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by Happy Cappy
July 19, 2003
Exiting from the boat to the pontoon, we decided to take advantage of the small queues for the submarine trip (this is free), climbing down in to a purpose built submersible, and sitting two abreast we travelled through an amazing underworld kingdom, with expert commentary about the coral and fish we could see. Do it early while it’s still dry and there are less queues. If you suffer from claustrophobia –- I advise you to skip this. Emerging from the sub we headed for the undersea viewing platform, from this vantage point we could watch the scuba divers and snarlers, see coral and fish.
Collecting our body suits we squeezed into them, and donned our flippers, mask and snorkel (there are plenty of staff on hand to assist you). From the diving platform there are buoyancy ropes that extend out to the perimeter of the reef where we are allowed to swim to –- so if you aren’t a confident swimmer or get tired you can grab hold of a rope.
What a truly amazing experience it was to snorkel amongst the world’s most famous reef. The coral formations were amazing, some looked like huge brains, and others resembled delicate flowers. There was plenty of fish darting in and out of the coral, every now and again you would glimpse a much larger fish lurking in the shadow of the bigger coral formations. I can not aptly describe the beauty of the coral and the magic of such an experience -– so I won't even try. What I can say is that everyone spent as much time as they could in the water snorkelling. Emerging briefly to indulge in a fabulous buffet lunch, punters gobbled down their food and hurried back to the water –- so as not to miss a thing. The ages ranged from old people to babies, people who were confident swimmers to people who couldn’t swim -– no matter what your status you can participate in this wonderful underwater experience. It was with great sadness that we clambered back on to the pontoon, removed our body suits, dried off and reboarded our ship for our return journey. Before departing the staff conduct a safety count of passengers.
On the way home we were served afternoon tea, and sat back to relax and enjoy watching the reef line skim by us. Onboard the vessel is a shop from where you can buy quality souvenirs of your adventure. There is also an onboard photographer who throughout the day took photos of everybody, they are displayed in a central location and you can order prints.
By the time we returned to the resort, we were totally exhausted, but we managed to shower, eat dinner, and flop into bed. We both highly recommend this experience -- you cannot come all this way and not visit the reef!
What to bring: Money for additional drinks, snacks, souvenirs, or activities. Towel. 30spf sunscreen. Camera.
What to wear: Shorts, T-shirt, togs (bathers), hat, sunglasses, sandals.
From journal A Week In Pardise
We departed from the Port Douglas Marina at 10am, it was like boarding a plane, the crew were friendly and very organised. We boarded our craft a huge silver twin hulled wave piercer, and made our way to the top deck to find a comfy seat. The boat drew away from the marina and accelerated up to 30 knots, we felt as though we were skimming across the water. We chose to sit inside so we could watch the documentaries on the reef, and the snorkelling tips.
There are optional extras that you can choose to undertake in addition to snorkelling. For an extra $37, you can go on a guided snorkel for 45 minutes with a biologist. For $98, you can take a 12 minute helicopter joy flight from the pontoon and get a birds eye view of the reef. Scuba diving is $125 per dive (equipment included), and a certified diving course starts from and additional $84. The scuba diving courses are run by trained PADI instructors. For an extra $5, you can hire a full body sun suit -– this is excellent value because it serves two purposes: first, they protect you from the harsh sun rays, so you only need apply sunscreen to the soles of your feet, hands and face; second, if in the unlikely event you come in contact with a stray jellyfish, the sunsuit offers protection from their venomous sting.
The travelling time to the reef is about 1 hour 15 minutes, and it is a very smooth ride. The wave piercers can carry up to 470 passengers, with a ratio of 1 staff to every 10 passengers. If you are prone to seasickness it is better to be on the lower level up the front where there is less motion, and find yourself a nice view of the horizon. The boat heads north along the coast and then heads out to the reef from about Cape Tribulation, it is a great opportunity to see the beautiful coastline and mountain range from the sea. Arriving at the Agincourt reef, we dock at a purpose built pontoon, again we can’t help but be impressed by the organisation and professionalism of this venture.