Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

Departing Cape Tribulation, FNQ

By Matthew Essex

By Matthew Essex

Salty Swims Co Founder

Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes it’s the simpler trips that win you over, leaning on the attributes of where you are in the world and the abundance of life that it plays host to is all that you need – couple that with a short trip out, a relaxed crew and an organised tour operator, and you’ve got yourself a top-class experience. I’m lucky enough to have visited many tour operators out, and for me, this one is an absolute stand out tour! 

Where two World Heritage sites meetThe Great Barrier Reef and The Daintree Rainforest – Something I had dismissed as a marketing gimmick, but it was a really special feeling to know that I had experienced the two in one day. The largest Coral Reef system, the GBR I’m sure you’ve learnt plenty about, whereas the Daintree Rainforest is some 180 million years old and home to flora and fauna found nowhere else, such as the Boyd’s Forest Dragon. Driving through the rocky, overgrown, dense forest, heading for Cape Trib, you can’t help but think of the poor-souls who originally cleared the way. GO SLOW, this is Cassowary country, chicks are raised on the forest floor and rarely make it to adulthood due to road accidents, better to keep your eyes on the road and stop at the many nature walks dotted along the way. It is a truly exhilarating place to go for a stroll; take a moment to take in the smell, it’s not roses and daffodils but there’s something about it, and look all around, up into the thick canopy overhead you might spot a Bennet’s Tree Kangaroo, in the mangroves along the beach, Juvenile Nurse Sharks, and on the banks of the creeks, Saltwater Crocodiles! 

So much excitement, and you haven’t even got to your destination yet! 

Arriving at the Turtle Rock Cafe, their friendly crew checked us in, we were given stinger suits – sexy, and after a short brief from their marine biologist/snorkel guide, we were heading down the boardwalk towards the beach. The vessel is a definite highlight, 2×500 hp V8 outboards on a lightweight semi rigid/inflatable Rib, and skipper could drive! Twenty-five minutes out and you’re there, nice and easy, and no sea sickies! A safety-brief mixed in with some dry Aussie humour, and we were sliding off the boat and into some of the best snorkelling I’ve experienced yet! 

The coral reef here is one of the most beautiful, healthy, and diverse reefs that I’ve seen. There was an abundance of colourful tropical fish, mostly juveniles, and heaps of the tiniest little babies ducking and weaving inside the Acropora corals. This is one of my favourite things to see on the reef and I find it totally mesmerizing! What was a clear winner for everyone on board, was the Turtles! With a lot of the larger ones visiting further reefs for breeding season, it was the smaller Green Sea Turtles which were grazing on the soft coral, and they were everywhere! Less than 50cm in length, these were much younger than you would usually find and immaculate to look at, with intricate patterns and bright colours. What was most surprising was how unfazed they were by us. We were able to dive down and get photos with them without spooking them.

The most important tip I can give you, for when you’re snorkelling with Turtles next: Don’t swim above them, like us they need to return to the surface to breathe, but if they don’t feel safe to do that, then you know…

After a decent amount of time, the boat was moved to anchor onto the Mackay Reef Sand Cay and most of the group walked onto the beach to soak up the sun and tuck into the selection of beverages on offer. Oh man did they miss out! Eagles Rays completely unfazed by me, repeatedly swimming around me and the Coral Bommies below, schools of juvenile Barracuda, Blue-spotted lagoon Rays and a symbiotic relationship that I’ve never witnessed before. According to our skipper and guide, it’s a common sight on this reef and the resident White-Tip Reef Shark and the Giant Trevally are in fact best friends and are often found hunting alongside each other during the day – This is incredible behaviour to witness firsthand and one which will be added to my bank of memories that will never be forgotten.

Back on board, I had time for a gin and tonic while the crew prepared for us to leave, and it was a similarly short journey back, with a few donuts and thrills thrown in for good measure! Back at base, a shower to rinse off and some incredible food served up by the Turtle Rock Cafe. I could write a novel about all the wonderful places that I visited while staying in the Daintree; The best accommodation can be found at Noah Creek, which has an amazing swimming hole on the private property, Lunch at Thornton’s Beach is delicious with freshly baked bread, Emergen Creek offers a beautiful swimming hole off the beaten track, the Soursop and Mango Sorbets from the Daintree Ice Cream Company, and so much more!  

I took more footage on this trip than I knew what to do with, which made it more difficult to select from in the end, but I pulled through and combined my best to make a short promo video for you to enjoy (see below).

And to go in search of the two besties, the Trevally and the Shark, you can book this experience for yourself by CLICKING HERE.

Feel free to ask any questions or leave your comments below – it’s not every day that your friendly Booking Agent experiences the tours on offer, and I’d be glad to answer any questions that you might have.

Gifts have never been easier

The Salty Swims Ultimate Gift Card can be used for any experience on our website!

Over 100 incredible experiences
around Australia

Get the best out of Salty Swims

Sign up to our mailing list to follow along with our journey

Copyright 2023 by Salty Swims 

Explore and book now