5 unique ways to dive into the Great Barrier Reef

David Attenborough described a visit to the Great Barrier Reef as an “unbeatable experience”. To celebrate the release of the three-part documentary that shares his experiences on the world heritage-listed site, here are the top 5 ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest. 5 unique ways to dive into the Great Barrier Reef
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5 unique ways to dive into the Great Barrier Reef

David Attenborough described a visit to the Great Barrier Reef as an “unbeatable experience”. To celebrate the release of the three-part documentary that shares his experiences on the world heritage-listed site, here are the top 5 ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest. 

The Outer Reef is just 26 kilometres (16 miles) from Port Douglas which makes accessing the world's largest living structure incredibly quick and easy. Pristine islands, secluded coral cays, flamboyant coral gardens and schools of exotic fish life can be discovered in a multitude of ways. Drive one-hour north of Cairns international airport and you'll be ready to slip straight into the Port Douglas lifestyle and experience all the reef has to offer.


Island Time   

Idyllic Low Isles calls to those who want to drift into the relaxed pace of a tropical lifestyle. Enjoy an easy one hour sail on a luxury catamaran or 20 minute jet boat ride with Reef Sprinter before anchoring in a sheltered lagoon. Owing to its status as a turtle sanctuary, Low Isles boasts a pristine inner reef that blossoms with colourful giant clams and brilliant soft corals. Bury your toes in the soft white sand, explore the history of the lighthouse and research centre before relaxing under a shady cabana. 

After a leisurely breakfast at one of the cafés on Macrossan St, board the Wavedancer catamaran with Tropical Journeys. A full day with lunch provided, you’ll have plenty of time to get adventurous or simply laze on the deck. Best of all, there is a maximum of 23 guests ensuring a personalised reef experience every time.

Had a late start? Depart the Reef Marina at 1pm to enjoy the adults-only afternoon with Sailaway. Take a guided snorkel tour or the glass bottom boat before sipping on champagne, devouring sumptuous canapes and take in the setting sun as you glide into the harbour at 6:30pm.

Those with a deep respect for our natural environment and the fragile eco-system, are rewarded with a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) tour around Woody Is. Windswell guides small groups on an intimate tour spotting turtles, rays, sharks and other marine life.

Into the wild

When two world heritage listed areas collide together, the invisible protective barrier it creates ensures a pristine environment that continues to thrive after 153 million years. To gain a sense of the unspoilt wilderness, journey north to Cape Tribulation and jump on board Ocean Safari. Just 40 minutes north of the Daintree River ferry, this snorkel-only operation picks up directly off the beach. Walk out of the rainforest and delve into the wonder of Opal Reef. Keep an eye out for the elusive dugong (happy cow of the sea), before returning with a view of the jurassic coastline of the Daintree National Park.

Delve deeper into the rainforest with a hike up Mt Sorrow. The six hour return hike rises above Cape Tribulation beach to a spectacular view over the coral sea. Climbing this peak in 1770 would have you witness to Captain James Cook’s Endeavour limping to Cooktown after striking the reef.

Still hungry for adventure? Climb into a human hamster wheel then clip onto a cable and zipline through the rainforest canopy. Jungle surfing offers thrills, unique views and education on the importance of the Daintree Rainforest.


Spoil yourself

Whether you want to spoil yourself with secluded, indulgent accommodation or luxurious experiences like chartering a private yacht, Port Douglas has you sorted.

Watching the sunrise from the bow of your private yacht sets the day’s expectations. While flying fish skim across an aqua mill pond, you‘ll enjoy a champagne breakfast and chat with the skipper as to which activity would be best. Hunt the vast reef system for an elusive 1,000-pound black marlin or meet your helicopter at an exclusive sand cay and enjoy a private picnic. Choose from a day sailing with your loved one on SV Escape or a weekend adventure with friends on MV Monsoon.

Then you have the accommodation. On a tropical mountaintop sits Mali Mali – a resort on 40 acres offering 360° panoramic views from the Daintree Rainforest to the Pacific Ocean. The resort is surrounded by tropical gardens and takes inspiration from the open-air, soaring ceiling designs of Bali pavilions. There’s a helipad, tennis courts with night lights, luxurious pool plus private massage therapists and yoga teachers.

Bali Hai is a hidden retreat that is tucked into the rainforest just north of Port Douglas on private acreage. Four thatched houses are sprinkled across the property offering seclusion, world class views and sophisticated luxury in tropical style. Shangri-La is tucked away in a valley just 25 minutes north of Port Douglas. Swim in the saltwater lap pool or relax in the poolside cabana while you look over the beautiful valley to the mountains. 

Also try: Perched above the pristine waters of Mossman River, Silky Oaks Lodge will hide you from the world and rejuvenate your mind and spirit. Radiating after a pure Sodashi treatment at their Healing Waters Spa. Enjoy the award winning dining experience, explore the surrounding rainforest on a guided walk or escape by helicopter to a secret waterfall. Best of all, this luxury lodge is only a 15 minute drive from Port Douglas.

Deep Blue

If you want an up close encounter with a 300 kilogram (661 pound) groper or to witness the silent shimmy of a three metre Moray eel as it glides between staghorn coral, head to Agincourt Reef. Agincourt is recognised as one of the most diverse and engaging reefs.

Travelling with Poseidon you’ll visit three unique sites, chosen on the day according to wind and tide. Drift dive along the outer wall with a 2,000 kilometre (1242 mile) drop into the deep blue and navigate between towering pinnacles. If you want to witness the Minke Whales, travel between June and September. 

If you're visiting in October, wait four days after the full moon then take the plunge and try night diving to watch the coral spawning event. Blue Dive offer private overnight tours on board Blue Martini or day trips exploring coral gardens and unique marine life departing daily on board Poseidon or Calypso.  


Family fun

For those of us that aren’t quite as confident in the water but don’t want to miss out, Quicksilver Cruises provides a family environment for all levels of experience. Their wave piercing catamarans provide a smooth ride out to a pontoon on the outer reef. A variety of activities keeps everyone involved from glass bottomed boats and helmet diving to scuba, snorkelling and scenic heli flights.

When the kids are full of energy after a day at the reef, wander over to Rex Smeal park. This iconic park is lapped by the ocean with a view north to Snapper Island. The ideal place to light up the BBQ, spin a Frisbee and watch the sun set over rainforest clad mountains. 

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