. Uplou Cay is ‘newer’ than Michaelmas and does not support any vegetation – it is a ‘pure’ sand cay.

Michealmas Cay

Michealmas Cay

Upulo Cay

Upulo Cay

Seastar at Michealmas Cay

Seastar at Michealmas Cay


Michaelmas and Upolu Reefs are a part of the Arlington Reef system, included in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Cairns Dive Adventures has been to Michaelmas and Upolu Cays. We are not affiliated with any of the boats. We are Cairns locals, trying to help visitors have the best time they can, on the amazing Great Barrier Reef. This website is funded and built by us: we make commission from your tour bookings. We hope the information is of some assistance and thank you for your support.

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Sand Cay Diving Tours

Frankland Islands

This dive and snorkel reef day tour departs from Deeral, which is 40-minutes south of Cairns, and visits the Frankland Islands group which is surrounded by fringing reefs.
$159
The Frankland Islands Group of Islands.


Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive / snorkel trips to Michaelmas Cay & Paradise Reef on 25m sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
$169
Passions of Paradise at Michaelmas Cay, Great Barrier Reef


Ocean Spirit Cruises – Michaelmas Cay

Ocean Spirit Cruises provide a luxury sailing catamaran to Michaelmas Cay. This trip is suited to swimmers, snorkelers and families. Often Sea Turtles are seen from the beach. All meals included.
$194


Ocean Freedom

Locally owned & operated. 5 star service. Up to 6 hours snorkel / dive time at 2 Great Barrier Reef locations. Best reef tour lunch in town. Friendly crew, glass bottom boat tour & much more.
$195
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns


Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.

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