The Tour Specialists Blog


Snorkelling Green Island – Tips & Hints

Saachi James-Mason on February 1st, 2024

Green Island, a 6,000-year-old coral cay, is located on the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef just 27 kilometres offshore from the city of Cairns. Tourists love this island as it's easily accessible on a full day tour or a half day tour that beckons snorkelling enthusiasts from around the world to explore its coral gardens and encounter the vibrant marine life that call this tropical island home. This Tour Specialists blog is intended to give you some tips and hints about what you will encounter when snorkelling around Green Island, so that are prepared, and know before you go.  

If you are arriving in Cairns on a cruise ship, then a Green Island snorkelling tour and helicopter ride fits in very well with lots of the cruise ship schedules. It is always a good idea to check with The Tour Specialists team on the tender times. For all other cruise ship shore tours read our blogs on all the things to do and the best tours and attractions in Cairns for cruise ship passengers.

Green Island Tours For Families:

If you are travelling with a young family, then Green Island is the perfect option as you can choose from a half day tour, or a full day tour and we offer some of the best family package deals that are going to save you money. The access into the water for the little one’s is easy and there are lots of places to hide under the shade of the trees if anyone needs a little sleep. For the older kids there are also a lot of other optional activities on the island that will also keep those teenagers burning off some fuel and we have mentioned these below.

Green Island is also a great option for older folks or those with some mobility issues and we cover that here in our Tour Specialists tips and hints for disabled travellers on the Great Barrier Reef. Also take a look at our tips and hints for other tours in Cairns for disabled travellers.

If you and you party are first time snorkellers we suggest you read our Travel Tips for snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef as it provides you with some handy information to ensure this is an activity for you.

How to Get to Green Island:

There are several ways to get to Green Island and that is either on a helicopter ride or a ferry boat transfer service. You can also just take a scenic flight over Green Island in an airplane if you do not wish to go on a snorkelling tour. With regards to the ferry boat transfer times please see the below tours.

1.   Ocean Free: Departing at 8am aboard Ocean Free, which provides a beautiful snorkelling tour to Green Island and Pinnacle Reef that carries only 25 passengers and returns to Cairns around 5pm. This is a sailboat, and it cruises to the island in around 2 hours.

2.   Great Adventures: Two departure times from Cairns – 8.30am and 10.30am – and three return times from Green Island – being 9.30am (if you’ve stayed overnight), 2.30pm and 4.30pm. This large catamaran has you on Green Island in just 45 minutes.

3.   Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises: Departs from Cairns at 9am, 11am, 1pm and has one return time, being 5pm and its travel time is 75 minutes.

4. Helicopter Flight and a Green Island tour on our fly and cruise tours.

Green Island Activities: Things To Do On Green Island

When you book a snorkelling tour to Green Island you will be given the above optional activities in the booking menu.

Best Snorkelling Locations on Green Island

Green Island's snorkelling opportunities are as diverse as its marine life. While there are various snorkelling spots to explore, we recommend starting your adventure under and around the jetty. This area provides a fantastic entry point into the underwater world, and the underwater life here is nothing short of spectacular. Just walk along the jetty to the stairs at the halfway point and enter the water from there.

As you dip beneath the surface, you'll be treated to a visual feast of colourful clams, parrotfish, rabbitfish, and an array of hard and soft corals. Green Island's fringing reef, a mere 1.5 kilometres offshore, also beckons with its shallow, clear waters, making it perfect for those who are confident snorkelling on their own.

Just make sure you are aware of tidal changes and marine craft traffic and you are snorkelling with a buddy.

Guided Snorkelling Tours:

For a really immersive view of the underwater world off Green Island book the optional extra guided snorkelling tour in the booking form menu. You will be taken away from Green Island on a 5 – 7-minute boat ride with a marine naturalist who will be in the water with you to point out all the things of interest. The corals and marine life here are far more impressive than those that are accessible from the Green Island beaches as they are hidden in colder water from the sun and have less traffic around them from visitors. 

Encounters with Marine Life

One of the main draws of Green Island is its abundant marine life. Snorkelling here is like entering an aquatic wonderland where surprises await at every turn. Some of the remarkable marine species you might encounter include:

  • Green Sea Turtles: These gentle giants are a common sight around Green Island, and you might have the privilege of observing their graceful underwater movements.
  • Parrotfish and Rabbitfish: Their dazzling colours and vibrant presence are sure to captivate your attention.
  • Clams: From small to massive, clams add an element of wonder to your snorkelling experience with their intricate patterns and vivid hues.
  • Moorish Idols: These striking fish, with their elongated dorsal fins and bold colours, are a treat for the eyes.
  • Eagle Rays: Glide alongside these majestic creatures as they gracefully navigate the reef.
  • Reef Sharks: Encounter blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, which are entirely harmless and a thrilling sight to behold.
  • Giant Trevally, Sea Cucumbers, and More: The diversity of marine life on Green Island is astounding. Keep your eyes peeled for these and many other fascinating creatures.

Snorkelling Equipment and Access

Don't worry about bringing your own snorkelling equipment as it's typically included in your day tour. You can expect to receive a mask, snorkel, fins, and either a Lycra sunsuit or wetsuit (depending on the time of year) from your chosen tour operator.

On some of the Green Island tours you are given the choice of the snorkelling gear or a glass bottom boat tour. If you wish to do both just tick it in the booking menu and you will be charged for the extra activity.

Besides snorkelling under the jetty, you can also explore Green Island's outer and fringing reefs. If you chose the more relaxed cruising and sailing option on Ocean Free then you will have exclusive access to Pinnacle Reef, a vibrant coral garden located 1 kilometre offshore. For those feeling confident in open water, you can venture past the moored boats to find coral walls and shelves teeming with marine life. Just make sure you always have a snorkelling buddy.

Green Island: A Tropical Paradise

Green Island isn't just about snorkelling; it's a complete tropical paradise. This 12-hectare coral cay is adorned with lush rainforests and offers a variety of activities, from parasailing and scenic helicopter flights to introductory and certified diving. For a more relaxed experience, you can rent kayaks or indulge in a spa day. The island's boardwalks provide an opportunity to explore its closed vine forest and observe its diverse plant and bird species.

Tips and FAQs

  • Currents: While there are currents in all oceanic environments, Green Island offers protection from strong tidal currents compared to the outer Great Barrier Reef.
  • Snorkelling Comparisons: Snorkelling on Green Island is distinct from the outer reef. The outer Great Barrier Reef boasts clearer water and larger reef systems with more coral diversity, while Green Island offers a different but equally mesmerizing experience as an introduction to the reef. Other islands to compare are Fitzroy Island and Low Isles and we suggest you read our Tour Specialists blogs on those before you book a snorkelling tour at those locations.
  • Turtle Sightings: While there are no guarantees, sea turtles are a common sight around Green Island, with high chances of encountering them during your visit due to the sea grasses that surround the island. If your really lucky you may even, see a dugong.
  • Snorkelling Equipment: All of the day tour operators provide snorkelling equipment as part of the tour package. It typically includes a mask, snorkel, fins, and appropriate attire.
  • Access to Offshore Reefs: Swimming to the offshore reefs is not recommended due to distance and tidal currents. Access to these reefs is usually provided by tender transfer on the guided tours.

As you plan your snorkelling adventure on Green Island, keep in mind that this tropical paradise promises an introductory experience like no other. Whether you're exploring the underwater world, relaxing on the beaches, or embarking on the myriad of other island activities, Green Island is the perfect place for a break from the world even if it’s a half day tour or a full day tour from Cairns its perfect for so many different types of visitors. Jump on over, come and explore it for yourself, and make those memories that will last a lifetime!

Read about Fitzroy Island, Low Isles and Frankland Island on our Great Barrier Reef tours blogs.

Saachi James-Mason

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