Before diving headfirst into the underwater wonderland, see our tips on how to make the most of your Great Barrier Reef trip!

The Great Barrier Reef is an iconic destination and undoubtedly one of Australia’s biggest drawcards. But many who travel to the natural wonder don’t make the most of their time here, not obtaining certain tips until it is too late in the trip. Here, we’ve made it easy for you, listing the top tips you should know before heading to the stunning Great Barrier Reef.

  • Choose your base point

    When planning your Great Barrier Reef trip, choosing the right port to base yourself out can be tricky. The entire reef region stretches over two thousand kilometres along the coastline, with multiple cities and towns only a short boat’s ride away from the reef.  Destinations to pick from include the quiet Port Douglas, the serene Cape Tribulation and the tranquil Whitsundays, but undoubtedly your best option is the popular Cairns. Great Barrier Reef tours set off from Cairns every day, with the local Marlin Marina a quick drive or walk away from majority of the city’s hotels.

  • Beware of the sun

    If you are from the Northern Hemisphere, the sun may be a good friend of yours, as the summer season grants you a golden tan for all to envy. But for us Australians, it is a bit different, with the sun strength in the Southern Hemisphere far stronger, resulting in everyone getting lobster red burnt if they head out into the sun without any protection. For this reason, Australians live by the ‘Slip Slop Slap’ chant: slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat!

  • Check whether you can scuba dive

    Australia has pretty strict restrictions on scuba diving, with every tour and guide following the guidelines conscientiously. Certain medication, medical conditions, past surgeries, and flight schedules can all prevent people from diving. Common medical issues that usually prevent people from diving are asthma and anxiety medications, but the required medical questionnaire given out prior to your booking or dive has a much larger list of restrictions.

    Flying is another common restriction for travellers diving, as it can increase your risk of Decompression Sickness, otherwise known as “the bends”. Therefore you must not fly within 18 hours of completing a single scuba dive or 24 hours after multiple dives. You can, however, fly and then dive on the same day, but not dive and then fly.

    Considering these restrictions before booking your tour can help you save both your time and money when visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

  • Choose the right tour

    With the endless list of Great Barrier Reef tours, it can be hard finding the best one for you! For those looking for a classic snorkelling adventure, many tours just offer the basic tour highlights, letting you snorkel through the warm waters as you hop from one reef to the next! If you’d prefer a deeper exploration, why not choose a reef tour which offers the optional extra of scuba diving? If you prefer doing your own thing, hop on one of the reef’s pontoons and spend the day how you like it!

  • Treat the reef with respect

    Despite its great beauty, the Great Barrier reef is struggling with both climate change and human’s continuous disrespect to it. Tourist’s involvement can include boats and snorkellers destroying the reef systems with coral destruction, waste management, and putting unwanted chemicals into the ocean. This however can easily be prevented, by simply following the motto ‘Leave It Better Than You Found It’. Choose a tour which operates safely for the reef and take care to not touch coral or wildlife to prevent any breakage. Even the correct sunscreen containing harmful ingredients used can cause a negative impact on the reef, so make sure to check the label before hopping in the water!

  • Spend a night out on the reef

    If you’ve got the time to spare, instead of spending a simple day on the reef, why not enjoy a night too? Hop on a Liveaboard tour and experience the reef after sunset, enjoying the quiet and serene ocean when the nocturnal animals come out.

  • Don’t limit yourself to the reef

    Many head to Queensland with only the Great Barrier Reef in their sights, disregarding all the other fantastic attractions nearby. However, the reef isn’t the only highlight of Australia’s tropic, so spend a few extra days exploring more of what the region has to offer. Some of the best attractions worth seeing are the glorious Daintree Rainforest, the magical Atherton Tablelands and the famous Mossman Gorge!

Related article: Are There Sharks in the Great Barrier Reef?

How to Explore the Great Barrier Reef Tours

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward began with a passion for travel and turned it into a thriving tourism business. He co-founded Sightseeing Tours Australia after starting out as a tour guide in Melbourne. Cameron delights in helping visitors get the most from their trip to Australia. Whether he's leading tours or writing about his favourite places, Cameron loves sharing his local insight with fellow travellers.

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