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Visiting the Great Barrier Reef: Top Tips

  1. Motion Sickness can be completely avoided by taking some preventative medication, at least 30-minutes prior to boarding your boat. If there is any chance that you may be affected by motion sickness, it is highly recommended you take some preventative medication (such as Kwells), as there is nothing worse than being sick at sea during your Great Barrier Reef visit.
  2. Sun protection on Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef is essential. Cairns is a tropical city and the sun is both hot and damaging to unprotected skin. Make sure you take and apply (throughout the day) a sunscreen with a high SPF rating (30 + is recommended). Look for sunscreens that are waterproof and make sure you apply before you start to burn: once you are red, it is already too late.
  3. Sunglasses and hats are highly recommended for any trip to the Great Barrier Reef. As an added protection from the sun, take a light, long-sleeved shirt.
  4. Wetsuits, stinger suits and lycra suits are available on most Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour and liveaboard boats. For your comfort and safety, it is highly recommended that you wear these when in the water, especially during the summer months. Although it is unlikely that you will be stung by a marine stinger on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, it is better to be safe than sorry. Stinger suits are also highly recommended when swimming in the waters off Green and Fitzroy Islands and the Frankland Islands Group, especially in summer (December to March).
  5. Sharks do live on the Great Barrier Reef: they are a vital element of its ecosystem. However, you are unlikely to see a shark on most Cairns snorkel trips. Divers may be lucky enough to see some reef sharks, which are often resting on the sandy bottom and are very shy. If you do see a reef shark, just watch and keep your distance: they will usually swim away, as they are very timid creatures.
  6. Cairns Great Barrier Reef Seasons. There is no “best time” to visit the Great Barrier Reef: it can be enjoyed throughout the year. In the summer months (December to March) the weather is warm and the water temperature is around 30 degrees. Water clarity is generally good, especially in Outer Great Barrier Reef locations. This is the ‘wet’ time of year and tropical cyclones are sometimes active in the region, along with monsoonal rainfall patterns. Autumn cools down slightly, there is generally less rain: autumn Great Barrier Reef water temperatures average 26 degrees. Winter has low humidity, clear skies and low rainfall on Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef, with an average water temperature of 24 degrees. This is the best time of year to see migrating whales. Spring is the time of year that Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef reproduces, through an annual cycle known as coral spawning. This mass event happens once a year: timing is dependent on moon cycles and water temperatures. For more information visit our Dive Seasons on Cairns Great Barrier Reef page.

  7. All Cairns Reef Tour operators (boats, pontoons and islands) have licensed bars. Please note you will not be allowed to scuba dive if you have consumed alcohol and it is recommended to not snorkel or swim if you have been drinking. It is best to stay hydrated with fresh, clean water throughout the day, enjoying a cool drink on the homeward journey.
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Selected Tours

Sunlover Cruises

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Outer Reef Pontoon at Moore Reef, with lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat and semi-sub tours, underwater observatory and more.
Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

Silverswift Dive & Snorkel

Only Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour to visit 3 different reef sites in one day! Part of the Quicksilver Cruises fleet. Comfortable, high speed catamaran. Up to 5 hours at the reef.
Silverswift At The Reef

Quicksilver Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises

The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Cruise - Quicksilver Cruises provides the only Port Douglas Great Barrier Reef pontoon tour, departing Marina Mirage daily. Can snorkel and dive, Semi-Submarines & Underwater Observatory.

Sunlover Arlington Reef Half Day Tour

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Arlington Reef Pontoon see the Outer Great Barrier Reef in half a day. Includes Snorkeling, Underwater Observitory and BBQ Lunch.

Skedaddle: Half Day Snorkel Tour

Skedaddle provide Cairns half day snorkel tours to the Great Barrier Reef. Check in at 8.30am. Enjoy 2 hours snorkelling time on the reef, with all equipment and guides included. Great value.
Cairns Half Day Snorkel Tours

Deep Sea Divers Den: Sea Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included.

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Free guided snorkelling tours, introductory and certified diving. Brand new boat (December 2015).
Down Under Dive Evolution

Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive / snorkel trips to Paradise Reef on 25m brand new sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
The Passions of Paradise boat Cairns Australia

Deep Sea Divers Den: Reef Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included. New boat (Dec 2015).

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Cruises

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers a great value for money option for people to join a large stable boat that spends 5 hours at a beautiful reef location. Free guided snorkel tour, glass bottom boat tour and marine presentation.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Boat at the Great Barrier Reef.

Seastar Cruises

Seastar provides daily dive and snorkel tours to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Up to 5 hours at the reef and 2 guided snorkel tours included.

Reef Experience

Cairns' only fully inclusive day tour, including: city transfers, trip to Great Barrier Reef, 6 hours on reef, 2 reef locations, meals, free scuba dive, marine biologist presentation & equipment.
Fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef day tours with Reef Experience

Tusa Dive T6

Tusa Dive provide quality Great Barrier Reef snorkel / dive day tours on one of Cairns' newest reef day boats, T6. Up to 5 hours on the reef, visiting 2 locations. Great service - all meals included.
Tusa at the Reef

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.
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns

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.

M.V. Reef Kist – Cairns Dive Centre (Island Diver)

Great value one of Cairns cheapest day boats to the Great Barrier Reef. Full day snorkeling visiting 2 x Reef Locations. Includes lunch and all snorkel gear.
Cairns Dive Centre

Poseidon Snorkel and Dive

Poseidon provides daily tours from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, visiting three (3) separate reef sites. Suitable for divers and snorkelers.

Reef Magic – Marine World

Up to 5 hours at the reef. Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon with fabulous coral gardens. Meet Wally! Lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat, semi-sub, underwater observatory and more.
Reef Magic Outer Reef Scuba Diving

Great Adventures: Outer Reef

Leaves later than most (10am) and provides up to 3 hours at their outer reef pontoon. Enjoy the sun deck, underwater observatory, semi-submersible and many optional extras.
Great Adventures

Silversonic – Port Douglas

Silversonic provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting the ribbon reefs at Agincourt Reef. 5 hours at reef and up to 3 dives.

Great Adventures: Green Island & Great Barrier Reef

This is the only Cairns day tour to combine time on Green Island with a visit to a Great Barrier Reef pontoon. Best of both worlds. Suitable for snorkellers and divers.
Great Adventures Green Island & Reef Package

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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