I first visited the Great Barrier Reef 13 years ago, during my very first trip to Australia. My visit was just a day trip from Cairns to Green Island, which is a small island located about 90 minutes out to sea from Cairns. It was a wonderful experience, but I have always wanted to go back and take one of the trips to the outer reef, to see more of this truly beautiful part of the world.
I planned to spend 5 days in Cairns during my current trip to Australia, so I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to take another trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. Upon arrival in Cairns our accommodation had information for a plethora of trips and excursions in the Cairns area, including many different trips to the Great Barrier Reef. After looking through all of the trips, I decided on the Ocean Spirit Cruises trip to Michaelmas Cay.
Great Barrier Reef Trip to Michaelmas Cay
The trip cost approximately $200pp which included the boat trip there and back, snorkelling equipment, morning coffee and cakes, hot and cold buffet lunch, afternoon tea, glass of sparkling wine, semi-submersible trip and a marine biology presentation. The trip out to Michaelmas Cay took approximately 2.5 hours each way from Cairns. The boat was extremely spacious, with plenty of seating inside and out.
The trip out to the Great Barrier Reef
The boat set sail at approximately 8:30am, but you are advised to arrive at the reef fleet terminal half an hour earlier to check in and board the boat. Once aboard coffee and cakes are served and you set sail for Michaelmas Cay in the outer reef. During the trip the onboard marine biologist gave a presentation on the kinds of marine life which we could expect to see during the reef visit. There is also a demonstration on the use of all the snorkelling equipment.
Arrival at the Reef
Upon arrival at the Great Barrier Reef, the crew members threw some feed into the ocean, to give the passengers a fantastic display of all the different varieties of fish feeding. A great taster of what you may see out at the reef. After arrival at the reef, you have a choice of activities which you can take part in before lunch, you could either snorkel by yourself, take a snorkelling tour, try your hand at scuba diving, take a trip on the semi-submersible or just relax onboard the boat.
I decided to start by taking a snorkelling tour of the reef, led by the onboard marine biologist. This was an extra cost of $60pp but very well worth it. The tour lasted an hour and we not only got to see the beautifully coloured coral reef, but also the thousands of varieties of fish and marine wildlife which inhabit the reef, including giant clams, sea turtles and reef sharks. The tour is really worthwhile as the marine biologist knows the exact places to head to on the reef to ensure amazing sightings of marine wildlife. After the snorkelling we returned to the boat for a huge buffet lunch, with plenty of hot and cold options, and more than enough to go around.
After lunch I took a trip in the semi-submersible for a guided tour of the reef, the tour headed off in the opposite direction to where we had snorkelled, so we managed to see a bit more of the Great Barrier Reef. Again, we saw so many of the native marine wildlife, and they were not at all bothered about getting up close to the semi-submersible. After the semi-submersible tour we had about an hour before the boat left for the mainland, so I took the opportunity to go back out into the water and snorkelled the reef at my own leisure.
Return to the Mainland
We left the reef about mid afternoon, a little bit sunburnt, quite full from all the food and still excited from all the wildlife that we had seen. The boat took about two and a half hours to get back to Cairns, and soon after we set off on the return journey, afternoon tea was served. Also, during the day a photographer had been swimming amongst us in the reef documenting the day in photos, and on the way back they had all the images on loop on the televisions so you could spot yourself on the Great Barrier Reef. If you liked the images enough you could purchase one, or a few, to have printed and saved on a CD to keep as wonderful memories.
Without a doubt I must say it was one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had in my life. I always thought that if I came face to face with a shark I would be extremely scared, but to be honest after coming face to face with one it didn’t even phase me. A truly fantastic day out, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!