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I'm going to Australia in January with my girlfriend. It's the first time she's visited Australia and one thing we really want to do is to see the Great Barrier Reef.

We'd prefer to snorkel, rather than scuba dive. Is this possible?

Where is the best place to go to do this?

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I have heard that you shouldn't expect to see any live/colourful coral if you're snorkelling. You will only go to the most heavily touristed areas and much of the coral has been killed off due to starfish invasion but also other factors including tourism. The best parts I believe are protected and off-limits even to divers. But more accurate info would be appreciated. Do expect to see lots of wildlife and colourful tropical fish however! –  hippietrail Oct 30 '11 at 11:26
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I went with some friends in 2004, in April.

From Hervey Bay we took a day trip across to Lady Elliot Island. They offer everything as a day trip, or you can stay on the island for longer if you wish.

This included a flight in a small plane for the 40 minutes to the island, walking in reef shoes around the island and seeing the coral and shallow-water fish.

Then you could go snorkelling and swimming for a few hours or just explore.

A meal was included, and then in the afternoon we went on a glass-bottomed boat around the island as well, allowing a relaxing view of the many, many fish, and even some huge turtles!

Finally you fly back in the late afternoon.

It's a great day trip, I felt it was enough to 'tick it off', but some may wish to stay longer - especially if it's your thing. We only had a short trip to Aus (from New Zealand), but certainly if I was travelling from afar and backpacking (the sort of travel I prefer now) I may have spent a night or two relaxing on the island - certainly when I went to Tonga, that sort of experience was fantastic.

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I might add that there is nothing special about Hervey Bay and it's a bit of a backpacker trap so if possible I would expect it would be better to stay on the island - though I haven't been to the island to compare. –  hippietrail Oct 30 '11 at 11:02
    
Indeed - we actually drove up from Mooloolaba and back in the evening - although that required getting up at 3.30am and may or may not have resulted in a ding in the rental car... –  Mark Mayo Oct 30 '11 at 11:07
    
Thanks for the tips –  Jason Duffett Oct 31 '11 at 19:59
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I suggest: http://www.reefmagic.com.au/ (which I personally used in 2004 (not an employee or other involvement)).

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We actually did go with Reef Magic, out of Cairns, and had a great time. I would definitely recommend them as well. –  Jason Duffett Mar 1 '12 at 20:34
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