The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. It is located on the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in the northeast of Australia. The reef, which extends for about 2600 kilometers, can be seen from space and is more than 2000 kilometers long.
Although he was not the first European explorer to spot the Great Barrier Reef, the Englishman James Cook was the first to conduct a scientific exploration of the area after running aground the HMB Endeavor on the reef, on June 11, 1770, and staying for six weeks. in the area, while it was repaired.
You can visit the reef by boat and practice snorkeling or diving, or by air (helicopter) and enjoy a scenic flight.
Before planning this unexpected trip I had many doubts, that I imagine you will also have if you have arrived here. How do you get to the Great Barrier Reef? Where exactly is it “in Australia”? What excursions can be done in the Great Barrier Reef?
I tell you everything about my experience and the possibilities you can have in this natural wonder of the world.
Where to stay to visit the Great Barrier Reef
You have many options, depending on your budget, to stay as close to the reef as you wish.
1. On the islands located in the Great Barrier Reef (an expensive and exclusive option).
2. In coastal cities such as Cairns, Hervey Bay, Missions Beach or Port Douglas.
We chose to stay in Cairns as a base port due to its proximity to the airport. Since we had a flight to Brisbane at 6 am and the airport is very close to the city.
Cairns is a city famous for its tropical climate and a laid-back atmosphere. People are very friendly and they love to start a conversation and help you in whatever way they can. As a tourist city that is, Cairns has accommodations for all budgets, from luxury hotels to caravans and van rentals.
After traveling through Southeast Asia, everything seemed expensive to us. So we decided on an Airbnb about 15 minutes walk from the port run by two women from Hungary who were very kind. They own the company ‘Aussie Wolf’ and they have a few houses and rooms in the area. They also offer a 10% discount on most tours, when you stay with them.
Which company to choose to visit the Great Barrier Reef
There are dozens of agencies scattered around the city and they all work with the same companies. So no matter which one you choose to enter, they’ll show you the same brochures. I have to say that it is quite difficult to choose with which tour to visit the largest coral reef in the world.
We loved the idea of sailing to the reef so we chose Ocean Free. The maximum number of people on board is 25 and we ended up being only 11. The other boats had a maximum capacity of 80 and honestly, we were not very attracted to the idea of being with so many people trying to snorkel (and not enjoying it as you get large clusters of people gathered together, as happened to us in Thailand).
The food on board was delicious. The best moment was the white wine and the cheese board that we could enjoy on the way back to the port. The crew is attentive and always vigilant of safety. In addition to this, they made us participate in the sailing trip, (holding the ropes, pulling/down the sails, steering the boat) which made the experience even better.
The itinerary was as follows:
At 7.30am we checked in at the Reef Terminal, which works like at airports. You go to the company with which you hired the tour, you check in and they direct you to the pier where the boat is located.
Once on the boat, we were offered coffee, Danish pastries, and fruit. Once our bellies were full, we left for the Great Barrier Reef. The cruising lasted longer than the other boats, being smaller and sailing, it took about 2 and a half hours. We had a day with a rough sea so the captain recommended us to sit in the bow (front of the boat) so we would avoid to get seasick and have a good time.
Normally when you get there you go snorkeling and then you visit an island. But having a high tide, the captain changed the plans. The tide would be lower later and it would be better to see the marine life. Therefore the captain took us to Green Island where we took a walk around the island (about 30 minutes). On this island, there is a hotel, a couple of restaurants and shops and a center for visiting crocodiles. They picked us up and we ate on the boat. The food was spectacular, prawns, salmon, chicken, salads, endless delicious dishes that we could not finish.
After lunch, we snorkeled where we finally saw the famous clownfish, also known as Nemo. I had not had any luck in Thailand or Bali but at last, this beautiful fish let himself be seen in this spectacular place in the world. We also saw tropical fish, giant clams, different corals and lots of marine life. We did not have the luck to see stingrays or sharks, maybe due to the swell and the strong currents the visibility was not clear.
There were two options for the rest of the afternoon, to continue enjoying the seabed with snorkel or scuba-diving (additional cost for scuba diving). From the 11 that we were, I was the only one that wanted to scuba dive, which meant I would have a teacher one-to-one (for my first time). I have to say that he had a lot of patience with me. Once down we could see more closely the different corals and fishes, in addition to the giant clams. Everything is different when you get closer and you really feel like you are in another world.
What to bring:
↠ Sunscreen (although many tours include it)
↠ Warm clothes; early in the morning and at sunset is a bit chilly.
An unforgettable experience in a place full of life that offers a show of variety and beauty.
I hope that future generations can get to see this wonder. Global warming and pollution of our planet are seriously affecting the deterioration of coral, causing bleaching or discoloration thereof. And sadly it is something that I could see in some areas where we dived.