The Tour Specialists Blog


Things to do on the Great Barrier Reef for Non-swimmers

Sophie Tabouel on November 29th, 2021

Even if you are a non-swimmer or someone with limited swimming capabilities you can still see the magic of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and there are several ways you can do that.


Booking a reef trip on outer reef Pontoon would be the best option for you! A Pontoon is a floating stable platform which is permanently moored on the Outer Great Barrier Reef.


Booking an interactive pontoon is also a good option for people travelling with kids as there are so many more things to do and for people that may suffer from seasickness.


Photo Courtesy of Sunlover Cruises


Pontoons are a great way to see the Great Barrier Reef without even getting wet, so it is perfect for non-swimmers.


These platforms have an underwater observatory where a marine biologist or naturalist will there to talk about the reef and everything you see thru the big glass Perspex windows.


You can take photographs and videos from here of your fellow travellers as they dive and snorkel along the reef.


As these floating pontoon platforms are permanently moored at the reef they have lots of toys to enable non-swimmers, kids and those persons with disabilities to see the reef.


Glass Bottom Boat – Semi Submersible Submarine Tours On The Great Barrier Reef


You can take a ride around the coral lagoons in a semi-submersible submarine and/or glass bottom boat, try Seawalker helmet diving or even ride an underwater motor bike called Scuba Doo.


The difference between a glass bottom boat and semi-submersible submarine is as follows:


A glass bottom boat is a boat where you can view the reef though the Perspex glass or other translucent materials at the bottom and sides of the boat. The glass bottom boat driver will give you a running commentary on what you are seeing thru the glass windows in the reef.


Photo Courtesy of Great Adventures


A semi-submersible submarine is an enclosed boat which is half submerged under water with all guests either sitting in the centre or along the sides enabling them to view the reef thru the glass perspex windows.


Photo Courtesy of Great Adventures


Whilst in the semi-submersible submarine a marine naturalist will be up top outside steering the submarine along the edges of the Great Barrier Reef and giving guests a running commentary about what you are seeing thru the big glass windows.


Great Barrier Reef Interactive Pontoons For Non-Swimmers


Another great feature to these Great Barrier Reef tours on a pontoon is that you have a lot of space to walk around or lay out on the sun deck, you are not stuck on a boat all day long that is bobbing around in the deep blue sea!


A buffet lunch is served on the Platform with comfortable seating to enjoy the surrounding scenery.


Photo Courtesy of Sunlover Cruises


For the more adventurous there are buoyancy vests available for you to try your hand at doing some snorkelling with the assistance of the boat crew. The pontoon has a snorkeler’s desk with a team member there to help you.


This deck also makes it very easy for you to enter and exit the water. Please remember to always snorkel the reef with a buddy!


You can add on a guided snorkelling tour where a team member will take you around the reef on a life ring. All you have to do is hold on!


Photo Courtesy of Great Adventures


With all the Non-swimmer Great Barrier Reef tours they will include, Morning Tea, Buffet lunch, afternoon tea, snorkelling gear with Lycra sun suits, access to the underwater observatory and semi-submersible submarine and/or glass bottom boat.


There are 3 Great Barrier Reef tours in Cairns that have Pontoons suitable for non-swimmers.


Please follow the links below for further detail:











There is also a company that departs from Port Douglas that is also the best Great Barrier Reef tour for persons who are disabled and in wheelchairs. Please click links below for further details:


Port Douglas Reef Tours - Great Barrier Reef Tours


Photo Courtesy of Quicksilver Cruises


For the more adventurous you can even spend the night sleeping under the stairs on a Pontoon. What an amazing experience to be able to stay the night on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef:


Sleep On The Great Barrier Reef Cairns | The Greatest Pontoon Experience Ever | 2 Day 1 Night


Feel like flying high and viewing the Great Barrier Reef from above? Well you can on a scenic helicopter flight out to the Pontoons or return via helicopter coming back to land.


Photo Courtesy of Nautilus Aviation


Seeing the reef from above in a helicopter is simply spectacular. It gives you an insight of how big this Great Barrier Reef system really is. Being over 2200km long it can even be viewed from space.


A sample of some Fly Cruise or Cruise Fly helicopter reef trips from Cairns:


Scenic Helicopter Flights | Great Barrier Reef Platform | GBR&GA


Great Barrier Reef Helicopter Flights | A Day On The Reef | Snorkel & Dive | GBR&RM


Great Barrier Reef Tour | Cairns Pontoon | Dive-Snorkel | Helicopter | Glass Bottom Boat


Fly Cruise or Cruise Fly from Port Douglas:


Scenic Helicopter Flights | QS Great Barrier Reef Platform | Ex Port Douglas & Cairns | GBR&QS


The flights time to or from the Pontoon differ depending on which reef system you are traveling to. Flight time are approx. 25-40 minutes.




Photo Courtesy of Seawalker


Seawalker is an apparatus or helmet that you place on your head that allows you to breathe fresh air from a hose at the surface whilst you walk on either a submerged platform or on the ocean floor.


The helmet is placed on your head whilst your shoulders are in the water and the helmet sits effortlessly in place. You can even where your glasses whilst trying Seawalker and not even get your hair wet.


Scuba Doo


Photo Courtesy of Scuba Doo


Scuba Doo is a lot of fun and works in a similar way to Seawalker as you are breathing fresh air from a hose at the surface.


You hop on Scuba Doo just like you do on a motor bike but just slipping you head and shoulders under the fixed helmet and then you hold onto the handle bars to manoeuvre the Scuba Doo.


Scuba Divers will be with you at all times to ensure your safety


Non-swimmers do not have to miss out seeing the wonderous beauty of the Great Barrier Reef at all with all of the above tours and attractions we have spoken about here.


If you are coming to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia please talk to our Tour Specialists and we can not only show you the reef but also the other regional attractions such as the Daintree Rainforest, Kuranda and native Australian wildlife.


Author: Claire Redshaw - Great Barrier Reef Tour Specialist

Sophie Tabouel

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