The Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest natural attractions. It covers more than 344,400 square kilometres, stretching from the northern tip of Queensland, all the way down to Bundaberg in the south. It is a World Heritage Listed Area, made up of 3,000 coral reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cays.
There are many different places along the coast of Queensland where you can get out and experience the Great Barrier Reef, but Cairns in Tropical North Queensland offers some of the best opportunities to get out to some of the outer reef locations and immerse yourself in life under the sea. And Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offer a particularly unique experience.
While we were in Cairns we jumped on a cruise with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel, to check out some of the Great Barrier Reef that we hadn’t visited before and experience this beautiful place in a totally different way.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offer the only cultural reef experience in QLD, with Indigenous Sea Ranges leading the day to share the Dreamtime stories of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji, Gunggandji, Mandingalbay and Yirrganydji people who are the traditional landowners of this area.
Our Indigenous Sea Rangers for the day were Blake, TK and Quinn, who were from the Torres Strait Islands, and also had family in the communities around Cairns. They welcomed us onboard with big smiles and jumped straight into telling us what to expect for the day, as well as some of the creation stories of the islands we were passing as we left the marina. There are heaps of little islands you pass on your way out to the reef, each with their own unique creation story and history.
It takes about an hour and a half to get out to the first stop on the outer reef, but they pack that time with lots of different little presentations to keep share insights into the Indigenous sea culture, as well as the marine life you might see on the reef.
TK came around first to introduce us to fire sticks and show us how to traditionally make fire. He also kept us laughing the whole time with heaps of jokes and was more than happy to answer any questions we had about Indigenous culture in the local area. Throughout the day there were a few of these kinds of presentations, sharing with us all different aspects of the Indigenous sea life.
The second presentation for the morning was from Daniel, the marine biologist on board. He shared some of the different fish, coral and reef systems we would be likely to see during our visit, and shared with us a little bit about life under the sea. You get all kinds of marine life on the Great Barrier Reef, from tiny clown fish that look like Nemo, to huge humpback whales throughout the year, so there is really so much diversity to see.
Our first stop for the day was Flynn Reef, part of the outer Great Barrier Reef. We pulled on our wetsuits and jumped straight in the water, which actually wasn’t too cold at all!
Life under the water here was so colourful and beautiful. It was quite deep, so the coral formations stood tall under the water, with all kinds of different fish swimming around, and a huge range of sea creatures and plants. It kind of looked exactly like what Finding Nemo must have drawn inspiration from for their under sea landscapes.
To gain an even better understanding of life under the sea and the unique ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef, Daniel also runs a guided snorkel tour which you can join. He will take you up to some of the highlights of the reef, show you all the best spots to see all different kinds of colourful fish and tell you about all the kinds of coral and undersea landscapes you come across.
Throughout the day, Dreamtime also offers the experience to go diving, to really get into the deeper parts of the reef. There are beginner and certified dives on offer, so this is a great tour to choose if you want to try a mixture of snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef.
We had about an hour or so to snorkel around, before we jumped back on the boat to go to the next stop for the day. The second stop is Milln Reef, and it’s only a very short distance from Flynn Reef, so not much of a drive at all.
Before we jumped back into the water at Milln Reef we were served a delicious buffet lunch on board, with so many different options to try and choose from. Perfect way to refuel before jumping back into the water and it was absolutely delicious.
Then it was back in the water for more snorkelling! Milln Reef was actually one of the most beautifully colourful parts of the Great Barrier Reef we have visited so far. There were beautiful colourful corals and anemones, with all different brightly coloured fish swimming through them. We even found Marlin and Nemo on the reef, in one of my favourite spots of the day. Could have watched them swimming around in there for hours.
We had extra time to swim around and explore Milln Reef, so you really get the chance to take your time out there. The great part about the Dreamtime tour is that you actually get about 5 hours between the two reefs to explore and snorkel around, so there is PLENTY of time to experience the Great Barrier Reef and really get to all the different nooks and crannies of these outer reefs.
Before we left Milln Reef, Daniel did a fish feeding demonstration, to really get some of the bigger fish up to the top of the water. These fish were so interesting because normally they are just a generic silver colour, but when they are feeding or about to feed, they turn this bright red colour and literally jump out of the water! The bar was open on the way home, so you can grab a drink if you want and relax as you head back to Cairns.
Coming back into the Cairns Marina at the end of the day was one of our favourite parts of the whole cruise. Everyone was asked to come up to the front deck of the boat, where clap sticks were handed out amongst the group. Blake and TK thanked everyone for coming out with Dreamtime on behalf of everyone on the cruise, and then told us that when we come into the marina we’re going to make LOTS of noise to let everyone know that we’re back.
And we did! Blake stood at the front and did a cultural dance demonstration and TK kept everyone in-time with their clapsticks and singing, and we made quite an entrance back into the marina. If you want to see it, definitely head over to our Instagram page and check out the Tropical North Queensland story highlight, we’ve saved it in there.
We had such a great day out on the reef with Dreamtime. It was definitely a special way to experience the Great Barrier Reef, and a highlight of our visit to Cairns.
What to bring
For your day out on the reef make sure you bring sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses, a towel and a dry change of clothes. There are showers on board where you can wash off the salty water and change into dry clothes for the ride back home if you would like. There are credit card facilities on board if you want to purchase any souvenirs or drinks during the day.
A note about sea sickness
Conditions on the ocean can vary depending on the weather on the day of your visit. It’s about one and a half hours out to the first reef, which can often be a little bit rough. If you are prone to sea sickness it’s a good idea to take a travel sickness tablet 30 minutes before the cruise is set to depart. You are able to purchase natural ginger tablets and Travel-Calm tablets on board if you forget to bring your own.
Location: The cruise departs from the Reef Fleet Terminal at the Cairns Marina.
Price: A day out with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel costs $199 per adult, with discounts for children and families. There are extra costs for the optional activities, including the guided snorkel experience and safari, the introductory dive and the certified dive.
If you need transfers from your hotel to the marina, you can also organise that through Dreamtime for $22 per person from hotels around Cairns.
Inclusions: Your day our with Dreamtime include an Indigenous welcome and acknowledgement of country, snorkelling at two outer reef sites on the Great Barrier Reef, morning and afternoon tea, buffet lunch, marine biologist presentations, all snorkelling equipment, flippers and wetsuits for your swim.
For more information, or to book your day on the reef head to dreamtimedive.com.
Thank you to Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel for welcoming us as guests onboard the cruise. All opinions are, as always, our own.