There are three things that stood out for us on this day out to the barrier reef. Firstly, the numbers on board are considerably lower than many of the other operators - 86 on the large catamaran on the day we went, so you have space to sit down, eat the very good lunch (seconds available if you’re so inclined).
Secondly, all the crew are genuinely friendly and frequently stop by to check on you or chat.
Finally (and most importantly) is their attitude to safety and ensuring the range of swimming abilities and medical conditions are surfaced and mitigated. There are headcounts before you set off and after each dive. There is a brief but effective medical questionnaire to complete and they go through each one, following up individually if necessary. They don’t stop anyone swimming on the reef (regardless of health condition or ability) - the aim is to ensure you do it safely.
If you’re nervous, there will be crew members with life rings who will effectively tow you over the reef. The kit (stinger suit and mask and snorkel) is good and they have prescription goggles if you want them. In my case, with some managed medical conditions, they just put red tape around the snorkel so they can check how you’re doing. There are spotters and a boat constantly checking on you.
The views of the reef are great. There are two dive points, chosen depending on the wind and weather. We preferred the first one, but views of the coral and the stunning range of fish are great. If you want you can hire an underwater camera for Aus$60 or buy a pic of yourself from their scuba cameraman.
Drinks and food are not expensive - beer $8 - and the food is very good. There’s coffee and tea on arrival and a snack in the afternoon. We were back on the harbour at 4.30 so had to wait a few minutes to 5pm in order to benefit from the $15 ‘reef deal’ at the shopping centre underground car park that’s 5 mins from the Reef Terminal. All in all a great day, made by the crew with a helping hand from the reef itself.