The Tour Specialists Blog


What To Do In Cairns, Queensland – Great Barrier Reef Tour To Michaelmas Cay

Sophie Tabouel on July 2nd, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Ocean Spirit - Michaelmas Cay

What Can You Do On A Winter Day In Cairns?

Last weekend I was lucky enough to take a reef trip from Cairns in Queensland Australia to Michaelmas Cay with the luxury sailing vessel Ocean Spirit Cruises.

Right up from the moment of check in, it was really nice to meet smiling & friendly staff members early in the morning. We were welcomed at the Quicksilver desk within the Reef Fleet Terminal at the Marlin Marina in Spence Street Cairns and then we had enough time to enjoy a juice at the nearby cafe before making our way to board our luxury sailing boat for the day.

On boarding we were welcomed and had our picture taken before going and making ourselves comfortable on the boat. The first staff member was there to welcome us again and provide us with a sheet full of information about the vessel as well as an itinerary of our day and information on Michaelmas Cay, the migratory bird life and marine environment there.

We made our way to the top deck of the boat where there was plenty of seating available to enjoy the fresh sea breezes.  My son enjoyed his complimentary cake, biscuits and muffins and within 10 minutes we were underway on our journey out to snorkel Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

On Our Way for A Great Barrier Reef Adventure 

Once the boat was on the move out of the harbour, we were given an entertaining safety talk by the crew and a cheery welcome aboard and then advised on how the day’s activities would be run.  We were invited to see crew members to organise some of the fantastic extras such as guided snorkel tours and introductory scuba diving lessons and also invited to head down to the galley to choose a departure time to enjoy our included semi-submersible submarine tour.

Photo Courtesy of Ocean Spirit - Semi-Submersible Tour

My advice would be to get down quick and put your names down quick as the early departure goes fast!  There is a choice of an early, mid and afternoon departure.  We decided to book the late afternoon tour so we could go after enjoying our buffet lunch.

Once out of the leads, the main sail was unfurled and although expecting a day of up to 25 knots, the trip was surprisingly calm aboard this catamaran. The boat was large and spacious and people were enjoying the big open foredeck in the sunshine as it was coming thru the clouds.

Photo Courtesy of Tanith Barrie

Within 90 minutes we had fantastic views of Green Island as we headed past and in the next 25 minutes we came to our destination of Michaelmas Cay.  There was only one boat there and it was quite a nice day with the sun starting to show through. 

Things To Do & Things To See on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Once we were moored, the fish feeding presentation begun.  The fish must be well trained or bea able to tell the time as they were ready and waiting. The crew point out the varying species such as Giant Trevally, Fusiliers, Bat Fish and Emperor to name a few.  A very informative talk was given and everyone had plenty of space to get a great view.

Whilst we were distracted with the fish feeding, the other crew members took the time to prepare the snorkel and dive gear which is laid out in lockers on the lower back deck... There is plenty of room to make your way around and find the right size.  Everything is clearly labled and colour coded and there was no pushing and shoving to be seen.  Wetsuits were available for hire from the bar and I certainly made sure I had one as being a local Cairns family we really feel the cold!

Photo Courtesy of Tanith Barrie - Wetsuits to keep you warm

Guests are not allowed to enter the water from the Ocean Spirit cruises boat itself and instead are ferried to the solitary sand cay by a glass bottom boat which is exciting in itself.  The glass bottom boat shuttle runs every 15 minutes and it is only a 2 minute ride to the beach.

By the time guests have selected their snorkel gear and are ready to go – the Ocean Spirit Cruises guests have Michaelas Cay all to themselves.  Once at the sand cay you simply find a spot on the beach and then head into the water to don your mask & fins and get snorkelling.

The fish life is very prominent and we began seeing fish and sting rays as soon as we put our face in the water.  Soft corals, giant clams & plenty of Nemo's were also easily sighted.  Whilst we missed out, one of the other guests was lucky enough to swim with a sea turtle.

The photographer was in the water with everyone and she caught some great snaps of this and other underwater action throughout the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ocean Spirit - Glass Bottom Boat

Even though there was a slight current, the snorkelling was really good.  If you aren't the strongest swimmer there are flotation devices provided on the boat and there is a crew member in a fast dingy constantly patrolling and keeping a firm eye on those in the water.

If you have had enough of the snorkelling, you can head back to the Cay and view the migratory bird life on Michaelmas.  We were there outside of nesting season but there was still an abundance of birdlife to photograph.

Photo Courtesy of Tanith Barrie - Ready to Scuba Dive

We made use of the next shuttle to head back to the sailing boat to warm up and enjoy a simple but very nice buffet lunch.  There were menu options for everyone including a vegan option and thankfully some hot soup because the 22 degrees was just a little chilly for local’s like us - though nobody else seemed to mind!

We had time to enjoy our lunch before boarding our semi-submersible submarine for a tour of the Great Barrier Reef around Michaelmas Cay.  We were given a fantastic interpretive talk with the on board crew member explaining the makeup of the reef and the history of some of the large corals.  We saw many soft and hard corals, huge boulder coral, plate & stag coral, a beautiful sea turtle, Nemo clownfish were everywhere and much more.

Photo Courtesy of Tanith Barrie - Scuba Diving

If you are keen you can even try out your diving skills with an introductory scuba dive whilst on Michaelmas Cay and it is a very popular thing to do as you can calmly walk backwards into the water and be a lot more comfortable than just taking a jump into the deep blue from the back of a boat.

Just a note though you do have to pre-book the introductory scuba dives as they can only allow a certain number for the day.

Sailing Back to Cairns

Once back aboard the main vessel, fruit & afternoon tea was served and we spent some time enjoying the space to relax on board.  Ocean Spirit is very well presented. There were 65 guests on board and we all had plenty of space to relax.  The toilets were clean at all times and the crew did a great job of keeping all areas of the boat neat and tidy.

On our return trip, things got a little rough. Many guests had taken advantage of the sea sickness tablets provided and it became telling who hadn't.  I take my hat off to the crew members who went out of their way to look after any of the guests who were unwell and all with a smile and a kind word.

Once through the worst of the crossing and within sight of Yorkeys Knob we celebrated with our complimentary sparkling wine & some cheese and biscuits - a great end to a lovely day.

I can't wait to speak with some of our guests who choose to enjoy the hospitality of Ocean Spirit Cruises while visiting Cairns & Tropical Far North Queensland. This fantastic vessel & friendly crew are definitely worth spending a day with.

Book your Michaelmas Cay escape today 1300 761 612.

Author: Tanith Barrie – The Tour Specialist

Sophie Tabouel

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