Peering over the edge of the boat, we see glimpses of the coral gardens below. Excitement builds. Weight belts on. BCDs on. Buddy checks complete. We stride in and begin our scuba diving discovery of St Crispin Reef, one of the more than 3,000 reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef. This was the first of three dives we took on our Calypso Reef Cruises day tour, to the outer Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas, and was a fantastic way to start the day. So – without further ado – let’s dive in and get our Calypso dive review underway.
We love the Great Barrier Reef! For its corals, its colour and the outstanding array and diversity of marine life. From the smallest of nudibranchs to the schools of fish which dart through the water, sea fans, giant clams and more. We love it all.
Calypso Reef Cruises has several different outer reef sites they can visit on day tours from Port Douglas. When we travelled in October (2023) they took us to St Crispin Reef, where we explored 2 dive sites – Halloween and Gone Again – and Light Reef, where we dived on a site called Anybody’s. While these names might sound uninspiring, what we found underneath the water was anything but. Descending the mooring lines at each of the sites, we were immediately front and centre at some spectacular coral gardens. The underwater conditions were fantastic, with water temperatures a comfortable 25 degrees and visibility around 10-15m. The dive depth of the sites varied, but as our son is a Junior Open Water Diver we stayed above 12m at all times. Side note, shallow dives provide quite a few benefits, including seeing more colour and enjoying longer dives, thanks to better air consumption. While this is a Calypso dive review, it’s important to note these sites are suitable for snorkelers too, as the corals rose up to within a few metres of the surface.
“Before becoming a family, Richard and I scuba dived on nearly every reef boat from Cairns and Port Douglas, but not Calypso Reef Cruises. Since Ethan became a certified Junior Open Water diver, we’re back on the boats and blowing bubbles on the Great Barrier Reef and it’s such a joy and privilege to share the amazing underwater world with him. We were eager to see what Calypso was like and I have to say, it exceeded our expectations. The boat is well laid out with a spacious dive deck and lots of interior and exterior spaces to relax, in-between water sessions. The reef sites were fantastic! So much colour and life – so many different types of coral! The crew were friendly and helpful and our dive guide Alex was the best, letting us take our time to get underwater photos and just explore the reef. This was a great day – our whole family loved it.” – Julie Johnston
Our Calypso Reef Cruises day started with an 8.20am check-in directly at the boat – Calypso Ten – which was moored at Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina, 44 Wharf Street Port Douglas. The crew issued everyone with their equipment for the day, providing mask, snorkel, fins and wetsuits to all passengers on boarding: scuba divers were allocated their additional equipment, during the trip out to the reef. Calypso Ten is a 24m catamaran with air-conditioned interiors and a range of shaded and unshaded exterior deck spaces. Its capacity is 85 guests. When we travelled, there were over 60 guests on board, with plenty of space for everyone. The trip to our first destination – St Crispin Reef – took around 90 minutes, and during this time the dive crew provided an equipment refresher and dive briefing. Please note: all dives on Calypso Reef Cruises are guided.
Our first dive of the day started at 10.35am, at a site called Halloween. This was a great dive site with stunning coral gardens and a diverse array of marine life. Highlights include seeing some beautiful sea fans and sea whips, feather stars, schools of blue green chromis, a large anemone home to several pink anemonefish and a cuttlefish. Dive time: 45 minutes. Maximum depth: 11.3m. Back on deck we enjoyed morning tea, with complimentary tea, coffee, milo, biscuits and a savoury slice, while the boat made its way to the second site of the day, Anybody’s at Light Reef. We were back into the water at 12.05pm and one of the first things we saw was a massive, purple Foliaceous coral – what followed was another beautiful dive of discovery. Highlights included seeing several large schools of fish streaming around the reef, including yellowtail fusiliers, as well as scissortail and blue green chromis, some giant clams, tomato anemonefish, spinecheek anemonefish, barrier reef anemonefish and lots of Christmas Tree worms (Ethan loves anemonefish of all types and Christmas Tree worms, so he was a happy little diver). Dive time: 40 minutes. Maximum depth: 11.1m. Lunchtime. Calypso Reef Cruises does a buffet style lunch of assorted salads, cold meats and bread rolls. There’s complimentary water on board and you can purchase additional beverages. The boat moved to its third and final reef location, during lunch.
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The final reef site we cover as a part of our Calypso Dive Review, is Gone Again on St Crispin Reef. We entered the water at 1.35pm and explored the coral walls and bommies scattered across the sandy sea floor, again the diversity of coral was amazing. Brain coral, leather coral, elephant ear coral, cauliflower coral, anemones, table coral, staghorn coral and more. We spotted a few Moorish Idols which are one of my favourites, found some more barrier reef anemonefish, trumpetfish, butterflyfish, angelfish and nudibranchs. Dive time: 50 minutes. Maximum depth: 8.4m. Back on board the boat we enjoyed a quick, hot shower before getting changed and settling in for the return journey to Port Douglas. A complimentary afternoon tea of biscuits and cake with tea, coffee and milo was available, with the option to purchase soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. We returned to Port Douglas on time, at around 4.30pm.
Our day was excellent. Our Calypso dive review is nothing but positive. The boat was spacious, comfortable and perhaps most importantly functional – as you could move from the dive deck, through the air conditioned saloon (no carpets) to get lunch and head back outside to enjoy it on the sundeck or in a shaded exterior deck, without taking your wetsuit off. That’s a win. The dive deck was not cramped. Water access was giant stride. The reef sites we visited were amazing. The crew provided great service throughout the day.
Our day on Calypso was amazing. The staff on the boat were really nice and gave us all of the information we needed. The dive sites were really good too. The mooring lines were top tier. On our first dive it was a bit cold, but we still had an amazing dive. We saw anemonefish and a lot of GTs – our guide was amazing. When we hopped back on board we got warm in the sun, while the boat moved to the second site. Then we put on our BCDs and jumped back in the water. This time it was a bit warmer and the coral was extravagant. We saw a giant clam, the biggest ever boulder coral (!) and some really cool, soft red corals. Then we headed back up to the boat and were greeted with lunch. I had two ham rolls, they were really good. The last site of the day was called Gone Again on St Crispin Reef and here we saw spinecheeked anemonefish, a trumpetfish and a massive clam. That was the highlights of that dive. My rating of the day was 10/10 – it was amazing – I really liked it. The coolest thing I saw was a cuttlefish.
Yes, if you are scuba diving – Calypso Reef Cruises is worth it. There are only a few Great Barrier Reef dive tours operating from Port Douglas, and in our opinion Calypso Reef Cruises go to the best reef sites. While their pricing is mid-range, compared to other Port Douglas boats, their dive sites are worth it. If you are snorkelling, then Calypso is still ‘worth it’ – but there are other reef boats in Port Douglas that offer dedicated snorkel trips and in our opinion*, these offer a better experience for snorkellers.
*Not just our opinion either – our good mates at ABC Snorkel Charters have been named #1 Experience in Australia by Trip Advisor for 2 years in a row – check our ABC Snorkel Charters tour review.
Yes – the diving on Calypso Reef Cruises is good. The dive sites themselves – and we visited Halloween and Gone Again at St Crispin Reef and Anybody’s at Light Reef – had excellent coral cover and a diverse array of marine life. When we travelled in October (2023) the water temperature was around 25 degrees with underwater visibility ranging from 10-20m.
Calypso Reef Cruises has two tours departing Port Douglas. The one we have reviewed here – Calypso Dive and Snorkel Tour – can visit a few different reefs and reef sites, with several moorings at the Agincourt Reefs, St Crispin Reef, Light Reef, Tongue Reef and Opal Reef. They have another boat and tour that takes you to Low Isles.
Yes, the outer reef from Port Douglas (and Cairns) is very good. Obviously, visibility changes with the weather and time of year, but the coral cover is excellent and there’s an abundance of marine life.
When we travelled with Calypso Reef Cruises, it took us around 90 minutes to get from Port Douglas to our first stop at St Crispin Reef. The boat ride was smooth and stable.
The Great Barrier Reef is a natural environment (not an aquarium) so what you will see is dependent on when you visit and what reef you go to. That being said, there are a few constants in regard to what you will see, and this includes: many different types of coral, angelfish, butterflyfish, chromis, clams and sea cucumbers – we can guarantee you will see these – and you will see so much more.
Yes, Calypso Reef Cruises caters to snorkelers with all equipment provided including buoyancy devices. The reef sites are snorkeller friendly, with the corals rising from the sea floor to within a few metres of the surface.
No, all dives on Calypso Reef Cruises must be guided. The dive guide is included in the diving ticket price.
Yes, Calypso Reef Cruises offers introductory diving with no experience necessary. Please note the minimum age to participate is 12 years old.
Controversial question – simple answer – diving the Great Barrier Reef’s outer reef sites is amazing, from Port Douglas and Cairns. If you are in Port Douglas, go from Port Douglas. If you are in Cairns, go from Cairns. They are big days and the outer reef sites accessible from both destinations are equally amazing, so save the drive time and dive from where you have chosen to stay / holiday.
Yes, Calypso Reef Cruises is a family friendly boat and there were plenty of families on board, including us. Side note though – this is an outer reef day tour, there are no pontoons or islands, you are swimming off the boat in the open ocean – so families with little ones might want to choose a different trip.
Calypso Reef Cruises offer day tours to and from Port Douglas. You can choose the dive and snorkel full day tour (which we did – hence our Calypso Dive Review) or you can choose the half day Low Isles tour. All diving on Calypso Reef Cruises is guided. You can book certified dives or introductory dives (no prior experience necessary) and/or enjoy snorkelling. Boarding at the boat commences at 8.20am – the boat returns to Port Douglas in the afternoon, around 4.30pm. All meals and snacks are included, you can choose to purchase soft drinks and other beverages on board the boat.
© I Love Cairns 2023