A Week on the Great Barrier Reef with Coral Expeditions

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It’s the middle of winter here in Australia and my partner Em and I were due for a holiday. We’re not big fans of the freezing cold so we wanted a break somewhere tropical and somewhere we hadn’t been before. Problem solved – a Coral Expeditions Cruise from Cairns!

First up, let me apologise in advance- considering how cold it is in other parts of Australia, this may hurt! Imagine seven nights on an intimate cruise (there was only 22 of us onboard!) departing Cairns and sailing to exotic & "non touristy" spots from the Hinchinbrook Channel, up to Cooktown and across to the outer Great Barrier Reef and all in beautiful sunny weather with an average temperature of 27degs! Throw in eight snorkelling spots and we really were in tropical heaven!

We loved the fact our boat was the ideal size that it could anchor right off the edge of the Great Barrier Reef and we would literally snorkel off the back steps and above the coral. This part of the Reef has had a lot of negative press in the media - but honestly, we saw some of the most amazing & lively coral (with so many fish swimming around).

Maybe you've always wanted to dive these reefs, then they've got a dive instructor on board who is more than happy to take you out each day. You'll never go hungry either, with breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea & dinner all included!

Here's our top five highlights from our tropical Coral Expeditions getaway:

5. The fact we could stop off at stunning little places for sunset drinks! A short tender ride to Sudbury Cay when the tide is right, or alternatively they'll take you to a small secluded spot off Dunk Island which was equally romantic, sitting back with a glass of champagne and kilpatrick oysters watching the sun go down.

4. Waking up in the breathtaking Hinchinbrook Channel and wandering up to the top deck for a gourmet breakfast was brilliant. The gigantic cliffs and the way the sun glistened the rocks is hard to put into words. After breaky, it was time for our glass bottom boat to take us for a spin. We didn't get to see a crocodile on our mangroves tour- but no doubt they saw us!

3. Getting to explore Cooktown in the morning was a must do! Our parents have always said how spectacular and historic it is and we finally got to see it for ourselves. In the afternoon we cruised on to visit Lizard Island where we moored for the night, all set for snorkelling in the morning. That evening they had fish feeding off the back of the boat and we were greeted by huge QLD Groupers, Giant Travellys and a friendly Tawny Nurse shark. Such an awesome way to end the day!

2. It was hard to pick our favourite island that we stopped off at, Dunk Island has that photogenic jetty and white sandbar, Lizard Island is so beautiful with its white sand and crystal clear waters and Fitzroy Island- where turtles showed up to swim with our group and we took a short walk around to the other side of the island to visit 'Nudey Beach'. Before you ask- it's not a nudist beach, but a true tropical paradise and we were the only ones there for a good hour, another bonus of getting there before the mainland tourists come over!

1. Visiting the Clam Gardens at Lizard Island was an incredible experience- never had we seen so many giant clams! The 3rd & 9th Ribbon Reef were totally mind blowing too. I'd always wanted to snorkel there, but given how tricky it is to get to- when I found out about this cruise, it was a major deciding factor! At Ribbon Reef #3, the cruise director fed the fish while we were in the water! Exhilarating! The GTs were pretty hungry, let me tell you right now. I've also never seen so many clownfish fish in one area, it must have been Nemo's entire family!

If you've ever wanted to cruise to the outer reefs off Cairns whilst stopping at some pretty spectacular destinations including tropical islands, get in touch with the team at Coral Expeditions- they know how to show you the best of the north Queensland tropics!