Since getting my PADI scuba certification back in November when we were in Dahab, Egypt, I had completed 21 dives before arriving in Cairns, Australia in June. I was fortunate to dive on beautiful reefs in many countries during those 7 months, including: Thailand, Vietnam, Bali and the Gili Islands. However, due to her many ear infections when she was little, Amy is relegated to snorkeling while I scuba dive. Sometimes, like in the Red Sea, this arrangement worked out great. There was good visibility, calm seas, and plenty of shallow coral and fish for Amy to see snorkeling while I dove. Other times, like in Thailand off of Koh Tao, the sea was rough, currents were strong, visibility was low and most of the reefs were 10 meters (33 feet) or deeper. These conditions make finding trips that work for both of us more difficult.
While doing my research on day trips to see the Great Barrier Reef I was looking for a company that would be able to provide a great experience for both of us. After looking into numerous options, I am very happy we went with Ocean Free. The boat was an excellent choice. The small group and beautiful sailboat provided a relaxing and luxurious first experience for both of us out to the Great Barrier Reef. The trip to Green Island from Cairns got under way at 8am and we were offered fresh coffee and muffins as soon as we stepped on board. As we motored out of the harbor I was introduced to my dive instructor and Amy met her fellow snorkelers. The 14-person group on the boat that day was about 2/3 snorkelers and 1/3 divers.
Once we arrived to the anchorage point off Green Island I went on one of two dives for the day. While the reef was not the most spectacular I had seen (that title remains with the Red Sea) it was colorful with lots of marine life. And after the dive I was able to drop my scuba equipment on the boat and jump in to snorkel with Amy before lunch and snap these pictures.
After a delicious lunch on board the boat, the captain ran us over to Green Island in the dingy so that we could take an hour and walk on the nearly deserted beautiful white sand beaches. We finished the afternoon with another snorkel and dive before starting the trip back to Cairns.
Perhaps the best part of the trip with Ocean Free was the sail back. Since the wind was with us we were able to hoist the sails, kill the engine and peacefully cut through the small waves rolling across the blue water of the Coral Sea. All the while being offered wine, cheese and fruit as we chatted and lounged with our fellow tourists with the sun sinking ever lower on the horizon.
My decision to go on the Ocean Free was reinforced the next day when I went alone on a high speed catamaran for three additional dives. While the diving was great, the location was not ideal for snorkeling. Many of the best sea life and coral was too deep for the 60 or so snorkelers that made up the majority of the nearly 100 people on board this much larger boat. And while the high speed, larger boats offer divers a better chance to see sections of the reef that are further from Cairns, the Ocean Free was a trip we both could enjoy.