Quicksilver Cruises has a fleet of different boats and therefore provides several options that we have personally tried and tested and can recommend them all thoroughly.
Firstly, the big boat, Quicksilver 8. We made our way up to Port Douglas from Cairns to be at the marina for 9.15 am to give ourselves plenty of time for check-in and coffee before boarding the boat for its 10:00 am departure. This is a large 40 meter, fast boat that takes you out to the Quicksilver pontoon at Agincourt Reef.
The trip takes about an hour to get to the reef. Once you are underway, the super friendly crew provide guests with morning tea, which includes coffee, tea and cordial (for the kiddies) as well as an array of biccies. It is important to note that hot drinks are only available while the boat is stationary, boiling water and moving boats are not a good mix.
In this time, the deck crew provide you with a safety brief followed by a marine talk from one of the onboard Marine Biologists. Furthermore, we took this time to organise a scenic helicopter ride over the reef as well as our Scuba diving package.
Once we arrived at the pontoon, we were pleasantly surprised by how efficiently the crew scheduled all our reef activities. The pontoon is two stories high as well as also having an underwater marine viewing area. The upper deck has a good mixture of sunny and shady tables and chairs for relaxing and taking in the views of the waters out at the reef.
They provide good quality masks, snorkels, fins and stingers suits to use. For all those holding onto the ’80s, there is a smoking area on the top deck of the pontoon. The large majority of Great Barrier Reef tours are totally smoke-free, so if you are a smoker, then this is probably the tour for you.
First, we jumped on the helicopter ride with Nautilus Aviation. The helicopter guy, Murray, was really Australian and friendly while managing to wrangle a lot of people into short time periods with clinical perfection. We spent a magical 10 minutes cruising around the skies in a brand new EC130 helicopter that was air-conditioned and had real leather seats.
The beautiful crystal-clear waters and all the colours of the reef were really on display from the air. The pilot, Lucy, told us that she regularly spots sharks and turtles and in the winter season even humpback whales!
Scuba Diving & Snorkelling
After the helicopter ride, we went for our Scuba dive. As experienced divers, we were really impressed by the marine life and coral out at Agincourt reef. As with most pontoons, there were the resident giant trevally and batfish cruising underneath, and once we dropped down a few meters and explored further afield, we were happy to encounter lots of Nemo fish in their resident anemones, blacktip reef sharks, green sea turtles, blue-spotted lagoon rays, rabbitfish and many many parrotfish.
After our dive, we came up and gorged ourselves on the impressive buffet-style feast of hot and cold goodies. After finishing about a kilo of fresh prawns as well as a few roast chicken legs, beautiful salads and a spot of beef curry, we could not eat another morsel. When questioning where the prawns came from, because they were so good, we were told that they are actually Australian caught, local prawns!
Semi-Submersible Boat Tour
To give our digestive tracts a little time to digest the gargantuan quantity of food we consumed at lunch, we took ourselves on the semi-submersible tour. These tours are included in your ticket price and in our option beat any glass bottom boat experience that we have ever been on. The semi-sub tour guide pointed out five sea turtles, a blue spotted lagoon ray, a humongous brain coral, thousands of colourful fish and we drove past an impressive blue stag-horn coral forest.
This is a truly unique experience and really allows guests to see a wide variety of marine life over a large area of the reef. While the commentator did tell us at the start that he was not a marine biologist, the level of knowledge that he passed on was very impressive. The talk was not just informative, it was also hilarious. Obviously these deckhands do have to repeat themselves over and over, so it was great to see that they add their own spin and humour into the information.
Finally, to pack the final activity into our reef day, we went on a guided snorkel tour with the Marine Biologist, Hayley. Not only does Hayley have a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology, but the passion and enthusiasm in which she explained each part of the ecosystem of the reef is spell-bounding.
We were absolutely pooped, after spending about 3 hours out at the Agincourt Reef pontoon all the guests are called back onto Quicksilver 8 to be taken back to Port Douglas. And if you hadn’t eaten your full weeks’ quota of calories at lunchtime, then you are given another opportunity to indulge in the cheese, biscuits and fruit platters provided on the ride back into Port.
We were lucky to experience a day that had only 150 passengers, so the boat was really empty and we didn’t have to wait for anything or line up all day. I can imagine that a full boat, 430 passengers, would be a much different day.
Summary of things to be aware of:
- Be careful to not damage the reef – try to not step on or kick the coral, as you are aware it takes years for coral to grow so let’s not damage it.
- Reef-safe sunscreen – some sunscreens are devastating for the reef
- Hat / Sun shirt
- Polarised sunnies (the light reflects off the water when you’re out at the pontoon and polarised sunnies are a great way to stop you getting a headache)
- Stinger season – wear a stinger suit, hoods and gloves in stinger season – no one wants to be helicoptered back to Cairns Base Hospital from the reef due to Irukandji stings.
- Seasick tablets (travel calm or ginger tablets)
- Drink enough water throughout the day – it is a hot day and most of us aren’t used to being exposed to the sun and water that much so stay hydrated.