Great Barrier Reef FAQ

Do I need to travel to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef?

No, the reef extends from Cape York in North Queensland to Bundaberg in the South. The reef stretches over 2,000 kilometres and there are hundreds of islands and coral reefs for you to visit from many other regions in Queensland. However, Cairns is the only destination that has an international airport and so many visitors choose this location for convenience.

What part of the Great Barrier Reef or island is best for me?

We have compiled a list of islands and reefs to allow you to decide which would be best for you depending on whether you are travelling in a group, as a family or a backpacker on a budget. Please click here .

I have heard about dangerous jellyfish in the Great Barrier Reef. Is it still safe for me to swim?

Yes, marine stingers such as the Irukandji and Box Jellyfish are found in the warm tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef but it is still safe to swim by wearing a ‘stinger suit’. These lycra suites are provided for you on all cruises that go out to the reef for a small rental fee. The stinger season runs from November to May but they can still be found in the water outside of the season. If you are stung by a jellyfish, apply vinegar to the affected area and dial 000 for medical attention.For more information on Stingers please click here .

How much time should I spend at the Great Barrier Reef?

How much time do you have? You could spend a lifetime here and still not see everything there is to see. Our recommendations is that you spend at least one day out of the reef on a day cruise and a scenic flight above the reef for some amazing photographs. Most people will choose an island or destination and spend a week there. Many Australian make the Great Barrier Reef apart of their annual holiday.

When is the best time of year to visit the Great Barrier Reef ?

April- November: 18-29 degrees (Celsius) This is the warm dry season where temperatures are still warm but the humidity drops off slightly. Rainfall is low and you can expect clear sunny skies for days. Ocean temperatures are still warm at approximately 24 degrees and the stinger season ends in April so the risk of stings are low. This time is generally considered to be off peak so you can get cheaper flights, accommodation and less crowds out on the islands and reefs.

November – March: 29- 32 degrees (Celsius) This is our peak summer season and humidity is at its highest but some like it hot! You can cool off in the many waterfalls, lakes, creeks and of course the reef. Balmy temperatures normally drop off in the evenings with cool sea breezes. Visitors should also be aware that this is also our wet, cyclonic season with average rainfalls of 2000mm of rain received every year. Cyclones can arrive with only a few days notice and absolutely no tour operators will continue during this time due to safety precautions. On the upside, this is the best time to visit the many spectacular waterfalls within the region once the rain stops.

What is the EMC/ Reef Tax that I have to pay when I go on a day cruise?

Everyone that enters the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park by boat must pay the Environmental Management Charge or ‘Reef Tax’. Cruise operators collect the funds from visitors and go to the Australian Government who use the funds to conserve the islands and reefs. The fee is from $6-10 per person.

Can I bring home coral as a souvenir from the reef?

No. The Great Barrier Reef is a world heritage listed natural wonder of the world. The fish of the Great Barrier Reef are reliant on the coral for shelter and food. By taking coral you are damaging the reef and once the coral dies it cannot grow back. A penalty of $470, 000- $700, 000 applies to individuals caught wilfully damaging the reef. Please look but don’t touch. Take photographs instead.

I can’t swim but can I go snorkelling or diving?

The simple answer is No. Even though tour operators provide you with life vests, noodles and life rings when you snorkel you still need to be able to swim comfortably on your own. Staff on board are trained lifeguards and need to keep watch of all the other swimmers in the water so you should not expect them to get in the water with you and hold your hand.

If you cannot swim there are many operators that have glass bottom boat tours and underwater observatories for coral viewing on the outer Great Barrier Reef Scenic flights are also a great way for you to see the reef if you are unable to swim.

Can I go scuba diving without a certification?

Yes you can. Dive operators can take you out on an introductory dive which gives you a taste of diving and usually lasts for about 30 minutes in small groups. The staff will provide you with a safety briefing before hand and you will need to fill in a medical questionnaire as well. For more information visit our dive page.

Will my tour go ahead if it rains?

In most cases, Yes they will still operate. The rain doesn’t bother the fish and you will be getting wet anyway when you go snorkelling and diving. What does cause tour operators to cancel is if there are strong marine winds which make it too dangerous for them to travel. In most cases they will reschedule you or offer a refund instead. We always advise to reconfirm your tour with the operator 24 hours before departure as they will have the latest weather information and will confirm whether the cruise is going ahead.