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Tusa Dive – T6 Dive & Snorkel Review

Created by Julie under on Monday 22nd of August 2011

Tusa Dive has a proud 25 year history of providing first class Cairns Reef Tours to Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef. Since our last Tusa trip six months ago, the Cairns company has invested $3 million on a brand new, custom-built, 24m catamaran. Keen to take a trip on Cairns’ newest reef day tour boat, we boarded T6 and were excited to hear the captain announce that ‘the forecast for today is WICKED’. Tusa Dive delivers in spades to divers and snorkelers wanting a first class trip to the reef. The crew is friendly, the boat comfortable, the equipment new and the reef sites – excellent. A great day tour.

Waking early for our reef day tour, we felt a chill in the air as we headed down E-Finger on Cairns’ Marlin Marina. Later we discovered it was the coldest August morning Cairns had recorded in 58 years, with the temperature plummeting to 9.3 degrees Celsius at 6.15am (8 degrees below average). Despite the temperature, it was a beautiful day in the tropical port city with blue sky, sunshine and barely a cloud or breeze.

The friendly Tusa Dive crew greeted us at the end of the marina, welcoming us aboard at 7.40am. A quick souvenir photo was taken and we eagerly helped ourselves to the complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits (huge and delicious!) before registering as certified divers and heading out to explore the spacious new boat.

T6 is just as impressive as its predecessor T5, which is saying a lot, as T5 was considered by many to be the best reef day tour boat in Cairns. The new catamaran has a presence at the marina: its clean lines and stylish decal are the exterior packaging on a well planned and constructed reef day tour boat.

There are two sun decks, one at the bow and another elevated at the stern, two levels of air-conditioned interior with lounge style seating, four toilets (complete with hot water showers) and a spacious dive deck, well stocked with a range of new wetsuits, snorkeling and diving equipment.

Once all 53 guests were aboard, our captain for the day Richard officially welcomed us all with the greeting that ‘the forecast for today is wicked’. This set the tone for our morning. Richard let us know that we would be heading out to Saxon Reef today, introduced the crew and headed upstairs to prepare for departure.

Tusa Dive is licensed to visit 20 different Great Barrier Reef sites, choosing the best on the day to maximize visitor experience, pending weather and conditions.

Tusa Dive trip director Lucy then introduced everyone to each member of the crew individually, before running through the day’s itinerary, safety and comfort features of T6, and providing an introduction to the Great Barrier Reef and Tusa’s “no touch, tease, just leave” policy.

The briefing was thorough and concise. Lunch would be served buffet style inside, chips, chocolates, soft drinks and alcohol would be available throughout the day with an honesty system. Chilled water and sunblock was complimentary and provided at various points across the boat. A note on the alcohol though, for your own safety, you would not be allowed back in the water once alcohol was consumed, so Lucy suggested to enjoy the day and if you wanted, have a beer on the way home.

The onboard photographer spoke next, letting us know that she would be taking photos of everyone during the day, swimming, snorkeling and diving. These would all be available for preview at the end of the day, on the way back to Cairns. She also advised there were two underwater cameras available for hire, on a first in, first served basis.

While the presentations were being completed, T6 made its way out of Cairns Harbour and towards the Great Barrier Reef, our journey being tracked air-plane style on a map displayed on the interior, large plasma screens.

General information over, introductory divers were given a briefing downstairs, while certified divers headed upstairs and snorkelers could kick back and relax in the sunshine.

Of the 53 passengers aboard 33 were snorkelers, 10 were booked to try an introductory scuba dive, there was one open water referral student (completing the dive part of their Open Water Dive License) and the rest were certified divers.

The certified dive briefing commenced at 8.45am. Tusa Dive is one of the few day tour boats to give divers the choice of unguided dives (pending experience), or diving with one of their professional dive masters. In today’s group, four divers chose unguided (including ourselves) while the rest joined Jack Habib in his “Team Extreme” dive group.

As a part of his dive briefing, Jack advised that Saxon Reef always had good visibility and that we could expect around 15-20m today. Saxon Reef is one of the furthest sites from the mainland. Tusa Dive provides up to three (3) certified dives with each having a maximum dive time of 45 minutes. He also told us about the “Cinderella / Cinderfella” service provided on board, with the Tusa Dive crew helping to put on and take off your fins.

The day’s diving itinerary was outlined as being: first dive on arrival, with a 20-minute break, and then the second dive, followed by an hour break and finally the third dive, which would be at a new dive site. Our first dive would be at Saxon Reef’s Magic Wall. Jack showed us a dive site map and answered any questions.

With about 25-minutes to spare before we reached Saxon Reef, I flicked through the on-board “Tusa Dive Reef Ecology Compendium”, which was full of interesting Great Barrier Reef facts and information, including but not limited to:

  • The Great Barrier Reef is 348,000 square kilometers, the equivalent of 70 million football fields
  • It has over 30,000 species of crustaceans, including shrimps, crabs, crayfish and barnacles
  • About 50% of all mantis shrimp, krill and crabs in Australian waters are on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Mantis shrimp strike prey at the speed of 0.22 calibre bullet and can smash 2cm aquarium glass

First Dive 10.17am – Saxon Reef – Magic Wall. Splashing down into the 24 degrees Celsius water, it was clear from the beginning that visibility would be good, around 20m. Descending the line, we set out to explore the Magic Wall which was buzzing with schools of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. Yellow Damsels and Blue Devils greeted us first, followed by a pair of Double-saddle Butterflyfish. What looked like hundreds of black and white Humbugs darted around the hard corals, and moving on, we passed boulder coral festooned with Christmas Tree Worms and came across a large Scribbled Pufferfish (first time we’ve seen one of these) and Feather Stars. Definitely a highlight of dive one was seeing a juvenile Hawkesbill Turtle resting on the corals. We love turtles.

Back on board at 11am we ditched the tanks and headed out for a quick snorkel. The reef was just metres beneath the surface, making it excellent conditions for snorkelers. Lined surgeonfish streamed over the coral beds, brightly coloured clams grew amongst the hard and soft corals and Black Anemonefish darted in and out of their anemone home. To our absolute delight, we also saw another turtle, this time a magnificent Green Turtle grazing just metres beneath us, what a treat.

Second Dive 11.40am – Saxon Reef – Magic Wall. This time we decided to join Jack Habib on a guided dive, as earlier he had mentioned a cleaning station bommie, where we could get a ‘manicure’ from some friendly shrimp. Heading off to explore the wall in the other direction, we came across a beautiful clam and then a large Moray Eel, which swam out from its hiding place, revealing its size and grace. On our way to the bommie we also saw Clark’s Anemonefish, a Titan Triggerfish, a large Bumphead Parrotfish and five Crescent-tailed Bigeye resting underneath a ledge, amongst other things. The sandy bottom close to the bommie had Spotted Garden Eels popping up to say hello and then we reached the bommie, which was surrounded with uniforn fish and home to several clusters of Durban Hinge or Beaked Shrimp. Having a manicure by these cool little critters was definitely a memorable moment, and another “first” for me on the Great Barrier Reef.

Climbing back aboard T6 it was time for lunch, a delicious buffet of cold chicken and ham, soy noodles, pineapple pieces, bread rolls and pasta, potato and green salad. During lunch, an informative and interactive marine biologist presentation was provided, accompanied by images on the display screens, which was enjoyed by all. T6 also moved to a new reef location, Hastings Reef.

Third Dive 1.29pm – Hastings Reef – Fish Bowl. Aptly named, this dive site is home to numerous and diverse Great Barrier Reef fish. Some of the highlights included a close-up encounter with a Lionfish, seeing a fine example of a Bat fish, three types of anemonefish, including Black Anemonefish, Spine-cheeked Anemonefish and true Clown Anemonefish, an intriguing pair of Triangular Butterflyfish, Yellow-tailed Fusiliers, Orange-lined Triggerfish, Red-banded Wrasse, Giant Clams and much, much more. This was a brilliant dive site, with schools of fish steaming across the coral gardens and beds of staghorn corals.

Climbing back aboard T6, it was time to head back to Cairns. We enjoyed and appreciated the hot water shower on the dive deck, got dry, grabbed a cold beer and headed upstairs to complete our dive logs and discuss the things we had seen with the other divers.

T6 motored through the clear blue waters of the Coral Sea, making its way back to port. Much to the delight of everyone on board, we stopped about halfway through the journey to watch a Humpback Whale mother and calf frolicking in the waters just off the bow.

Arriving back into Cairns at around 4pm, T6 berthed at the Marlin Marina and satisfied guests disembarked to continue their holiday in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland.

THE VERDICT: T6 is Cairns’ newest and best Cairns reef day tour boat. The crew is professional and friendly, working tirelessly throughout the day to ensure all guests are comfortable and enjoying their experience on the Great Barrier Reef, whether they are swimming, snorkeling, trying an introductory dive or certified divers. The equipment is brand new, having been brought on board when the boat was launched on 10 August 2011. Service is with a smile and lunch is delicious and healthy. This is an excellent Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour with an Advanced Ecotourism certified operator.

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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

Review Image Gallery

Humpback Whales near Cairns - as seen with Tusa Dive Heading home in the sunshine Winter diving on Cairns Great Barrier Reef - 20m visibility Diving with Tusa Dive on Cairns Great Barrier Reef Giant Great Barrier Reef Clams Bat Fish at the Fish Bowl - Dive Review Spine-cheeked Anemonefish - Hastings Reef Diving Spine-cheeked Anemonefish NEMO - always love to see you here Triangular Butterflyfish Orange-lined Triggerfish & Yellow-tailed Fusilier James - the Red-breasted Wrasse at the Fish Bowl Clam in corals - Hastings Reef - Cairns Great Barrier Reef Winter diving on Cairns Great Barrier Reef Great Barrier Reef Fish - Cairns Diving over staghorn corals - Fish Bowl - Hastings Reef Butterflyfish at the Fish Bowl - Cairns Great Barrier Reef Hastings Reef - Fish Bowl - Dive Review Clam with Black Anemonefish and Yellow Damsel at Hastings Reef Tusa Dive Trip Review Hard to get a good picture - Durban Hinge Shrimp Durban Hinge Shrimp giving me a manicure Durban Hinge Shrimp at Cleaning Station Unicorn Fish - Saxon Reef Diving Saxon Reef, Great Barrier Reef Bumphead Parrotfish cruising the Great Barrier Reef Clark's Anemonefish on Saxon Reef Missed getting the shot - massive Moray Eel Blue Clam on Saxon Reef Jack shows you some of the reef and its critters Guided dives with Jack Habib on Tusa Dive Beautiful blue waters - put yourself in the picture Getting close to turtles while snorkelling Saxon Reef Snorkelling with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling we saw a Green Turtle on Saxon Reef Reef is just beneath you Snorkelling conditions were excellent T6 anchored at Saxon Reef Hard and soft corals across the site Feather Stars on Saxon Reef's Magic Wall Love diving with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef Hawkesbill Turtle on Saxon Reef Scribbled Pufferfish at Saxon Reef Saxon Reef Dive Review Christmas Tree worms on Saxon Reef Cool coral on the Great Barrier Reef Choose between guided and unguided dives Great visibility and lots of fish Setting out to explore Magic Wall Getting ready to dive Saxon Reef and Magic Wall Jack Habib gives a dive briefing upstairs T6 comfortable lounge style seating Friendly Staff - T6 Trip Director Lucy T6 Captain Richard, steers us to sea Snorkellers on the sundeck New dive equipment on board T6 Sorting equipment, ready for diving Everyone settles in - ready for the trip Grab a complimentary biscuit, tea and coffee New wetsuits Spacious dive deck with new equipment T6 is custom built for reef touring T6 is Cairns newest and best reef day tour boat Tusa Dive Trip Review - 20 August 2011

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