Last year we were lucky enough to go to an evening with Sir David Attenborough, easily one of our all time childhood and adulthood heroes. It was a great evening and in the Q&A, a member of the audience asked him where his favourite place he’d visited in his long career was. He replied the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. We decided there and then to put Port Douglas number one on our list.
Fast forward the best part of a year and we’re finally in Port Douglas on a warm, spring day climbing aboard a catamaran with the tour company Wavelength Reef Cruises about to set off on the 90 minute journey to go on snorkelling on Opal Reef.
Port Douglas isn’t short of tour companies that will take you out to explore the natural wonder that is the GBR. After talking to friends who’d visited a few months prior, one name kept coming highly recommended. Wavelength Reef Cruises. The companies’ unique selling point is the boat is staffed by Marine Biologists who are extremely knowledgeable about the reef and it’s inhabitants. They run a day long trip that provide three ‘dives’ at three separate sites, with a short journey between each. On the journey out they talked through the plan for the day, the safety protocol and what we might see out there. Arriving at the first spot we were given a quick lesson on using the borrowed snorkels, masks and flippers before climbing into the warm, gin clear water.
We’ve watched a lot of documentaries about the reef but nothing prepares you for seeing it right in front of you. It’s incredible. Schools of brightly coloured fish dance over a variety of corals, urchins and anemones. Bigger sized fish cruise the walls of the reef and further down in the shadows lurk even bigger ones like Red Bass and White Tipped Reef Sharks (don’t worry, they don’t harm humans).
At each site we had an hour to hunt around and take it all in. The marine biologists jumped in with us and led ‘tours’ of the reef for people who wanted to learn more, pointing out things we might have swum right past, like camouflage Cuttlefish and shy Clown Fish. Several staff members always stayed on the boat to keep an eye on everyone from an elevated position, also alert to any Turtles nearby, but unfortunately we didn’t see any on this visit.
Between site 2 and 3 we took a break and the staff put on a delicious lunch of sandwiches, fresh fruit, more cakes and savoury treats. One of the marine biologists then held an impromptu lecture talking about the health of the reef, conservation efforts and what we can do to help.
At the end of the final snorkel and out of superlatives we started the journey back to dry land as the sun started to dip. But the experience wasn’t over yet. A small pod of Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins appeared off the bow. Alerting the crew we circled round to join the dolphins who swung onto the front of the boat and ‘surfed’ the bow wave with us for several minutes.
All in all it was a brilliant experience. We almost booked another trip with them as soon as we reached the marina but thought we should probably see some more of what Port Douglas and the Daintree Basin has to offer! Throughout the whole day we felt safe, well looked after and ended the day feeling better informed about the reef systems. The size of our group was around 45 and felt just right.
If you’re heading to Port Douglas, a trip with Wavelength Reef Cruises is a definite must. You will not be disappointed.