I have been trying to make more of an effort to discover my own country, and have been booking in domestic trips around Australia whenever I have the chance. Snorkelling The Great Barrier Reef has always been high on my bucket list, and I recently got the opportunity to fly with Jetstar to Cairns and see what all the fuss was about!
Located in Far North Queensland, the coast of the Great Barrier Reef meets the edge of the Daintree Rainforest, and is the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage Sites meet.
The 2 main locations for easy access to the reef and rainforest are Cairns and Port Douglas. If you’re on a budget or like to party I recommend staying in Cairns as it is a bustling town with loads of pubs and clubs. If you’re after a more relaxed or family-friendly holiday, then I suggest heading further north to Port Douglas. I ended up going with the latter and had an amazing stay, so make sure to read my Ultimate Guide to Port Douglas!
There are numerous ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas depending on your budget, amount of time and level of confidence in the water. If you’re short on time or money, I suggest booking in a half day tour to the Low Isles. These isles are located a short distance from Port Douglas (around 15 minutes sailing time) and is the perfect place for beginner snorkelers as you can explore the coral from the shallow waters surrounding the island. The Low Isles is also a great place to spot some turtles!
We ended up booking a Full Day Snorkel Tour with Calypso Tours. It took 1.5 hours of sailing until we reached our first reef, so I suggest taking some seasickness tablets if you are prone to motion sickness. The reason we selected this trip option is because we wanted to explore the Opal Reef, which has far more fish and coral species. Our boat also offered the option of diving too. We stopped at 3 different snorkel sites along the Opal Reef, and even went on a snorkel tour with one of the guides who pointed out various types of fish and coral types.
This was my first time snorkelling in the open ocean and I must admit I was nervous at first. But within 5 minutes I was happily paddling about and chasing fish. The crew were friendly and extremely knowledgable, and the lunch provided onboard was delicious. It was a big day but everything went smoothly and was well organised, and I honestly could not fault them.
I was so impressed with Calypso that I went ahead and booked a Daintree Rainforest trip with them again the very next day. We were picked up from our hotel by Tropical Journeys, their parent company, and spent the day discovering the gorgeous rainforest area of Northern Queensland.
We drove up North for around an hour before arriving at the Daintree River Ferry to cross over into the rainforest. Our guide took us for a guided walk through the Daintree along the boardwalk and we discovered just a fraction of the diverse flora and fauna that inhabits this isolated rainforest.
Our next stop was Cape Tribulation, which is where the rainforest meets the reef. And why the name? Well Captain Cook himself named this area, stating “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles” after his ship ran into the nearby Endeavour Reef.
We soon boarded a croc-spotting boat on Cooper Creek, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of these massive beasts along the mangrove lined river. Alas as it was a hot day, the crocodiles were hiding (I don’t blame them) but we were treated to a very large, dead and smelly croc!
After lunch we headed to Mossman Gorge and had a swim in the crystal clear water, which was the perfect way to cool down and relax.
Our final treat for the day was four scoops of tropical fruit ice cream from Daintree Ice Cream Company. The flavour’s change regularly depending on what fruit is in season, and I sampled wattleseed, black sapote, mango and coconut.
For a unique travel experience that you will always treasure, you must book yourself a trip to these incredible World Heritage sites!
Love Swah + 1 flew to Cairns as a guest of Jetstar. All thoughts and opinions are my own.