After departing Green Island, the smooth Great Adventures catamaran ventures to the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, an amazing World Heritage Site hosting about 400 types of coral and 1500 species of fish. The anticipation is great for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts, but landlubbers will also have wonderful experiences as well. You can rent underwater equipment on board, and there are changing facilities as well.
The tour stops at Norman Reef, which is all below the surface of the water. Great Adventures has its own pontoon stationed here for guests as a base. The three-level pontoon is the setting for the all-you-can-eat buffet, which is included in your tour package. The buffet is available for a good amount of time, so divers may want to hit the water first before eating lunch. The buffet was rather extensive, with staff servers manning the warm food selections. You can help yourself to salads, shrimp, sandwich meats with rolls, and fresh fruit. This buffet is not bad, and did I say all-you-can-eat already? The pontoon has a sundeck along with shaded areas, or you can retreat to the air-conditioned comfort of the catamaran, which remains docked at the pontoon during the tour.
If you are not doing any scuba diving or snorkeling, you can still enjoy the underwater splendors by taking a trip on the semi-submersible (I rode it twice!). You descend into this small dark contraption, and the people sit in pairs on metal planks. There are windows on each side of the semi-submersible, your windows to the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef. You can spot tons of coral, schools of fish swimming alongside the semi-submersible, and perhaps a turtle or two. You will definitely see more and have a better time in a semi-submersible than if you were riding on a glass-bottom boat. From the pontoon you can also wander into the Underwater Observatory, which is the equivalent of a stationary semi-submersible. You can see divers in action from this vantage point.
Upon departing the Norman Reef pontoon, you are liable to be dead tired from your sun and sea activities. Just sit back and relax, as the catamaran will make a pickup/dropoff at Green Island before returning to the Great Adventures wharf in Cairns. Check out the planes as they land, with the beautiful green hills in the background.
July 17, 2002
From journal Bill in Australia - CAIRNS and QUEENSLAND