We would thoroughly recommend the Seastar – a first class service which deserves all the praise on this site. There were around 35 people on this tour, which may sound a lot but Seastar provides a big crew who all make sure everyone, including less experienced swimmers (neither of us had snorkelled before and they were very attentive to nervous customers), is well looked after. While a handful of our group had a go at the scuba option most, like us, were happy with snorkelling and were far from disappointed. The Seastar visited two areas – an island-based middle reef spot which was a good place for us all to get used to the equipment, followed by an outer reef spot using the boat as the base.
Having also done a cheap-rate trip to an inner reef with another company, we would strongly recommend paying the extra for a tour that goes to the outer reef, where both the coral and the fish were even more stunning. A glass-bottomed boat trip was included for anyone who wanted it; this was OK though not nearly as good as getting into the water and seeing things close-up. The crew gave a brief but helpful presentation on the coral and sea life during the journey, including welcome advice on how to stay safe - repeated at each site (something woefully missing on another cheaper tour we took).
At both sites there was a "tour" where a guide pointed out particular coral and identified some of the best fish. The buffet lunch included was fine – nothing special but no complaints. We thought in retrospect it might have been worth bringing an underwater camera (lots of shops in Cairns rent these out for a minimum of around AUD50) but that might equally have given poor results and been a distraction from the main objective of actually looking at the amazing underwater sights. In any case the crew took photos of the guests, including underwater shots, and some of the fish throughout the day and then posted them all for free on their website and Facebook page – a great service that made a refreshing change from the usual tour operator practice of stinging your customers for an overpriced CD.
A great experience was had by all, not even marred by the boat breaking down for half an hour on the homeward journey while they fixed something. Only scuba equipment and training cost extra – everything else was thrown in (including flotation aids for nervous swimmers) and all the equipment was of a high standard. We would recommend this tour to anyone wanting to get the best out of a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, which was the highlight of our entire three-week Australian visit.
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