Sun, Salt and Vitamin Sea: Top 5 Snorkelling Tours in Cairns

This huge, multi-coloured wonderland, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, comprises almost 3,000 reefs, 1,600 species of fish and 600 types of coral. Here you will find  30 species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, 14 species of sea snakes, and six species of sea turtles. Phew!

That’s a lot of underwater action.

And best of all, a humble mask-and-snorkel combo is the only thing you need to delve into this subaquatic utopia.

Whether you were born with seawater flowing in your veins or are a complete newbie to the secrets of the deep, snorkelling is one of the best ways to explore the GBR.

Glide among schools of flashy fish, hover above vibrant coral gardens and come face-to-face with the Great Barrier Reef’s most celebrity, Nemo.

Can’t swim?

No problem! Strap on a life-jacket, grab your inflatable of choice and float lazily on the surface with your face submerged in another dimension.

So now that you’re itching to take the plunge, you may be wondering; which snorkel tour from Cairns is the best fit for you.

So in no particular order, here are our top five options.

Top 5 Snorkelling Tours in Cairns

top 5 snorkelling tours Cairns



The Liveaboard: Reef Encounter

If you fancy the idea of hopping out of bed in the morning and diving straight in among the fish, this liveaboard boat is the perfect option.

With five snorkelling sessions on offer each day, you’ll have practically grown a pair of gills by the time you return to dry land.

All snorkelling equipment is provided, and there’s a purpose-built platform for you to ease gently into the Coral Sea.

Each day, Reef Encounter’s Captain chooses the best snorkel sites based on weather conditions, so you’re sure to discover some incredible marine life.

You have the option of joining a guided snorkel tour and can also ask the friendly crew for a helping hand if you don’t feel super-confident in the water.

Plenty of life jackets and noodles make life even more accessible.

Between snorkel sessions, you’ll munch on three chef-prepared meals a day, with the privilege of sleeping on the most famous Reef in the world. Now that’s a proper tick for your bucket list.

The All-Inclusive Day Trip: Reef Experience

top 5 snorkelling tours Cairns

For a snorkel day trip with all costs covered, it’s hard to go wrong with Reef Experience, which visits two different Reef locations. This handy package includes breakfast, lunch, transfers and a scuba dive.

As the boat travels out to the Reef, the onboard Marine Biologist will entertain you with a presentation on various creatures of the deep.

You can join them on a Marine Biology guided snorkel tour as an optional extra.

The onboard snorkelling platforms are level with the ocean so getting in and out of the water is a doddle.

If you are a non-swimmer, the crew will furnish you with buoyancy aids and even offer to be your in-water guide to keep you safe and comfortable.

If you’re ready to take things to the next level, you can try your hand at diving with an intro dive experience.

For an extra taste of luxury, you can upgrade to Top Deck Club, where you’ll receive complete VIP treatment.

You’ll have a personal snorkel guide to point out the best underwater spectacles, and when you’re not exploring the Reef, you can kick back in the Captain’s Wheelhouse lounge.

A perfect day at sea.

The Budget Option- Compass Cruises


If you’re excited to snorkel one of the Natural Wonders of the World but are keen to keep the costs to a minimum, this great-value day trip is an ideal choice.

After a leisurely journey to the Great Barrier Reef, you can spend the day exploring two great underwater locations armed with your trusty mask and snorkel.

You can choose a life jacket, noodle, or life ring to help keep you afloat, and there will be a trained lifeguard on the watch to ensure everyone is safe in the water.

Compass Cruises is the only company in Cairns offering the unique activity of boom netting, where you cling onto a giant net attached to the back of the boat and get dragged merrily through the water.

Gorge yourself on the BBQ lunch between snorkel locations or sprawl out on the sun deck. On the return leg, indulge in some wine, cheese and crackers to top off a great day on the Reef.


Michaelmas Cay- Ocean Spirit

top 5 snorkelling tours Cairns

If you like the idea of combining plenty of snorkelling with a trip to a small coral Reef island, Ocean Spirit has the perfect itinerary for you.

A two-hour motorized journey onboard a sailing catamaran will take you to Michaelmas Cay, which boasts protected waters and 20,000 nesting seabirds.

You can spend the day snorkelling to your heart’s content in the shallow lagoons, watch the fish-feeding presentation, relax on the beach or hop into the semi-submersible for a scuba diver’s view of the coral gardens.

An excellent choice for families and first-time snorkelers.

The Tropical Beach – Green Island Reef Cruise


A trip to Green Island is for a good dose of snorkelling with a spot of relaxation on a white sandy beach. This island is the only coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef with a rainforest growing, making for a very tropical experience.

A snorkel tour is the best way to discover the vibrant marine life just offshore, all under the watchful eye of a snorkelling safety officer.

You can make the trip either full or half-day to suit your needs, and the boat will deposit you on the island’s white sands just 45 minutes after departing Cairns.

Brilliant for beach-lovers and anyone short on time.

Great Barrier Reef helpful tips

Whichever Great Barrier Reef tour you decide on, Slip on a  shirt,  slap on a hat and slop on some sunscreen.

Reef Encounter, Reef Experience and Compass Cruises provide reef-friendly sunscreen free for all guests.

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