1. Diving the Reef
The world’s largest coral reef system, it’s made up of 900 islands stretching over an area of around 344,400 sq km, and diving into this under-water world is unbeatable. The vibrant coral comes in every colour and shade of a Dulux swatch book, while friendly shoals of fish dart about or lazy loners weave their way through the coral, dipping down for a toke or two on some shrimp or plankton. Spot the occasional bobbing turtle, sweeping stingray or gliding reef shark and you will see the true wonder of these majestic creatures that call this aquatic paradise home.
Deep Sea Divers Den has been operating since 1974, making it the longest established company in Cairns. The highly regarded Deep Sea Divers Den has the highest rating achievable and is a 5* PADI Career Development Centre and a 5* PADI Dive Centre. To date more than 100,000 people have completed their open water certification with the company. Impressive by any stretch. Try an over-nighter with Deep Sea Divers Den, sleep aboard the big Ocean Quest boat and enjoy a number of dives from some of its 17 exclusive moorings at Norman, Saxon and Hastings reefs.
On offer snorkelling, introductory diving and certified diving expeditions so that everyone at all levels can have a go. The liveboard vessel Ocean Quest has undergone a $500,000 refurbishment, including a brand new deck and all new dive equipment. The spacious accommodation rooms have ensuites and televisions, offering a quality yet affordable stay, it is also home to Cairns only local shark night-dive. The company also operates the EXCLUSIVE Fluoro diving experience that uses specialist torches and mask filters to create incredible bio-fluorescent underwater landscapes. For the more adventurous diver, there’s the extended dive and snorkel expeditions to the Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs on board the TAKA Ribbon Reef Explorer. During months June – August theirs the opportunity to swim with Minke Whales on migration.
2. Sail with Passions of Paradise
For a day tour, we recommend Passions of Paradise for a slice of luxury. Set sail on the 25m catamaran to Paradise Reef, which is exclusive to Passions of Paradise so you will dodge the crowds and be able to say hello in person to Wally, the resident Maori wrasse. Passions also moors up at Michaelmas Cay, which is a world famous bird sanctuary and has sandy beaches, which give way to waters rich in giant trevally, small black tip reef sharks, bat fish and hundreds of species of colourful reef fish.
3. Ocean Rafting
If you prefer to stay above water and relatively dry, but you still want the feel of the fresh ocean air in your hair, then sea rafting is a good option. With Ocean Rafting you’ll speed around the stunning Whitsundays, stopping off for talks about the flora and fauna. It is the only tour operator to have direct access to the stunning and iconic Hill Inlet beach and special snorkel sites at Hook Island and Border Island.
4. Plane rides over the Reef
GSL Aviation is your best value fixed wing operator in Airlie Beach that offer a range of Whitsunday scenic transfer and charter flights. GSL operate seven days a week and are flexible based on booking availability and best viewing times. Take the Island Explorer for a scenic tour of the Whitsunday Islands, the Reef and Island flight or one of the flight and cruise packages that combine the best of the island and reef tours. Also available are flights to Whitehaven beach and Hamilton Island.
5. Ocean Safari
Ocean Safari offers an exhilarating ride to snorkel the pristine untouched Great Barrier Reef off the Daintree Coast. The half day Great Barrier Reef tour visits two different snorkel destinations, each with an extraordinary array of marine life and coral species. After a fast ride, you are ready to snorkel two fabulous locations at Mackay and Undine Reefs. On most days, you can snorkel alongside sea turtles, which are found swimming over reefs full of colourful coral, along with myriads of fish, eagle rays, giant clams and starfish.