Want to Pet a Huge Blue Fish?!
When I was in Cairns I decided I wanted to take a trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. I had snorkelled previously at the Whitsunday Island and enjoyed it very much so thought it would be nice to have another go at snorkelling but this time out in the open ocean. I booked the Reef Magic Cruise with the YHA, which was hassle free and I only had to walk a short distance to the Marina, which was the meeting place. It took us approximately 15 minutes. It was simple to locate and checking in was easy.
To give you a rough idea on the price 1 Australian Dollar is equal to 0.483602 sterling pounds.
It costs $165 adult, $85 Child (4-14 years), $415 family (2 adults and 2 children). Children under the age of 4 are free. All these prices include all charges (Government Environmental Management Charge). An environmental charge is levied for all adults and children 4 years and over entering the Great Barrier Reef Heritage area. This charge is along with Jetty tax, Administration fees and any other levies are included in the cruise fare. If you wanted a transfer to the meeting place this was an additional cost.
Once all the paperwork was sorted at the marina we boarded the Reef Magic boat to start our 90 minute journey from the Reef fleet terminal to the outer Barrier Reef. The boat journey there was slightly rocky but coming home was worse. I tend to get seasick easily and found this boat did make me feel queasy. Once we got there we had 5 free hours to do as we pleased. We went in January time and this was the wet season so we weren’t expecting exceptionally good weather. It was overcast but the conditions for snorkelling I felt were good. It was cold and a wet suit or stinger suit would be recommended. Not only to keep you safe but also to keep you warm. Without one your chances of getting stung by a jellyfish was considerably higher. I found that the sea wasn’t as rough as I had initially expected it to be. I can’t swim so I was slightly apprehensive about getting into the water but I was given a stinger suit and a floatation jacket and it really did keep me afloat.
There were lots of different activities available to you if you wanted to do them however each and every one is at additional cost to you except a trip on the glass bottom boat. My partner and I decided to take the guided snorkel tour as we were nervous about being in the water and wanted to make the most of our trip. For people who couldn’t get into the water there was a free glass bottom boat, which took you around the coral so you could see the different fish. We did this as it was free and we thought why not but it wasn’t good at all. It was nothing compared to actually being in the water, The motor on the boat kept putting bubbles into the windows so you couldn’t see things. Plus the water was so murky and the coral was so far away from the boat that you couldn’t see anything clearly. If you are not intending to get into the water I really do think this trip is not worthwhile doing.
When you arrive to your destination the boat is tied to a station, which then becomes your home for the next 5 hours. It tends to be cold and breezy here I found it warmer in the water. There is 2 changing rooms and a underwater viewing area which you could see the odd fish swimming past but it tended to be the same kind of fish for some reason, I’m not sure why. This viewing area was very small but I do have to admit that not many people where in here when I went as they all were in the water. There was benches were you could sit down but there wasn’t much shelter. All the equipment for doing the activities was stored here (for example, wet suits, stinger suits, snorkels, and diving gear). Lunch was included in the price and it was buffet style (all fish food though). I don’t like fish so I just ate bread and it was good you could take as much as you wanted. However a big feed of food is not advised if you are planning to get back into the water.
There is a platform, which you can get into the water from. It is made out of metal and there are benches you can sit on to put your flippers on. As you will find that walking in flippers is very difficult and it is not recommend putting them on before going onto this platform. There are bars you can hold onto on this platform, which I found great as I got to get over my fear of the water. I paddled and splashed about a bit putting my head under the water every now and again until I got my guided snorkel tour. There is a safe area for children to paddle in that is secured, however adults need to supervise their children in this area at all times. There is a barrier which outlines the area which you are allowed to snorkel in. You are not allowed for safety reasons to go out of the area. It is marked very clearly. The guided snorkel tour is for beginners and you get to hold onto a ring which you instructor pulls along. He then goes down onto the coral and shows you different species and plants, explaining different things. He brought us up a starfish and we all got to hold it as well as getting our picture taken. Also there was a huge blue fish which he somehow called over (don’t ask me how because I thought fish had a 2 second memory) and we each got to pet it and get our photograph taken individually. It was an amazing experience and something I will never forget, even though I was petrified of the fish lol! While doing this trip another girl was splashing about and I felt this nip on my bottom so I thought she had hit me by accident. This was not the case I had a hole in my stinger suit and as I had got braver after my guided snorkelling tour and was swimming around by myself I felt another very sharp nip. I never have moved out of water so fast in my life. I had been bitten on the bum by the fish. It was a lot sorer than you would think. I told one of the instructors worrying a jellyfish had stung me (which can be very dangerous) and he laughed at me. He told me a fish had bitten me because there was a hole in my suit and the fish thought it was food. I was slightly angry as I was then uneasy about going back into the water and I wasn’t given another suit. I felt their customer service wasn’t exactly very good for this tour as a whole. The man who had originally given me the suit wasn’t very approachable so I just dried myself and got changed. I was lucky that it was nearly the end of the day and the boat was taking us back to the Marina in an hour’s time.
As I have mentioned before there are lots of activities available on this tour. I have given you a list of them below:
* Guided Marine Snorkel tour ($30 per adult and $20 per child) – This lasted about half and hour and you were pulled along a ring in a group. There were 4 in our group but I think some had 6 people in it. You were told different facts about the reef and shown some different species and fish. It was very interesting and definitely worth while if you are nervous at being in the water, also if you are a nervous swimmer, as you don’t have to swim at all.
* Adventure Marine Snorkel Safari ($35 per adult and $25 per child) – This tour took you to an area that is outside the boundaries. You can only go here with a guide. It is strictly for people who are experienced at snorkelling and know what they are doing. You are promised that you will see more variety of fish and coral as there are fewer people and the area is different.
* You can do introduction Scuba Diving, there is 2 available. The first dive costs $80 per adult or child. The second costs an additional $50 per adult or child. This is for someone who has never dived before and would like to get a taste for it. You can put the scuba gear on and try it out for free in one of their pools on the station, before going into the ocean. On the two dives you can see the ocean in deeper waters, which means you are going to see more fish and coral. If you want you can get certified in diving.
* People who have already been certified in diving can get 2 dives for $70 and if you want the use of exclusive sites you can pay an extra $10. Included in this price is all the latest equipment including dive computer. You have to strictly show your cert. card if you want to do this option.
For anyone who is diving there is strict rules that the legal minimum age restriction for a person to scuba dive is 12 years. Also you need to pass certain medical conditions (example asthma, epilepsy, high blood pressure or certain medications) if you have any of these it may exclude you from diving. You will need to full in a medical questionnaire onboard.
Other services which were available was:
* Wetsuit/ stinger suit hire for $6 per person.
* There was an onboard photographer, which took pictures of people during the day. On the way home they showed you the pictures on the screen and you could have purchased them. You either could have them put onto a CD or get them printed out into a photograph. It cost you $15 per photo regardless of if you were getting them on CD or printed. I thought this was expensive and it meant that I couldn’t get all the photographs that I wanted as it cost too much.
* There is a licensed bar and you could buy souvenirs onboard if you wanted.
The last thing that was offered to us was the Heli-Magic, this was a helicopter ride over the Great Barrier Reef. Personally I felt it was too expensive to do one of these flights and I thought you would see more in the water than being in the air, so I chose not to do one. There were different flights you could take:
* Introductory Scenic Helicopter Flights at $69 per person. You are promised a birds-eye view of the breathtaking sights of the Great Barrier Reef. You could spot turtles, sharks, mantarays and more. The flight lasted 15 minutes, now I have been in a helicopter before and this is not a long time when you take into account going up into the air and coming back down. I thought that it was a complete rip off to charge this amount for this amount of time. Also as for seeing any wildlife I really think this would be hard to see especially in January as the water was murky the day I was there. Maybe on a sunny day when the waters were clear this would be a different story.
* Vertical Magic Heli Adventure at $125 per person, this one lasted 30 minutes. You are promised that you will experience the limits when you climb up to 3,000ft viewing islands, cays and magnificent drop-offs of the outer reef as you slowly descend.
Both these flights were offered to you on the boat on the way out to the marine world station. Personally I didn’t do any of these activities so couldn’t comment on how good they are however the water seemed very murky and I cant imagine from the choppy sea and the light drizzle which happened at intervals that you would have seen very much in the water.
I am glad that I done this tour as I got to experience the Great Barrier Reef from the ocean. I wouldn’t however if I were to go back to Cairns do this trip again for several reasons. I felt the staff were very pushy as trying to get you to sign up for different activities. They seemed to be sales people and after all the money they could get out of you. I have borderline blood pressure (which I was told get to investigated once I got home) and had to attend hospital while in Australia so when I was told that if you had high blood pressure you shouldn’t dive I felt that I shouldn’t do it. One of the instructors started arguing with me that I could go diving because I wasn’t on medication and that I would be missing out on a chance of a lifetime. It made me angry as I didn’t want to go diving and he wasn’t taking my decision as his final answer. I felt that he was very arrogant and pushy. Another reason I didn’t like this tour was I felt that all the staff was rude and it all was very impersonal. I had been snorkelling before and was given a lot more guidance and tips on what to do. On this tour you really had to figure it out for yourself. I hated the fact that everything cost extra and was very expensive. I felt that some of the activities should have been included in the price. My partner was very disappointed when he found out how much the photographs cost as we would have liked to have bought more but couldn’t. Personally if you are going to the Great Barrier Reef and want a more personal tour then you should go with another company. If you are confident at snorkelling and can do the activities without any help then this tour may be for you. Or you may want to do more of the optional activities than I did. I loved seeing the Great Barrier Reef and the wildlife it had to offer. It was amazing but I didn’t like this tour company. The only thing I thought was good was that I got to touch a huge blue fish and see tropical fish that I had never seen before, but I feel that I could have done these things with a different tour company. I would have liked to have found out more information about the Great Barrier Reef as well.