Opal Reef is amazing! Vibrant coral gardens with impressive beds of branching and plate corals, giant boulder corals, leather corals, spaghetti corals, bommies, feather stars, sea whips and so much more. Not to mention the diversity of marine life. We saw two types of anemonefish, including the ‘classic’ Nemo clownfish and blackback anemonefish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, diagonal-banded sweetlips, coral trout and again, so much more. Welcome to Opal Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas.
Opal Reef snorkel tour. NEMO! Everyone loves finding him on the Great Barrier Reef.
Our Opal Reef snorkel tour was with Wavelength Reef Cruises, on 19 November. Wavelength Reef Cruises is a family owned and operated company, passionate about the conservation, preservation and guest education on the Great Barrier Reef and its intrinsic values. Based in Port Douglas their Opal Reef snorkel tour departs from Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina around 8.30am and returns around 4pm. They visit three reef sites and a guided snorkel tour with a marine biologist is included and is a highlight.
“This was our first Opal Reef snorkel tour and it was memorable for all the right reasons! The coral cover and diversity at all three sites we visited on Opal Reef were amazing. Healthy reef and awesome coral gardens which rise up to within a few metres of the surface, making them perfect for snorkelling. The marine life was abundant, we made the most of every moment in the water.” – Julie Johnston
Opal Reef is a crescent shaped reef near the edge of the continental shelf and part of the Great Barrier Reef. Wavelength Reef Cruises were the first operator to visit this reef in 1986, and take about 90-minutes to get there, from Port Douglas. The reef itself is fantastic for snorkelling and provides a real showcase for the Great Barrier Reef. As mentioned above, the coral cover, diversity and health is amazing! Masses of plate corals stacking on top of each other, leather corals clustered tightly together to form a living ‘carpet’ along reef ‘top’, bommies, gullies and swim-throughs.
As you would expect, healthy reef is home is an equally impressive and diverse array of healthy marine creatures. All of our favourite fish were there – lots of them mentioned above – but let’s do another quick run down – clownfish (I’ll be honest, finding Nemo never gets old!), butterflyfish, surgeonfish, unicornfish, moon wrasse, six-bar wrasse, Moorish idols, chromis, lizardfish, scissor-tail sergeants, red bass and titan triggerfish. We also saw a white-tipped reef shark, moray eel (you hardly ever see these guys snorkelling) and so many big, beautiful and vibrant giant clams. Wavelength Reef Cruises took us there for our Opal Reef snorkel tour.
Our Opal Reef snorkel tour with Wavelength Reef Cruises had lots of amazing inclusions. Firstly, a wonderful day spent exploring a beautiful part of the Great Barrier Reef, with lots of water time and a marine biologist guided snorkel tour. Tea, coffee and hot chocolates were served on arrival and again after your first snorkel session, with some Danish Pastries. Lunch was delicious chicken and salad rolls and afternoon tea was biscuits. Soft drinks and other cool beverages were available for purchase, in addition to the tour price, using an honesty system throughout the day.
You visit three separate snorkel sites, during your Opal Reef snorkel tour. A guided snorkel tour is included, as is all of your snorkel equipment, including fins and as it’s summer, a lycra suit which provides sun protection. Wavelength has other reefs it can visit and will pick the best one to maximise your experience, pending the time of year and conditions at the time of travel. The crew also take photos of you throughout the day, both above, below and on the water – these are emailed to you afterwards with a Dropbox link.
We went in November. Opal Reef is stunning, with easy snorkelling access.
Firstly, let me say there is no ‘bad’ Great Barrier Reef to be seen from Port Douglas. In regards to the ‘best’ reef that all depends on what you are looking for – for snorkelling we think Opal Reef (which is the topic of this review) and Chinaman’s Reef are both excellent and can be visited with reef operators departing daily from Port Douglas.
A contentious question. There are lots of reef tours departing daily from both Cairns and Port Douglas and all the operators have permits to visit amazing Great Barrier Reef sites. For me, it’s 50/50 there is no ‘better’ situation, when you are comparing Cairns and Port Douglas reef tours and sites. Would I would say is; if you are staying in Port Douglas then visit the reef with a Port Douglas operator, if you are staying in Cairns, or its northern beaches, then choose a Cairns operator and save yourself the unnecessary travel time to get from there to Port Douglas.
We’ve probably covered this above and through this review, but ‘yes’, you can get to the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas. There are a range of reef tours, so you can pick the boat and tour to best suit the needs and interests of your group.
We’ve been on one Mission Beach reef trip and several Port Douglas reef trips, visiting an array of destinations including outer reef, reef pontoons and Low Isles. So, in answering this question, we do so from the perspective of seeing the reef from both destinations on reef tours and the answer would have to be, Port Douglas. Obviously that’s just our opinion and is based on the reef tours we went on, boats, crew and actual reef experience.
It all depends which boat you are on and which reef destination you are visiting. Travel time on Wavelength to Opal Reef, on the Great Barrier Reef, to and from Port Douglas was 90 minutes.
Yes you can snorkel directly off Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas, but it would be more to practice snorkelling as opposed to any real ‘sightseeing’. If you want to ‘see’ the Great Barrier Reef, then you need to go to it. There is an array of reef trips departing from Port Douglas daily.
As you can see from our photos, ‘yes’, we were allowed to fly our drone on Wavelength. However we did contact them in advance to seek permission, so you should probably do this too if this is something you wanted to do during your trip.
Wavelength Reef Cruises operate every day, pending weather conditions. They operate snorkel only tours, so you know the sites you visit will be perfect for you and your snorkel crew. Their boat is licensed to carry 100, but guests are limited to 48 to ensure lots of space for everyone. Snorkeling on Opal Reef was amazing and the guests were a combination of older travellers, couples of all ages and a few families – and everyone had a great time.
© I Love Cairns 2023