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Oct 27

A Charming Day on the Reef with Ocean Spirit Cruises

Posted on October 27, 2016 by

Imagine this….. A sunny day in tropical North Queensland and you are wading in to the shallow waters off a white sandy island cay in the middle of the Coral Sea.  The ocean surrounding you is clear and transparent with a hint of a turquoise hue which graduates into darker shades of blue as the water gains depth out to sea. The water around you is calm and only meters away from you are shallow reefs that are easily accessible. They accommodate an assortment of coral gardens with an array of marine life ready for you to explore.

The comforts of the elegant sailing catamaran you arrived on moored not too far away still within sight. You are aware that at times you can return to the amenities of the catamaran by a regular shuttle boat that commutes between the cay and the cat for your convenience.

Transfer Tender from Catamaran to Michaelmas Cay

Transfer Tender to Take You to the Cay

A Coral Sand Cay Paradise

If you have this image in your mind, you have just visualised a snippet of my recent day out to Michaelmas Cay with Ocean Spirit Cruises which departs daily out of Cairns. I can describe the experience as tranquil and picturesque. Forget the hustle and bustle action packed style of reef tour you may have experienced with large numbers of passengers travelling to the outer reef pontoon previously. Ocean Spirit Cruises offers an experience a little more low-key where it cruises out to the mid-reef on a luxury 32 metre sailing catamaran as an alternative to a high speed Catamaran.

The whole experience includes a focus on the cruise in addition to the destination and the activities once moored at Michaelmas Cay. The catamaran felt like it was gliding through the water as it was sailing out to the mid-reef and I was able to walk around the top and forward deck of the cat with ease on the way out there. The mid and lower decks had chairs and tables with ample space around them.  It was a relaxed and comfortable feel as the ladies I was travelling with sipped our cups of tea and coffee and ate cake and muffins that were served for morning tea.

Once we arrived not far from the shore and the catamaran was moored, we had a buffet lunch which was served from the galley but could be taken away to any of the decks to eat. Lunch consisted of a range of hot and cold dishes as well as cold meats, chilled prawns, salad and fruit. I am vegetarian and was able to choose dishes without any issues.

Snorkeller on Michaelmas Cay

Getting Ready to Snorkel

Michaelmas Sand Cay – Great Barrier Reef – Australia

Michaelmas Cay itself is truly one of the most picturesque places I have seen. To see and explore the marine life underwater is an added enticement to the day out. However let me just say that if I wasn’t interested in snorkelling, I would still have been happy just to wade in the waters and bask in the sun on the beach. At one stage throughout the day some rain clouds swept across the sky and the cay still it kept its beauty.

Ornithologists – Bird Watchers

In addition to the marine life surrounding the coral cay there is a large colony of migratory seabirds that nest on a protected area of the cay. I am not sure how many there were but there seemed to be quite a few species amongst them. I have read that it is one of the most important seabird breeding habitats in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether you are a birdwatcher or not they are intriguing to watch.  This is also a great photo opportunity for anyone interested in wildlife photography.

Bird Sanctuary

Bird Sanctuary

Semi-submersible Submarine

After lunch I was keen to explore the coral gardens and view the marine life just metres out from the beach and began my tour of the reef by the semi-submersible submarine first. This is a great way to view the reef for anyone that isn’t so confident with snorkelling. Even though I enjoy snorkelling, I enjoy seeing the reef from a different perspective and listening to the commentary from the marine biologist.  My mind is always open to learning new and interesting facts about the marine life.

Semi-submersible Submarine Tour

Semi-submersible Submarine Tour

Guided Snorkelling Tour

Once the tour on the semi-submersible submarine was finished, I went on to do the guided snorkelling tour with the marine biologist. She took a small group of us out from the catamaran and guided us through the reef until we reached the beach of the cay. Along the way she pointed out different coral and marine animals to us with interesting facts related to them. I was amazed by how many giant and baby clams there were in the waters around the cay.  I had never realised how many varied colours and patterns clams can be.

The guided snorkelling tour ended once we reached the beach. From there I went and did a little snorkelling on my own. I took my time admiring the coral formations and the fish amongst them. I discovered a few fish that had me curious as to what they were because I had never seen them before. They were a ‘Scribbled Leatherjacket” and a pair of “Lizardfish” which were sitting camouflaged on some hard coral.

Luckily I had taken photos of them and asked the marine biologist on the cruise home what they were and she showed me images and information on them in a marine reference book she had on hand. The Lizardfish looked like Blue Tongue Lizards with a couple of fins!!  I found it incredible that fish in the sea and a lizard on the land could look so similar.  I saw little clown fish hiding in the soft anemone that were so adorable and so many other colourful fish.

I was pleased with my discoveries for the day. It was also great to be able to snorkel in shallow water and be able to put my feet on the sandy bottom when I need to. I enjoyed also the feeling of sunning myself on the beach and taking in the view around me on my breaks in between snorkelling. I love taking photos of places I explore so I shuttled back to the catamaran to get my camera and took some photos of the birds and the cay. The scenery just had to be captured!

Reef Fish Michaelmas Cay

Reef Fish on Michaelmas Cay

Cruise Back to Cairns

We had a steady cruise back home with the sails out, and we were served a complimentary glass of bubbly with some cheese and crackers. This is where we kicked back and reflected on our experiences from the day. And let me tell you…. We only had positive things to say about our day on the Great Barrier Reef.

When you choose to go out on this cruise to Michaelmas Cay with Ocean Spirit, you can be guaranteed it will be a more relaxed kind of reef experience in comparison to the day trips to the pontoons on the outer reef with scores of other tourists.  It will also feel a little more luxurious.

If you are looking for a day out where you are not surrounded by hundreds of other adventurous holiday-makers, and you like to feel the sand between your toes, you will enjoy this cruise.  I found that Ocean Spirit has a unique class of its own and is a stylish way to visit the reef.  The staff on board are professional, approachable and appeared to be very experienced in their jobs. They were also very aware of protecting the environment out on the reef, even offering the use of the lycra swimsuits at no charge to protect us from the sun and avoid sunscreens that could in large and frequent doses potentially cause harm to the marine life.

I recommend Ocean Spirit Cruises to anyone who prefers to approach the reef from the beach.

Enjoying the Cruise

Enjoying the Cruise

Suitable for Swimmers & Non-swimmers

It is suitable for experienced swimmers and non-swimmers. It is great for people of all ages and for anyone that feels more secure in shallow waters. If you are a person who enjoys ambience over action this is definitely for you.

Take a peek here for some more information and book your Great Barrier Reef cruise with us today you will love it!

Coral Gardens Seen from The Semi-Sub Michaelmas Cay

Coral Gardens Seen from The Semi-Sub

Blog by Jennifer – Cairns Tour Specialist.

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