Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver Cruises
Another beautiful day to spend out on the Great Barrier Reef… Ahhhhhh… the good life!
This day I was heading up to Port Douglas in my little ‘ole car from Cairns. This pontoon is a stable platform that sits on Agincourt Reef on a section of reef called Ribbon Reef, right out on the Continental shelf (the drop off!). The awesome thing with this day trip is it leaves at 10am… woo hoo! Sleep in! There wasn’t really a sleep in for me and for anyone else getting the shuttle service buses from Cairns which depart around 8am. This makes this an ideal reef option for anyone staying in Port Douglas, well in holiday mode and can’t deal with early mornings.
Departing from Port Douglas Marina, the Quicksilver fleet of boats vary in size depending on demand but are very comfortable roomy fast cats with seats indoor or out. On arrival, you meet the staff and fill out the appropriate paperwork for your activities (eg: snorkeling or diving). There are additional activities (extra charge) such as a guided 1 hour snorkel tour (advanced or beginners) Ocean helmet diving and scenic helicopter flights. This day, I was to partake in the advanced snorkel tour so I was to fill out the paperwork for that, meet the guides and find out were and when it starts. I was informed it started as soon as we arrived, which I felt was strange as I didn’t get any time to get orientated on the pontoon or have a look around first. Oh well!
1.5 hours later we were at our destination… pretty darn fast! Strait away, as instructed I was in my wetsuit, hire camera at the ready (thank you Calypso once again!) snorkel mask and fins at the ready… ready to go! It was a cooler day and slightly choppy, I was feeling the oceans “freshness” as I descended the stairs onto the lower platform in the water to put on my fins. Then we were on our way and any numbness already occurring on my fingers was put to the back of the mind.
The advanced snorkel tour is with a Marine Biologist who is allowed to pick sea life up to show you and give you a closer look and also you snorkel outside of the pontoons designated swimming zone. We saw a turtle, loads of Nemos in their anemones, a Giant Buffalo Parrot Fish, regular Parrot Fish and watched the Farmer Joe fish keep his little patch of sand clean. Up close, we held a tiny Blue Starfish, Mushroom Corals and colourful Stag Horn Coral. Our guide was informative and friendly and the tour lasted over 1 hour (thankfully) when it was well and truly time to get out a defrost (I am a local after all!!!).
The sun was now out in force to thaw me out whilst I ate lunch al fresco on one of the Pontoons many deck areas. Lunch was slightly more than the usual, with 2 hot dishes such as a spicy beef and a spicy chick pea and vegetables stir fry served with rice. Along with these were fresh prawns, array of salads (including rice noodle seafood salad suitable for gluten free requirements) fresh sliced fruit, cold water and cordial.
While I was snorkeling other activities were also taking place including the semi-submersible tours. After finishing lunch and a quick few photos of the pontoon and the beautiul colours of the reef it was time to board the last tour. I have been on a few semi-sub tours before at various locations and they are very good, this one was no exception. Informative friendly guide who talked on coral species, fish species and turtles. We saw 3 turtles on the tour which was pretty cool and the reef was in good condition. The left side of the boat tended to see more reef than my right side…. so get a seat to yourself or sit on the right to see the most! I rated the tour highly.
Now as you read correctly I did say that that was the last semi-sub of the day at 2pm. It was just before 2.30pm and conditions were perfect so I decided to jump in the water to take more photos as conditions were primo! I thought I’d at least have 15 minutes before the boat horn signaled us to all come out of the water and get back on the boat to depart. WRONG! The horn sounded just as I got in. It nearly gave me a heart attack and I had that sinking feeling… it was already time to go, I didn’t get to snorkel the whole reef site like I normally do. I reluctantly got out after a few rapid fire photos and de-robed out of my wetsuit. Guttered.
A few things now made sense to me. This reef option only gives you 3 hours on the reef (NOT 3.5 it says in the brochure) so unfortunately this is not the trip for someone like me. You really only have time for 1 activity (free snorkel, guided snorkel, Ocean Walker or dive) with lunch time and a semi-sub and that’s your day, doneski! Alternatively you have your activity in the morning and skip the semi-sub after lunch and free snorkel instead.
Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT a bad Great Barrier Reef experience by any means! I always maintain there is the perfect option for everyone. I recommend this option for those staying in Port Douglas who don’t want a massive day on the reef, who also may only snorkel a little, are happy with the semi sub and a relaxing lunch with views. This option is suitable for families also on vacation in Port Douglas with children who can all swim as the section of reef is a few meters away from the pontoon itself. You cannot do everything there is on offer during your time there, you have to use your time management skills and figure out what you want to do in advance or on arrival. The staff did mention that some activities do even eat into your lunch time so you can get a place full of food wrapped and put aside to eat later. It pays to plan your trip with this one.