Finally, Sunlover Reef Cruises offer a tour that will amuse your whole family so you can go diving
By Tanya Murphy
When you’re going on holidays with other people who don’t have their scuba diving license, it can be hard to slip away to get your diving fix without leaving them feeling abandoned. After all, you can’t just leave your partner, children, family and friends on a boat with nothing to do.
Luckily, a magical wonderland does exist, featuring not only amazing outer reef diving, but also enough activities to entertain your non-diving companions all day. In fact, they will have SUCH an amazing time while you’re off on your dive, that they’ll be sorry to see you when you get back. (Just joking!)
No, I’m not pulling your fin. It’s a real place and it’s called the Sunlover Reef Cruises Moore Reef Activity Pontoon, at the Great Barrier Reef, just a short cruise from Cairns in Far North Queensland.
For the divers
Tucked into a protected turquoise lagoon at the southern end of gorgeous Moore Reef, the spacious and comfortable pontoon is like a huge man-made island. Sheltered from currents and swell, it has ideal snorkelling and diving conditions year-round with visibility ranging from eight to 20 metres.
Even the most experienced divers will drool over this site, teeming with life from cute green sea-turtles that you can get photos with while they munch on seaweed, to schools of colourful fish against a background of flourishing coral. Other highlights include clownfish, giant clams, invertebrates from glass shrimp to nudibranchs, and possible sightings of reef sharks.
Sunlover have one of the most experienced teams of qualified PADI Dive Professionals on the Reef, with a wealth of knowledge and understanding to help you have a relaxed, fun and hassle-free dive.
Each Divemaster takes only a small group, allowing you to have the attention and service you require both above and below the water, and there are many spectacular dive routes available. One of the favourites is the ‘drop off,’ at the back of the reef, which slopes down to a depth of around 18 metres as you swim along the base of a spectacular coral wall featuring caverns and canyons swarming with schools of fish.
For the non-divers
The Sunlover Activity Pontoon has a huge range of activities for non-divers and even non-swimmers that will keep the whole family, from babies through to grandparents, entertained all day! So, you don’t need to leave anyone at home and you certainly don’t need to feel guilty about going off to enjoy a long dive, as your family will have plenty to do.
For anyone who doesn’t want to get wet, there are free glass-bottom boat and semi-submarine rides allowing guests to spot turtles, clams, sea cucumbers, Nemo the clownfish and more while seated in dry comfort. Other free, dry activities include the underwater observatory, fish-feeding show, touch-tank presentation and marine biology talk.
Helicopter flights to view the reef and islands from the air are available to book as optional extras.
For those who want to get wet, all snorkelling equipment including flotation jackets are provided, and a detailed snorkel lesson is conducted to ensure even first-timers and weak swimmers can give snorkelling a go. Access to the water is via stairs making it easy for grandma to get in and out.
With a team of lifeguards watching the water, a calm sheltered snorkelling area, and floating ‘rest stations’ throughout for snorkellers to hold onto, even weak swimmers can have a chance to get up close and personal with beautiful coral and fish when traveling with Sunlover.
For the small children
So, you think diving is in the “too hard” basket now that you have kids? Well think again, because Sunlover makes it easy. Unlike a lot of dive companies, Sunlover welcomes babies and small children of all ages on board, with children up to the age of four travelling free. The huge boat and spacious pontoon have plenty of space for strollers.
You and your partner can take turns diving while the other accompanies the kids to splash and play on the two-story spiral waterslide (the only waterslide on the Great Barrier Reef), paddle in the knee-deep enclosed kids’ pool, feed the fish, and ride on the glass-bottom boat and semi-submarine!
For those who want to try diving
For those who want to get underwater and experience diving for the first time, introductory scuba diving and helmet diving are two optional extras available for ages 12 and up (subject to medical declaration) on board Sunlover Reef Cruises.
Sunlover’s experienced staff, calm clear waters and stable pontoon with a large, waist-deep training platform provide the ideal conditions for first-time divers to practice and learn diving in a stress-free environment. After a detailed briefing, introductory divers will have up to one whole hour in the water with their instructor which includes plenty of time for learning and practicing the skills, followed by the dive itself in our shallow, protected lagoon.
This is a much longer time allowance than offered on many other dive boats for introductory dives, allowing your loved ones to ease into diving at their own comfortable pace without being rushed. Each instructor takes small groups of no more than four introductory divers at a time, and often less than this, to ensure comfort and safety.
In helmet diving, known as “Seawalking,” you don’t even need to swim or get your hair wet and it’s certainly the easiest way to get in amongst the fish. It’s even easier than snorkelling because you don’t need to swim or breathe through a tube. As an added bonus your makeup won’t run, your false eyelashes won’t fall out and you can keep your glasses on, so the underwater photographer can capture you looking glam! The dive helmet keeps your head totally dry and all you have to do is put it on, walk down the stairs and walk around under the water looking like a boss!
All introductory and helmet dives are fully briefed and supervised by our experienced Dive Instructors.
With this many inclusions and the only water slide on the Great Barrier Reef, Sunlover Reef Cruises books out fast, and the limited diving spots book out even faster. So, what are you waiting for? Don’t miss this opportunity to have everyone in your family agree on something for once – that their day at Sunlover was the best day EVER!
Author Bio – Tanya Murphy
Tanya has been working at the Great Barrier Reef for nine years and as a Dive Instructor and marine naturalist at Sunlover Reef Cruises for five years. When she's not in her favourite place (underwater) she also works as a journalist, volunteers in marine conservation and moonlights as a professional musician.
Click here for Scuba Diver ANZ issue 31