What is a Great Barrier Reef cruise like, and what are the world famous reefs like? And how do you spend your day on a Great Barrier Reef cruise?
We took an Agincourt Reef cruise from Port Douglas and had a perfect day out on the sea. Agincourt Reef is pretty far away, it is at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. In all the Great Barrier Reef has 3000 separate reefs and the reefs are World Heritage listed by UNESCO.
We snorkeled, watched the corals and other marine life and spent the whole day on a sea pontoon. This blog post is about how we did it and what our trip was like.
Great Barrier Reef Cruise: Choosing the Cruise
When we started planning our holiday it was kind of a problem that there were hundreds of tours and we didn’t know which one we should take. But after searching for a while we found the Cairns Holiday Specialists website that has very valuable information on reef cruises and they also explained other activities you can take in the tropical Queensland.
So this website was very helpful for us as we could search for alternatives by location, date and duration.
We decided to take a whole-day Quicksilver Agincourt Reef cruise from Port Douglas. The tour costs a bit more than many others but it also more activities were available on the reef.
We booked and paid the tour at home in Europe before leaving for Australia. This was important for us since wanted to fix our schedule. They sent us a booking confirmation that we should change to tickets at the counter before departure. So now it was booked and planned!
Agincourt Reef Cruise
The Quicksilver tour we took goes to Agincourt Reef at the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. At the edge exist so called ribbon reefs that run from north to south parallel to the Australian continent. In this place corals grow big and you can also see them better since the outer reef water is very clear.
On Agincourt Reef they have parked a pontoon, it’s like a big platform, where they have different activities that you can choose from. You can snorkel, swim, scuba dive and take an underwater tour on a semi submersible submarine. You can also take a helicopter ride but that brings an extra cost.
Great Barrier Reef cruise: Agincourt Reef on the Map
You might wonder where Agincourt Reef is. It’s 90 minutes north-east from Port Douglas with a fast catamaran. You can see it here, just zoom in or out the map depending on how well you know the tropical Australia.
Onboard the catamaran you can easily follow the route with your smartphone, just remember to load the maps before you lose your internet connection. There probably isn’t a working connection during the whole day.
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef extends for 2300 km along the Australian coast! It’s not just one reef but a huge network of almost 3000 individual reefs.
All these reefs consist of corals. Corals are animals that form a skeleton of limestone. What I didn’t know is that Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest mass of living organisms.
The Great Barrier Reef has been given a World Heritage area status. So no wonder the reef is the main destination for tourists from all over the world that travel to the tropical Queensland.
I’m so happy to be one of the lucky people that have a chance to take a Great Barrier Reef cruise. I never even dreamed about this! And I’m sure you now wonder what the cruise was like and how we got to the starting point.
We were traveling north from Cairns with a campervan. You can read about our whole trip in my other post.
The Night before: Port Douglas
As we didn’t want to drive long distances early on the cruise morning we booked the night before at Tropic Breeze Holiday Park which is right in the centre of Port Douglas.
Tropic Breeze is a short walking-distance from the Marina Mirage Harbour where reef cruises leave in Port Douglas. With car it’s a less than a 5 min drive. And there’s a lot of parking space around the ferry terminal so no problems at all with parking, even if you have a campervan.
It was high season and Tropic Breeze was packed with campers and we only got a very small space for our campervan, between other big vehicles.
It was so crowded and there was no privacy at all since we had other campers on all sides. But in fact we only slept there and spent our time in Port Douglas town. Port Douglas beach, the main street and all entertainment and dining options were just a short walk away. Here’s more about the Tropic Breeze caravan park.
If you want to read about what f Port Douglas is like as a tourist destination, check out my blog post Driving from Cairns to Daintree.
Port Douglas Harbour
Finally here, in the harbour, early in the morning and ready for the great day! Today we were going to cruise the Barrier Reef!
The only problem was the weather that didn’t look promising at all. The clouds were dark and it was raining a bit. But at the end the day turned very hot and sunny – as you may expect in the tropics!
We sailed past the harbour entrance at 10 and were to return at 4:30. This is what the sea looked like at high tide. At 4:30 when we returned it lookd very different, it was low tide. There’s a photo at the end of the post.
Catamaran to Agincourt Reef
During the catamaran trip the staff held presentations on the life on the reef. We sat and listened and tried to absorb everything, it was all so interesting. Great to have a chance to learn all this! Some examples:
- Corals are animals in the same family as jellyfish. They need warm water and sunlight for growth. Corals grow some 25 cm a year and they grow towards the sun.
- There are soft and hard corals and the soft ones move. The corals live in colonies.
There are 1500 different fish on the reef and each has its own job in the system. Some of the most typical fish: parrot fish, nemo and butterfly fish. All fish on the Great Barrier Reef have bright colours.
There are also many turtles on the reef. Turtles are reptiles and they need to breathe air. Below water they can hold their breath as long as up to five hours.
The sea was rocky and many of the passengers got seasick, small kids above all. You should think about that and take some pills against that. But we didn’t have any problems, we have a boat at home and are used to waves.
Agincourt Reef Pontoon
This is what the platform looks like. There are stairs to get into the water and motor boats to bring you to the helicopter. We were going to spend the whole day outdoors but there was some shelter which was good since the sun always is very hot out on the sea.
A buffet lunch was served in the afternoon. Buffet is good since everybody can find what they prefer. The rest of the day you could just choose your activities. Swim, snorkel, dive, take an underwater or helicopter tour or just relax on the platform.
You can take a 10 min helicopter tour and see the reef from the above. We didn’t, since we happened to get a perfect view of the reef from the plane when we landed in Cairns.
Underwater Observatory and Scuba Diving
Like the helicopter tour, scuba diving was optional as well and there was an extra cost. We didn’t have time or interest for that either. But of course it was great fun to watch others learn to dive. The underwater observatory had big windows facing the corals.
Here are some tropical fish seen from the underwater observatory. Many of these fish are born without gender. Later the big ones become female and the small ones male. And if they want they still can change gender after that.
Semi Submersible Submarine
There were two semi submersible (half-way below the water) submarines. They left every 30 min so everybody who wanted had a chance to take a tour or even two on them. The bottom of the submarine was a superb place to see different corals and the staff explained everything there was.
There are 400 types of corals. The most typical corals are the brain coral, the staghorn coral, mushroom coral and plate coral. There were also many fish around the submarine. You can see some fish in the middle picture.
We also saw small sharks. There are 50 species of sharks and all of them are not dangerous. Some of them are small and they only eat small fish, not people.
Some of the corals are brightly coloured but you don’t really see the colours through the window. To see the colours and get still closer to the fish you need to snorkel.
Try to reserve most of your Great Barrier Reef cruising time for swimming and snorkeling! Snorkeling is great fun. The water is clear and you can see all the beauty but it’s very shallow at some points so you have to be careful not to touch the corals, they are sharp and might cut you.
Most people hired black lycra suits that protect from stingers that exist in tropical waters. A life vest makes that you don’t have to move so much in the water and so the fish tend to come closer to you.
Masks, fins and snorkels were in the bins on the platform so we just selected our equipment trying to find the right size of everything. So the equipment is here and all you need to bring is your swimsuit, towel and a lot of sunscreen.
Lifeguards on Duty
The lifeguards were at work all the time and they helped those that didn’t know what to do and how to snorkel. You can see how the different snorkeling areas were marked with lines so they were easy to follow below the water:
A lifeguard told me that this injured water bird (whose nick-name I already forgot) lands on the pontoon each time there are visitors.
After the snorkeling and other activities we still had to look at the Great Barrier Reef before walking back to the catamaran along a narrow landing bridbge.
Before we left the lifeguards collected all items from the water. There was a passenger count for safety reasons and so we started our journey back to the Australian mainland.
Back to Port Douglas
Here you can see the platform and one of the many coral reefs we passed on the way back. And after just 90 minutes on the sundeck we were back in Port Douglas. Some views of entering Port Douglas harbour:
People were sitting in outdoor cafes and bars and all of them looked so happy – and they were all waving to us! I’m sure most of them already knew what a Great Barrier Reef Cruise is like. And others maybe at this stage still looking forward to their cruise day.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and it really felt like a Sunny Sunday! Today we have been on a Great Barrier Reef cruise! And this cruising was our main reason to travel to Cairns, Australia. Today was well worth it!
More Information on Agincourt Reef Cruises
If you’re planning a Great Barrier Reef cruise and interested in seeing Agincourt Reef you can start with looking at the amazing video material on the Quicksilver Cruises website. This is the link:
And to end our trip, this photo shows you the harbour of Port Douglas at the time we returned – at low tide:
My Other Posts on Queensland
If you are planning a trip to Queensland you might like these posts too: