After extensive consideration of all the Great Barrier Reef trips available, we finally decided to book with Quicksilver for a day trip to Agincourt Reef and their stationary pontoon there. It is almost the most expensive option, partially because of all the amenities they are able to offer via their stationary platform -- semi-submersible trips, "diving helmet" walking tours of the reef, snorkeling, scuba, helicopter rides -- all with the comfort of an air-conditioned boat, lots of under cover seating on the pontoon platform and a buffet lunch.
The trip departs at 10, later than most of the trips, since the pontoon is closer and the boat fast. Everyone we talked to agreed that Friday would be the best day to go. The winds had been a bit high for several days, but Friday was to be calm and pleasant. However, Friday arrived to torrential rain that continued as we made our way to the Marina and onboard Quicksilver V. The staff readily acknowledged that the seas were quite rough and that it wasn't going to be the best day on the reef, and suggested changing dates if possible. We had to leave the next day, though, so it was Friday or nothing. Although neither of us have much experience with boating, we also didn't think we'd have much of a problem with seasickness.
The trip out to the reef took about an hour and a half and, while several passengers in the boat, which seemed about 3/4 full, did get sick, we did okay. It's a big boat and pretty stable -- I'd hate to think of what it would have been like that day on one of the smaller vessels that go out! One quibble I have is that, while the announcements indicated travel sickness medication was available for purchase, that was all they said. In retrospect (yes, you can see where this is going), they really need to encourage medication to be taken sooner and talk about how long it lasts. When I did finally purchase medication, they first wanted to know about my health -- any heart problems? high blood pressure? pregnant? The medication was promethazine (otherwise, they have chewable ginger tablets and I had brought some ginger gummy bears along, just in case). My strong recommendation would be that if you think there is even the remote possibility of motion sickness, buy medication a medication that fits your particular needs and take it before boarding the boat. Just do it.
The lunch buffet was plentiful, although I didn't try much except the fruit. Frankly, the dishes seemed a bit exotic to me -- I'd be glad to describe them if I knew what they were -- but it seemed like lots of diverse food.
Once on the reef, my husband decided to snorkel, while I felt the 2-3 foot waves might be too much for my swimming ability. Also, I have to admit to being a bit intimidated by the black lycra "stinger suits." These garments are meant to protect against jellyfish stings and "other irritations" and, while not particularly thick at all, are nonetheless a challenge to get distributed over your body (think "body stocking"). Once on, they do provide your absolute silhouette, no comforting draping or pleats remain, just the facts. The staff was very helpful in providing Doug with a prescription snorkel mask and, once outfitted with fins, snorkel and life vest (not required but many opted for it that day), he had easy entry into the ocean from a long, narrow platform. The snorkeling area was outlined with buoys and ropes and the lifeguard on duty was changed out frequently and I felt they were absolutely on top of the situation and attentive to all in the water. Other staffers helped folks into the glass helmets for the underwater walk, and still others took out guided snorkeling tours and providing scuba instruction. Staffers also fed the fish, clearly a favorite activity among the sealife, as many big fishies came in to chow down and swim in and amongst the snorkelers.
I watched Doug carefully while he was out for a couple of hours, with short breaks. He did great, especially since he had never snorkeled and "isn't a water person." It was a disappointment not to go in the water, but I absolutely felt like I made the right choice for the situation. Doug said he could see fish and the reef well and that the ocean wasn't too rough as long as he kept his head in the water -- once out of the water, waves would wash his mask awry. Since I was posted right at the snorkel area, I did see three snorkelers come in with jellyfish stings, probably from small bluebottle jellyfish, the staff said. Ice was applied to the painful stings (on hand, neck and forehead, places the stinger suits didn't cover) and I noticed that those snorkelers didn't go in again.
It was the semi-submersible that did me in. The view was okay, but the confined area heated up a bit, and, combined with engine fumes, made me lucky to get out of the sub and to the platform rail before I lost my lunch. It was time to leave, anyway, by then, and at the urging of one staff member who darkly said "you should have taken the pills an hour ago, but go take one right now!" I did take medication and made it back into port without further incident.
So, my apologies to Australia -- I ralphed on your reef, and I am sorry! No disrespect was intended. Except for the one exasperated fellow, the crew was very kind and cheeful, despite having to deal with a lot of complete novices, not to mention a lot of vomit, on a strenuous day. I would recommend Quicksilver!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TravelPod member and not of TravelPod.com.