Passions of Paradise is one of our favourite boats in Cairns. First and foremost, the 25 m custom-built, high-performance catamaran is so comfy and relaxing on both the interior and exterior that you feel compelled to lounge around all day. It is truly such an exciting feeling to look at back at Cairns and the mainland knowing that you are going out to spend a day at the Great Barrier Reef.
The boat itself was big and had plenty of outdoor sunning area, but also many soft benches and tables on the inside to cool down. Furthermore, it stops at two different locations where you can snorkel and or dive.
We experienced a smooth check-in process at the Reef fleet terminal and were issued boarding passes before making our way to the catamaran. The ride out to the reef on the large Passions III catamaran is fast and smooth during which time tea, coffee, biscuits and muffins are provided.
As with all tour boats in Cairns, on the way out to the reef we were given a safety brief and one of the things you really want in a tour is safety, which they prioritise in an accessible and entertaining way.
We were also asked by the crew to fill out our dive medical forms so that we ere ready to jump into the water with our scuba gear as soon as we reached our first Reef location.
Passions have 24 different moorings and take visitors to different locations depending on the weather. On our trip, we went out to Three Sisters on Milne Reef and Michaelmas Cay.
My favourite thing about the Passions III team is that they are attentive to safety whilst being fun, friendly and enthusiastic. Stinger suits, masks and snorkels were provided in our ticket price, which was great because many other companies actually charge extra on the boat to hire them.
My Dad is not a strong swimmer, but the Passions crew gave him a life jacket so he could go for a swim in the snorkelling area and not miss out on the action with our family. There were lots of shallow areas along the reef walls which were perfect for snorkelling. But as per usual I had to get under the surface for a Scuba dive.
My friends Allison and Megan really wanted to go diving with me but had not ever been Scuba diving before. So we signed them up to do an introductory dive at the first dive site. They were both quite nervous but our instructor, Nick, put them at ease and was professional and empathetic.
For the introductory divers, there is a rope about 30 cm underwater at the back of the boat, which allows the intro-divers a safe, sheltered environment to first experience breathing through the Scuba apparatus underwater.
After two minutes, they took to scuba diving like true mermaids, and we proceeded to all go on a calm, cruisy, (albeit shallow) dive to explore the underwater wonderland that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Our instructor pointed out some really unusual and interesting marine life. One of my favourites was a bright electric blue 20 mm nudibranch (aka a tiny sea slug). Then to my sheer delight, he pointed out an octopus! It came out from a hole in the coral and was INCREDIBLE to see in real life! And of course, every divers delight is to get a photo with a green sea turtle.
Truly, for me at least, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For any David Attenborough fans reading this, then the three sisters dive site is definitely you.
The ‘three sisters’ are actually three coral bommies that are the home of an array of colourful parrotfish, nemos, and a variety of stunning coral and even a sleeping epaulette shark.
After we surfaced from our first dive and signed in with the crew, we were invited to eat lunch. The buffet-style section of hot on cold food was served in the galley onboard the boat. There were both vegetarian and meat hot food options as well as an impressive array of salads, rice and pasta.
Being a vegetarian, usually on tours like this the vegetarian options are lacking but not on this boat! On the other hand, my boyfriend is a true blue Aussie meat lover, who winces at the sight of ‘salad’ and he was thoroughly impressed with all the meat-lovers options at lunch. Once we had eaten our fill, the boat went to the second dive location.
Dive site #2
Half of our group opted to go on the guided snorkel tour. Our guide pointed out a little blacktip reef shark, a green sea turtle as well as lots of fox-face rabbitfish swimming around the stunning coral reef.
At the end of the day, we were exhausted and when the boat was sailing back from the reef to Cairns, we were served fruit, cheese, crackers, and biscuits. Happy and content with our submarine adventure, then we had a few well-earnt bevies on the way home.
One of the ‘eco-marine naturalists’ gave us an impressive interactive presentation on the Great Barrier Reef which included the names of all the fish and coral that we had seen that day, as well as debunking some myths and clarified the questions we had about the current health of the reef.
We were informed that of the threats (such as pollution and climate change) facing the reef but that the reef is healthy and steadily improving. We were happy to hear that the vast majority of coral survived the back to back mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 because bleaching is actually a stress response as opposed to the coral actually dying.
They explained how Passions III was an “eco-friendly” vessel which was encouraging to hear. We were so impressed that this company offset its carbon emissions, and are involved as a climate change leader.
As we disembarked the whole crew (who really seem to love their jobs) lined up on the dock and shook everyone’s hands as they left the boat which was a very nice touch.
Tips and tricks to keep in mind:
Scared that everything in Australia is dangerous and that there are marine wildlife waiting to poison, main or eat you?
Well, the reality is that as long as you are wearing a stinger suit and have respect for the marine life, then the many adaptations and defence mechanisms that they possess pose little risk to us humans.
If you have your own Gro-Pro underwater camera bring it. We were lucky enough to see some fantastic things and I loved being able to document it myself.
Please use reef-safe sunscreen, cover up as much as possible and drink lots of water.
Bring your polarised sunnies (the glare from the water is intense).
If you have long, thick hair and decide to rock hardcore Helga-like Swedish braids, then remember to put sunscreen on your hair-parting otherwise you will burn your scalp and if it peals you will look like you have a wicked case of dandruff.
Take seasickness medication before you leave the dock because it is a preventative measure but not a cure.
The crew will ask you to fill out a dive medical form so if you are unsure and have any doubts you can take our online test (Still being created, link will be live when ready), and if you still have doubts about your medical fitness to snorkel or dive then its best to get dive medical from a doctor before you board the vessel.
Can’t swim? No worries, snorkelling at the lagoons of the Great Barrier Reef can be done by anyone and the crew at Passions catered for our group who were at a range of ages and fitness levels.