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Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

The end of April we are planning to head to Australia for a significant birthday. We do know about the school holidays and if we come before that is over we will stay in Sydney during that time. We will have 19 nights on the ground, jet lag is gonna be bad I assume. Right now we are planning 4-5 nights Sydney, 3-4 nights Red Centre (Kings Canyon/Uluru), then the remainder at the reef. We are very experienced at snorkeling and have our own equipment, not sure we will haul them to Australia but they have been hauled to Hawaii and the Caribbean many times. I have read a lot about Cairns/Port Douglas and Daintree and Kuranda. I also know this is stinger season and we will have to wear stinger suits there. Also wondered about southern GBR, no stinger suits needed it appears. Looking at Lady Elliot Island for 1-2 nights and looking at liveaboards (2-3 nights out of Cairns/Port Douglas) for part of the time . I have a couple questions. Should I only stay in one area of the reef for 9 nights? Or should we break it up? Lady Elliot is not easy to get to, I do realize I have to fly between cities and a very expensive flight to the island with only a small weight ( hope they don't count my husbands cpap or we are in trouble). Is the snorkeling better in the northern vs southern GBR? Snakes, sharks and crocs are not my friend. Sea snakes are a whole new animal. I am praying I see none of them. I have seen reef sharks in Hawaii and Caribbean before. Any place in Southern GBR that has liveaboards that people recommend? Thanks for any help!

Posted by
153 posts

I planned my Melbourne- Sydney- Blue Mtn overnight- Cairns-Uluru 3+ week trip July, 2018 using a lot of archived and personal responses from Trip Advisor online for each region. You quickly learn who the local regular responders are. They have really insightful info for weather, etc- discussed at as great lengths as the RS "packing light" threads! I would pose your query there. Although a reef flight out of Cairns seemed tacky I was actually moved to then later see a part from the air leaving Cairns for Uluru. You get a tiny sense of its size you don't get in the water. Lastly, the Red Centre will be another area to read archived opinions regarding- it is vast.

Posted by
81 posts

When you are in Cairns/Port Douglas I would definitely suggest making some time to see Daintree rainforest - it was very interesting. We found a good small group tour that included a guide who explained what we were seeing - you can find those on Trip Advisor along with lots of reviews. That's also how we found the boat that we went on for a full day of snorkeling and diving and they provided the stinger suits that we used. There are lots of options to choose from. I second the suggestion about using the Trip Advisor forum - there are some very helpful, knowledgeable people on there who were super helpful when we were planning our trip.

Posted by
115 posts

I spent a couple of weeks on the GBR a few years ago and loved it. I spent 5 days at an eco resort, reachable only by helicopter, near Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays. They had a boat and we sailed, snorkeled and explored. Unfortunately the resort was destroyed by a cyclone a few years later. Then I stayed with friends in Cairns and did a day sailing trip out to a cay on the reef and had a wonderful day of snorkeling, no sharks or sea snakes, or Sea crocs but lots of fantastic corals, sea turtles, clown fish etc. Fantastic! Overall the snorkeling was better off Cairns, I thought. Airlie Beach has lots of boat rentals maybe that would be the place for help with a liveaboard.

I do remember the delightful flight from Hamilton Island over the GBR....it was a prop plane so flew at about 5,000 ft.

Cairns has lots of companies doing tours, snorkel trips etc. I did a trip up to Kurunda, as well as the snorkel trip. Lots of interesting places to visit around Cairns and northern Queensland.

Posted by
679 posts

We stayed in Cairns and did a couple of days of snorkeling. One was to the observation place where all the boats go and another was a catamaran out to an isolated island with snorkeling along the island. It was truly magical. So anyway you go, ENJOY! We went in April also and it was magical. If you have not signed up for the dinner at Uluru-do so). It was one of the true highlights of the adventure and there were many highlights of that trip. It is expensive but soooo worth it.

Posted by
5635 posts

We based in Port Douglas and did day trips to the GB Reef and Daintree rain forest. Port Douglas has beautiful beaches.

Posted by
142 posts

Thank you for all the helpful information! I just returned from this years trip, two weeks of non stop snorkeling, now it is time to dive deep into my planning of Australia.

Posted by
704 posts

OP are you going to do a TR? I'd love to hear about non stop snorkeling!