The Tour Specialists Blog


Is Low Isles Worth a Visit – What is There to Do on the Island?

admin on January 20th, 2024

Are you coming to Port Douglas for a holiday and wondering if you should go on a snorkelling tour to Low Isles? You have heard about this place but need to know more? Read on to learn more as we show you all the things you can do and things you will see in the beautiful Low Isles.

So, to begin with let’s introduce you to the Low Isles and explain its assets and attractions for snorkellers and beach goers.

The Low Isles, a small group of islands located in the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia, is considered a worthwhile destination to visit on a day tour or overnight charter boat fromPort Douglas for several reasons:

Whale Watching: The annual migration to the Great Barrier Reef for the humpback whales begins down south from May as they make their way to the safety of the waters of our coral reefs to calve and nuture their young before the big journey begins south to the antarctic again around September. Their greatest concentration in numbers on the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef is during the months of June and July as they cruise by on their way to the more remote sections of the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs. These are the months when the mystical Dwarf Minke Whales also appear to the delight of visitors from around the world. Did you know that this is the only place in the world that you can swim with Dwarf Minke Whales on a liveaboard dive and snorkel tour?  

Snorkelling: As part of the Great Barrier Reef, the Low Isles offer exceptional opportunities for a half day or full day tour of snorkelling the soft and hard coral reefs that surround the islands. These waters are well-known as the place to go snorkelling with green sea turtles as these they call these islands home. You will see them if you gently snorkel among the coral gardens and bommies. The access into the water is easy from the sloping beach and once you pop your head under you will delights at the diverse range of marine life, including 150 different species of corals, giant clams, colourful fish, sea turtles, and occasionally the odd and very shy black tip reef sharks.
Beautiful Beaches: The Low Isles boast picturesque beaches with white sand and clear blue waters, ideal for swimming and a few sun huts dotted along the shore are available to relax under.
Wildlife Watching: Apart from marine life, the Low Isles are also known for their birdlife. Bird enthusiasts might enjoy spotting various species, including seabirds that migrate to these islands to nest at various times of the year.
Historical Significance: The Low Isles has a lot of historical importance, including a lighthouse that has been operational since 1878 and it has some fascinating historical articles and items that visitors can explore to learn more about the importance of this island to not only the local Aboriginals but also to the ecology and welfare of the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs in the world. The Low Isle to this day plays hosts to marine scientists from the world over to study and learn about the life and structure of the world’s greatest reef. 
Educational Tours: When you book a full day tour or a half day snorkelling tour to Low Isles from Port Douglas, they normally include an educational tour that will take you to the lighthouse and also talk about the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef and the conservation efforts to protect it.
Accessibility: Located only about 15 kilometres from Port Douglas, the Low Isles are easily accessible by a short boat ride, making them a quick and convenient day trip destination.

How long does it take to get from Port Douglas to Low Isles?

The journey from Port Douglas to the Low Isles typically takes around 30 minutes to an hour by boat. The exact duration can vary depending on the type of vessel used and the specific tour operator. On a sailboat the trip is around 1 hour and on a catamaran around 30 minutes until you are in paradise.

Many Great Barrier Reef snorkelling tours offer day trips to the Low Isles, which include the boat ride along with various activities such as snorkelling and all the gear required, guided snorkelling tours, catering and guided island walks.

What is better Low Isles or Outer Great Barrier Reef?

This is a really hard question to give one answer to as it all depends on your personal goals and ability. Choosing between the Low Isles and the Outer Great Barrier Reef depends on your interests and what kind of experience you are looking for. Both destinations offer unique experiences:

Low Isles:

Proximity: Located closer to the mainland (about 15 km from Port Douglas), making it easily accessible and ideal for half day snorkel tours or full day snorkel tours and a sunset sail.
Snorkelling: Offers excellent snorkelling, abundant marine life and is especially suitable for beginners or those who prefer calmer waters.
Island Experience: You can enjoy a more relaxed island vibe with beautiful beaches and opportunities for bird watching and snorkelling with sea turtles.
Educational Tours: Often includes guided walks and educational tours about the island’s history, the lighthouse, the importance of the islands to the indigenous community, the marine life and the ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef.
Relax on the Beach: With a snorkelling tour to Low Isles, you will not be spending the whole day on a boat or floating pontoon. You can sit and relax on the beach or go for a wander around to explore rock pools and the islands ecology whenever you feel like it.

Outer Great Barrier Reef Tours From Port Douglas:

Diverse Marine Life: The deeper you go the colder the water temperatures are, which creates a more suitable climate for the growth of larger corals and in turn this attracts larger fish species. So, it makes perfect sense if you wish to see stunning and much larger coral formations, drop offs and bommies and a wider variety of marine life, including large fish and deep-water species then an outer Great Barrier Reef tour may be your better option.
Scuba Diving: If you wish to try scuba diving for the first time or you are a keen scuba diver already then yes you must book a Great Barrier Reef tour that visits the outer reef as there is no scuba diving on Low Isles. Divers can book to go on the Quicksilver interactivity pontoon on the Agincourt Reef as that offers a myriad of in-water activities to suit all age groups and abilities. The other option is to book a dedicated dive and snorkel tour that visits 2 or 3 different dive sites in the one day giving you a really good view of the best parts of the outer Great Barrier Reef.
Larger Scale: The outer reef is vast and offers a more immersive experience into the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. On a dive trip no two reef sites are the same and if you went out each day with the same Great Barrier Reef dive boat you would not be seeing the same reef as you saw the previous day.
Scenic Beauty: The outer reef is often considered more spectacular in terms of underwater scenery and biodiversity due to the deeper water and cooler conditions for the corals to thrive and the marine life to feel safe.

Boat Time: When on an outer reef tour, you need to be prepared to be floating around on a boat all day or in the water snorkelling and scuba diving. We do not recommend a dedicated dive and snorkel tour for those with young families or older parents travelling as they may get very bored on the vessel. We have a great selection of family friendly tours and in Port Douglas we recommend the Quicksilver pontoon is the best option for families, older folks and those that may be disabled in a wheelchair or mobility impaired.
In summary, if you prefer a more relaxed, easily accessible trip with opportunities for beach time and light snorkelling, the Low Isles are a great choice. However, if you're looking for more adventurous diving and want to experience a wider variety of marine life, the Outer Great Barrier Reef would be more suitable. Your decision may also be influenced by factors like travel time, budget, and your level of comfort in the water.

What is the snorkelling like at Low Isles?

The snorkelling experience at Low Isles will be a different experience for everyone and dependent on their experience and personal expectations. Visitors have to understand how the reef works and understand that only certain types of corals grow around islands and sand cays. This affects the colours of the corals and the marine life that are attracted to these corals. The fancy corals and colours you see for sale in the shops is not the true-life colour of coral so please do not expect bright vivid colours to jump out at you everywhere in the water. You will however find nice, coloured corals such a blue, red, orange and few more calm colours dotted around the island. There are around 150 different species of corals around low Isles.  You will see clownfish (Nemo), turtles, giant clams, vibrant juvenile clams, angle fish, parrot fish, rabbitfish, batfish and damsels.

Here are some key aspects of snorkelling at Low Isles:

Calm Waters: The waters around the Low Isles are generally calm and clear, providing a comfortable environment for snorkelling. This is particularly advantageous for beginners or those who prefer more gentle snorkelling conditions.
Coral Gardens: The area is known for its beautiful coral gardens. Snorkellers can expect to see a variety of hard and soft corals in relatively shallow waters, making them easily accessible.
Marine Life: The Low Isles are home to a diverse array of marine life. Snorkellers can expect to see tropical fish, sea turtles, small reef sharks, clams, and occasionally rays. The variety and abundance of marine life make it a delightful experience for nature lovers.
Guided Snorkeling Tours: Many of the Port Douglas tour operators offer guided snorkelling tours. These guided tours are not only educational, with insights into the ecosystem of the reef and its inhabitants, but also ensure the safety and comfort of snorkellers.
Eco-Friendly Snorkelling: The area is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and efforts are made to ensure snorkelling activities are eco-friendly and do not harm the delicate coral ecosystem.
Visibility: Visibility is generally good, allowing snorkellers to have clear views of the underwater world. However, it can vary depending on weather conditions and time of year.
Accessibility: Snorkelling spots are easily accessible from the beach, making it convenient for those who prefer not to swim too far from the shore.

The Low Isles provide a serene and picturesque snorkelling experience, making it a popular choice for families, beginners, and those who want to combine snorkelling with a relaxing beach day. As always, it's recommended to be mindful of conservation guidelines to protect the reef and its inhabitants. Do not stand on the corals, do not break off any corals.

Things To Do on Low Isles

Visiting Low Isles offers a variety of activities that cater to both relaxation and adventure enthusiasts. Here are some of the key things to do on the Low Isles:

Snorkelling: The number one main attraction, snorkelling in the clear waters around Low Isles provides an opportunity to explore vibrant coral gardens and a diverse range of marine life, including tropical fish and sea turtles.
Glass Bottom Boat Tours: For those who prefer to stay dry, glass-bottom boat tours offer a glimpse of the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef without getting wet.
Guided Island Walks: Participate in guided walks around the island. These walks often focus on the history, flora, and fauna of the Low Isles and can be both educational and enjoyable.
Bird Watching: The Low Isles are home to a variety of bird species, making it an ideal spot for bird watching. Keep an eye out for seabirds like the osprey and the sooty tern.
Relaxing on the Beach: The island features beautiful, serene beaches where you can relax, sunbathe, and enjoy the picturesque scenery.
Visit the Lighthouse: Explore the historic Low Isles Lighthouse, operational since 1878, and learn about its role in navigation and history.
Photography: The scenic beauty of the Low Isles, both above and below the water, makes it a great location for photography enthusiasts.
Educational Tours: Engage in educational tours that offer insights into the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef and the ongoing conservation efforts.
Picnicking: Enjoy a leisurely picnic on the beach. Some tour operators may provide picnic lunches, you have lunch on the boat.
Swimming: The calm and clear waters around the Low Isles are perfect for a relaxing swim.
Sunset Watching: If you stay late enough, the sunset views from the Low Isles can be spectacular or you can book an adults only half day tour that includes a sunset cruise.

These activities combine relaxation, education, and adventure, making the Low Isles a versatile destination for various interests. It's important to remember that the Low Isles are part of a protected marine park, so visitors should be mindful of their environmental impact while enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

Are There Half Day Tours to Low Isles?

Yes, half-day tours to the Low Isles are available and quite popular, especially for those who have limited time or prefer shorter excursions. These tours typically include several key features:

Snorkelling: Half-day tours usually offer ample time for snorkelling, allowing you to explore the coral gardens and marine life around the Low Isles.
Glass Bottom Boat Rides: Many tours include a glass bottom boat trip, which is a great way to see the reef if you prefer not to snorkel.
Island Exploration: Depending on the tour operator, you might have some time to explore the island, visit the lighthouse, or engage in a short guided walk to learn about the island's flora, fauna, and history.
Relaxation Time: There's often a bit of free time to relax on the beach and enjoy the serene environment.
Educational Aspects: Guides often provide information about the reef ecosystem, its inhabitants, and conservation efforts.
Convenience: These tours are ideal for those staying in Port Douglas, as the Low Isles are only a short boat ride away.

When choosing a half-day tour, it's important to check the details with the tour provider, as the specifics can vary. Some tours might focus more on snorkeling, while others might offer more comprehensive island experiences. Additionally, consider the tour's start and end times to ensure it fits well with your schedule especially if you are on a cruise ship calling into Port Douglas.

Are There Lots of Turtles at Low Isles?

Yes, the Low Isles are known for their population of Green sea turtles, making it a popular destination for those hoping to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Here are some details about turtle sightings at the Low Isles:

Species: The most commonly sighted turtles around the Low Isles are the Green Sea Turtles and the Hawksbill Turtles. Green Sea Turtles are more frequently seen, known for their large size and distinctive shell pattern.
Snorkeling with Turtles: Snorkellers often have the opportunity to see turtles up close, as they are generally not shy around humans. The clear waters around the Low Isles provide good visibility for observing these animals.
Conservation Area: The Low Isles and the surrounding parts of the Great Barrier Reef are protected areas, which helps in maintaining a healthy population of sea turtles.
Best Time for Sightings: While turtles can be seen year-round, the best time to see them is during the warmer months when they are more active. Additionally, early morning or late afternoon can be good times for sightings as turtles tend to be more active during these cooler parts of the day.
Responsible Viewing: It's important to remember that sea turtles are protected species. Visitors should maintain a respectful distance and avoid touching or disturbing the turtles, following the guidelines provided by tour operators and conservationists.

The presence of sea turtles adds a special dimension to the snorkelling and diving experiences at the Low Isles, making it a memorable destination for wildlife enthusiasts.

Planning a Snorkelling Tour to Low Isles

When planning a snorkelling tour to the Low Isles, there are several additional aspects and tips that tourists should be aware of to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience:

Weather Considerations: The weather can significantly affect your experience. The best time to visit is during the dry season (May to October) when the weather is more stable and the water clarity is at its best.
Sun Protection: The sun can be very strong, especially on the water. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses, and consider wearing a long-sleeve UV-protective swim shirt.
Water Safety: Even though the waters around Low Isles are generally calm, it's important to be cautious and follow safety guidelines provided by tour operators, especially if you're not a strong swimmer.
Environmental Awareness: The Low Isles are part of a protected area. Be mindful of the environment, avoid touching or standing on coral, and do not disturb the wildlife. Follow the “take only photos, leave only footprints” principle.
Hydration and Food: Ensure you stay hydrated and bring snacks or a meal if you have special needs. All tour operators provide some sort of sustenance on a 4 hour or longer tour.

Marine Stingers: During the warmer months (November to May), marine stingers (like jellyfish) can be present. Wearing a stinger suit, which is often provided by tour operators, is recommended.
Accommodation and Logistics: If you’re staying in Port Douglas, check the proximity of your accommodation to the tour departure points. Book your tour in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
Camera and Waterproof Gear: Bring a waterproof camera or a waterproof case for your phone for underwater photography. Also, consider a dry bag to keep your belongings safe and dry.
Motion Sickness: If you're prone to seasickness, consider taking motion sickness medication before the boat ride.
Local Regulations: Be aware of any local regulations or guidelines that may apply, especially concerning conservation efforts and protected areas.

Respect Local Culture: If there are any cultural sites or norms, it's important to respect these as a visitor.

Remember, each tour might offer different experiences and amenities, so it's crucial to check with The Tour Specialists website details for specific details and inclusions. Preparation and awareness can greatly enhance your experience at the Low Isles.

View all Low Isles snorkelling tours from Port Douglas.

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