8 Tips for Snorkelling on The Great Barrier Reef

Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef is on the Living List of many.  It certainly was for us.

Yet, we were reluctant to do it.  We didn’t want to contribute in any way to the grave danger the reef is facing due to global warming.

One of the main reasons we flew up to Far North Queensland was to experience the Barrier Reef. It would have been a waste NOT to have explored it.  Yet, it’s not as straight forward as simply ‘jumping in the water and taking a look around.’  Alas, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef is more involved than that.

To get the best experience of the reef, it’s recommended to take a Snorkel Tour to the Outer Reef.  You can take shorter snorkelling tours to Green Island etc, but by going further, you have less crowds and you tend to snorkel for longer.

After doing some extensive research, we found a company who were not only eco-certified, but focused on research and preservation of the reef.  The company hires marine biologists for their snorkelling tours and educate their customers on both marine and reef life.

While it cost a little more, the extra money was worth it for the service they provide.  In fact, they provide a healthy ratio of passengers to marine biologists on board.  The staff really took care of the mental and physical health into consideration of their passengers, along with what was best for the reef, very seriously.

After an amazing day snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, we hope to have some helpful tips for you:

1. Choose a company that is eco-certified.

There are a lot of companies that will take you out for a short jaunt but if you came to Far North Queensland to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, isn’t it worth doing it right?!   Lessen the impact YOU make and choose a company who cares about the Reef.  You will not only be helping the environment, but you’ll also learn more about the Reef’s health and see more marine animals since you’ll be heading to outer Reef locations.  Oh, and far fewer people will get in your way when you hit the water.

(Please note: We weren’t sponsored or paid for this experience.  This was through our own research and experience that we now recommend this company.)

Our recommendation:  Wavelength out of Port Douglas.

2. Have your swimsuit on, before you board the boat.

While you can change on board, once you’re on the water, rocking around, it’s not an easy thing to do.  The change rooms (toilet) are tiny.  Do yourself a favour, suit up before you leave home, plaster yourself with eco-conscious sunscreen and make sure you bring your hat and sunglasses, no matter how the weather looks on land.

3.  Wear thongs/flip flops to the boat.

Leave your lace ups at home. Once you board the boat, you’ll be asked immediately to remove your shoes. They’ll most likely be put into a big tub and you’ll get them back when you disembark.  You will be barefoot on the boat and donning fins in the water.  If you don’t like to be barefoot…well, this experience may not be for you.  This is not a ‘no shirt, no shoes’ kind of service.

4. Before you put your stinger or wetsuit on, check the pockets of your swimsuit.

Guys, this one is for you since women don’t have pockets in their swimsuits. I get it: It’s exciting to be snorkelling the Barrier Reef and you’ll be very eager to throw on that stinger suit and dive in.  But please, learn from our lesson:  Check your pockets.  iPhones don’t like to be submerged in the ocean for an hour. Isn’t Rich?

5. Drink a lot of water.

Most companies who take you out will offer you sodas, some even alcohol, but the most important beverage you need is good ole H2O.  Being in salt water and sun for 4 or 5 hours will dry you out.  Even your lips prune up.  Your body will be begging you for fresh water.  Drink it – constantly – when you’re not in the water.


6. Along those lines, this one is for the ladies: If you can, wear a two-piece swimsuit (even a tankini).

Trying to get out of a wet stinger suit plus your one-piece swimsuit, when you need to pee (from drinking all that water) is, to put it mildly, a total pain in ass.  It’s like shedding your skin and having to put it back on again.  I mean, you know how it is with a wet swimsuit.  A wet stinger/wetsuit added to the equation is just a nightmare. Add in the rocking of the boat while in a confined space… two-piece, that’s all I’m sayin’.

7. Try to be one of the first people in the water.

I’m not saying elbow everyone one of the way.  Just strategically put yourself in the front of the line, while everyone is still sorting out their gear.  (I initially wrote ‘fear’ and yes, you’ll have those snorkelers too).  You have a higher likelihood of seeing those shy marine creatures.  I was one of the first in the water at our very first location and saw a reef shark swim directly under me (and no, it was not scary at all.  They aren’t interested in humans.  In fact, they will swim away quickly when humans are around.)  As a result, I was one of only three who saw a reef shark all day.


8. Invest in an underwater camera.

It doesn’t have to be to a Go-Pro, but have a camera you can use to capture what you’re seeing.  You’ll want to remember this day.  We’ve found that video works best underwater.  Most companies will sell you a USB stick of photos at the end of the tour, but most times it’s a combination of marine life they’ve seen on other outings.   It’s not representative of YOUR day.

All of the photos – and video – on this page were taken either with our waterproof Olympus camera, or on our iPhone (not the one that went for a swim, obviously).

Our recommendation:  Olympus Stylus Tough

NOTE:  Affiliate links were used in this post.  We do not promote any brand we have not used or experienced for ourselves.  All opinions are our own. Please follow our advice at your own risk. By clicking these links helps support the Travel Far Enough website as we get a small payout from links, when you purchase from them.  For that, we thank you.

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  1. April 30, 2017 / 9:08 am

    I’m sure they would Red! I’m too much of a scaredy cat to try diving. I’m sticking to snorkelling.

  2. March 30, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    Great practical advice! I’ve never been diving, just snorkelling – but most of your tips apply to that too!!

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