From a traveller’s view, Passions of Paradise in Cairns, Australia, is one of those sustainable tourism companies who just get it right. Passions of Paradise were the one Great Barrier Reef sailing and snorkeling tour recommended to us by locals, which is always a good sign. And of course the excellent TripAdvisor ranking speaks for itself.
We also chose Passions of Paradise because it is the only locally owned company that sails to the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns. We like their strong commitment to both quality (Passions won the last four Queensland Tourism awards) and sustainability (Advanced Ecotourism Climate Action Innovator). In short, a great company offering a great day out enjoying the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, Australia.
The 25 meter catamaran sails daily from Cairns to two fabulous locations, world-famous Michaelmas Cay and the more exclusive Paradise Reef. While the catamaran could host up to 130 people, the team at Passions want to make sure you have a great day without crowds, so they only allow a maximum of 80 persons on board.
Snorkel and Dive: Paradise Reef
Because the Great Barrier Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage listed marine park, tourism operators can’t just “park” their vessel anywhere. Some spots are only open to specific companies with very limited permits, which meant that our first stop at Paradise Reef was exclusively for those on board, now eager to get into the crisp clear water.
Snorkeling is by far the most popular activity (it is fairly easy and you’ll get equipment and instructions on board). For the more daring, Passions of Paradise offer a unique opportunity to try scuba diving, which will allow you to explore the reef from further down (more wildlife!), rather than just from the surface. You’ll be accompanied by experienced instructors who’ll hold your hand throughout (if you wish).
Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef is amazing, but Scuba Diving is unbelievably stunning! We are grateful we did the Introductory Diving with Passions of Paradise. A great experience which we highly recommend.
Paradise Reef is a hard coral reef in magnificent condition, where fractured coral form a ribbon of small reefs. Visibility in the water was great and we could see plenty of fish species. And with the catamaran moored right at the edge of the reef, we didn’t need to swim much to get to the action.
After a good while in the water we hear our bellies grumbling – time for lunch. Quickly we swim back to the catamaran and up the stairs. Wetsuits (especially during winter months we recommend you to rent those on board) left on the deck to dry, we climb into the air conditioned saloon inside the catamaran.
What a buffet we find! Freshly made by the chef on board (a rare find among Great Barrier Reef cruises), this tropical buffet is mouth watering and today includes fresh salads, prawns, vegetarian green curry and tropical fruits, together with cold and hot beverages.
Afternoon Highlight: World Famous Michaelmas Cay with Passions of Paradise
While we eat, we cruise towards our next destination – Michaelmas Cay, world famous for its migratory birds and one of the few places where you can snorkel and scuba dive in protected, calm waters. Have a good look at the picture below and you will understand why Michaelmas Cay is a sensational and unique out-of-a-movie place.
Only three permits have been granted allowing tourists daily access to the beach and Passions has one of them. To ensure that the cay remains in a natural state, the Passions team work closely with both Queensland National Parks and the Federal Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Glass Bottom Boat Tour at Michaelmas Cay
If after lunch you don’t feel like getting into the water again but still want to experience the reef, simply grab a seat aboard Passions’ Glass Bottom Boat, which gives you a good view of what’s below: sea turtles, star fish, giant clams, hard and soft varieties of coral, small reef sharks: all pointed out to you and explained by the friendly and experienced crew.
We didn’t go on the Glass Bottom Boat because we were busy snorkeling and diving, but heard from other people on board that it was highly informative and a great, relaxed ride.
Tip: Bring or rent an underwater camera!
If you are planning to snorkel or scuba dive during your cruise with Passions of Paradise (most people do), please make sure to either bring a good underwater camera, or to rent one for the day, which you can do directly on board the catamaran. With the provided high quality equipment, you will be able to take the best shots ever of your ‘underwater’ holidays.
Big thanks to Passions of Paradise for hosting us on this unforgettable trip, and for protecting and helping conserve the stunning natural environment that is the Great Barrier Reef.
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