After much research and advice we chose the Seastar team to take us out to the reef on our 1st visit to Australia and we were not disappointed in any way! These guys are a small local company, not a huge international outfit and it shows, the whole crew were incredibly friendly, clearly committed to your enjoyment and very professional. With only 36 on the boat everybody is made to feel welcome right off the jetty and it was quick and easy to get to know your ship mates and crew. Michaelmas Cay is a perfect place to start if you are new to snorkelling as you can get everything set up on the beach then steadily go deeper. The reef here is wonderful, Seastar has a great mooring spot but being slightly closer to Cairns means the water isn't as clear as farther out (but the voyage out is shorter). We were more than happy with what the guys showed us and spent the full 2 hours in the water they give you. Hastings reef is almost on the outer edge of the reef and there are deeper drop-offs and a different selection of coral and fish, the water on our day was incredibly clear (the best for a month we were told) so our photos are excellent and again we spent the full 2 hours available in the water (take a GoPro if you have one but the Seastar crew will take hundreds themselves all available free on their Facebook page only a few hours after your return). TIP: We were in the Cairns area for 9 days so carefully selected a day when the sea swell was at a minimum as one of our party is susceptible to sea sickness but as mentioned above it also assists visibility. Don't wait too long though, Seastar is popular and fills quickly!. You can call the Seastar guys who will help you choose the best day. Note also that they also do 1/2 day trips to Hastings reef on their sister ship Skedaddle which is the fastest boat out of Cairns.