FAQs

Questions About the Best Reef Tours

We know you have a tonne of questions about visiting the Great Barrier Reef and Fitzroy Island: what are the best tour dates, how do I find out snorkelling costs, and more. So we’ve compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions, and sorted them into categories to help you find the answers you are looking for. If your questions are not answered below, get in touch with our team. They are happy to answer all of your questions about the best reef tour from Cairns: Sunlover.

Do you go to the reef every day?

We operate a daily service to Moore Reef and Fitzroy Island 365 days a year. Sometimes the weather will affect our operation but these are extreme circumstances. 

What do I need for check-in?

You will need your ID, which should match the credit card you booked with, and proof of local residency if you've booked a local's rate. Residency can be proven through an ID with an address, or a utility bill matching the name on the reservation.

How many people are on the Moore Reef Day Tour?

This varies every day. The maximum is approximately 300 people but most often is fewer. We have the largest boats in the fleet so we have plenty of space onboard.

How many years has Sunlover been operating?

We have been operating since 1991.

What is your cancellation policy?

A 100% cancellation fee will be charged for independent passengers cancelling within 24 hours of departure. A 100% cancellation fee will be charged for groups* cancelling within 72 hours of departure.

Outside this period bookings can be amended or cancelled without penalty.

No cancellation charges will apply for passengers failing to travel due to:
a) Ill health (medical certificate may be required);
b) Minor changes to group numbers;
c) Group or FIT passengers re-scheduling.

Should a cruise or package tour not operate for any reason, then an alternative date will be offered to the passenger. If an alternative date cannot be arranged then a full refund of monies paid to Sunlover Reef Cruises will be authorised. On the rare occasion where inclement weather prohibits a tour from operating the scheduled itinerary, an alternate itinerary will be offered to the passenger. If the passenger accepts this alternate itinerary then no further refunds will be authorised.

Seawalker and SCUBA Diving are subject to medical checklist. If medical is failed on-board no refund will be given for Seawalker or SCUBA dive options. Guests are advised to review medical checklists/requirements with their booking agent prior to booking. Minimum age for Seawalker and SCUBA diving is 12 years. Divers under 18 years of age must have a consenting parent or legal guardian with them in order to complete a Certified or Introductory SCUBA dive or a Seawalker Helmet dive.

Some package tours operate in conjunction with other tour operators and Sunlover acts as an agent for these companies. Conditions and cancellation policies for these tours are subject to operating conditions of these companies.

* A group means 10 or more passengers in one booking.

Do you ever cancel the Moore Reef Day Tour?

Only very occasionally due to poor weather. This decision is made after we carefully assess current and forecast conditions, with the comfort and safety of our guests as our number one priority. 

If we have to cancel, we endeavour to contact our affected passengers with as much notice as possible and offer an alternate date. If you accept the alternative date, no refunds are given.  If an alternative date cannot be arranged then you will receive a full refund of monies paid to Sunlover Reef Cruises. Full terms of travel can be found here.

When is the best time to travel to the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of our visitors, who have a wonderful experience no matter the weather.

Cairns has a tropical climate and experiences hot, humid summers and cooler, dry winters. Often when the weather is cloudy or rainy in Cairns it can be the complete opposite on the outer Great Barrier Reef. However, if you wish to change the date of your tour then we are more than happy to do so for you (subject to availability, adequate notice and inline with our cancellation policy).

Will the sea conditions affect our day?

Sea conditions vary every day. The pontoon and catamaran are very stable and safe. If the rare occasion occurs and it is deemed that it isn't safe to operate due to sea conditions, passengers will be offered travel on an alternate day or will receive a refund.

Passengers who are prone to motion sickness are advised to take necessary precautions such as motion sickness medication prior to travel.

Will the water be cold?

Cairns is located in Tropical North Queensland so the water temperature is very pleasant all year round. Approximate average water temperatures throughout the year are:

  • December-February 29C or 83F
  • March-May 25C or 76F
  • June-August 22C or 72F
  • September-November 25C or 76F
How deep is the water?

The water is between 5 and 12m in depth off our pontoon at Moore Reef, depending on the tide. We supply life jackets free of charge for extra buoyancy and resting stations are dotted throughout the snorkelling area.

At Fitzroy Island, there are two snorkeling areas around Fitzroy Island. The Nudey Beach area can be explored at high tide as well as at low tide. The water entrance is from the beach. However, snorkeling the dock area is tide-dependant.

In fact, at low tide, it is often impossible to get into the water without stepping on the coral (which is absolutely forbidden and dangerous). Make sure to check the tide times.

Do you offer discounts?

At different times during the year, we advertise special rates for some of our Great Barrier Reef packages, tours and activities. The rates advertised on our Prices page are the best price available as at today's date.

We also offer discounts for locals who live between Cardwell and Cooktown. Contact our Reservations team via phone or email to book local rates.

Who owns Sunlover Reef Cruises?

Sunlover Reef Cruises is a proudly Australian owned company.

Is there a minimum age?

There is no minimum age. We have had infants just a few weeks old travel to the Great Barrier Reef with us. We have a specially built ocean enclosed pool for smaller children so they too can enjoy a paddle in the sea. There are minimum age requirements for optional activities such as SCUBA diving.

Do I need to book for my infant? (0-3 years)

Yes, it's important for us to have an accurate record of every single person travelling with us. Whilst children 3 years and under travel free, you need to advise us there is an infant travelling with you when you make your booking. 

Is there a maximum age or certain physical requirements to participate?

No. The only requirement is that you are able to move freely around the pontoon and catamaran. The water is accessible by stairs fitted with handrails.

Is there wheelchair access?

Our Great Barrier Reef catamarans are equipped with gangways for boarding from the Cairns Marina and to the pontoon.  These gangways are narrow so it is advised that you get in contact with our team prior to your tour date to ensure your ability to board comfortably and safely. Disabled toilets are situated on the aft deck on our reef boats. There are also portable ramps for use to assist in wheelchairs crossing hatchways and onto the gangways as required. However, if you are going to Fitzroy Island, there is no wheelchair access available for this service.

Can non-swimmers travel on the Moore Reef day tour?

Yes. There are a large number of included activities that allow non-swimmers to experience the reef, such as a semi-submersible and glass-bottom boat tours, underwater observatoryfish feeding and touch tank presentations or simply relaxing on the upper level sundeck.
There are also extra activities that non-swimmers can book:

What languages are spoken?

We have an international team who can speak many languages including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish and French. Important medical forms, health and safety messages, and our Sunlover brochures are also available in selected languages for our guests. If you have concerns about language difficulties, please speak with our Reservations team when you book.

Where does the ferry leave from?

Our catamaran departs from the Cairns Marlin Marina. When you arrive at Marlin Marina, you will check in at Sunlover's reservation desk located inside the Reef Terminal, once you have collected your boarding passes. Our boat is clearly marked with orange Sunlover branding and Fitzroy Island on the upper sides.

How do I get there?

Check out our getting here page for lots of information including how to book coach transfers and where to park.

How do I check in?

Check-in & collection of boarding passes must be completed from 07:30 – 08:15 at the Sunlover Cruises desk inside the Reef Terminal at Cairns Marina (located corner of Spence St & Pier Point Road).

Passengers failing to check-in by 08:15 may miss final boarding.

 

What do I need to bring?

Simply pack a bag as if you were going to the beach for the day. Suggested items include:

  • swimming costume and beach towel
  • sunscreen (SPF 30+) reef friendly is recommended
  • sun protective clothing such as t-shirt or rash vest, hat and sunglasses
  • cash or credit card for purchases on the island
  • food and drinks for the day (you can also purchase on the island)
  • reusable water bottle
  • sturdy footwear if you intend on bushwalking
  • camera (we also rent GoPro's out on board) 
  • reef shoes
Are there any lockers to secure my belongings

Simply pack a bag as if you were going to the beach for the day. Suggested items include:

  • swimming costume and beach towel
  • sunscreen (SPF 30+) reef friendly is recommended
  • sun protective clothing such as t-shirt or rash vest, hat and sunglasses
  • cash or credit card for purchases on the island
  • food and drinks for the day (you can also purchase on the island)
  • reusable water bottle
  • sturdy footwear if you intend on bushwalking
  • camera (we also rent GoPro's out on board)
  • reef shoes
Can I bring a pram?

Yes, our team will be able to provide assistance to you when getting on and off the catamaran. However as space is limited onboard, we encourage you to pack light or use a baby carrier where possible. There are limited sealed pathways on the island that are suitable for prams.

Are seats allocated on the catamaran?

No, the seats are not allocated however there is plenty of room and seating on our large air-conditioned catamaran with indoor and outdoor seating. 

How long does it take to get to the island?

It takes approximately 45 minutes to get to Fitzroy Island from Cairns.

What is the schedule for the day?

Cairns to Fitzroy

Morning

7:30am Check in & collection of boarding passes
8:45am Departure from Cairns Marlin Marina
9:30am Arrival at Fitzroy Island

Fitzroy to Cairns

Evening
4:00pm Departure from Fitzroy Island
4:45pm Arrival at Cairns Marlin Marina

Note, seasonal departure times may apply.

Is sea sickness a possibility?

The journey to Fitzroy Island is short but even the most experienced sailor at times can get sea sick, however this is generally easy to prevent. You can take a medicated tablet called TravaCalm (not available to minors without parental supervision/consent) or natural ginger tablets. These can be purchased at the bar onboard the catamaran. 

Tablets are a prevention, not a cure, so we recommend taking them as soon as possible to allow as much time for it to take effect prior to sailing. Alternatively, discuss the best option for you with your doctor or pharmacist.

Can I hire an underwater camera?

Yes. Our friendly staff will rent out GoPro's on board during your trip.

What facilities are available at the island?

Day visitors to Fitzroy Island have access to all of the island, with the exception of the some facilities which are reserved for in-house guests staying at the Fitzroy Island Resort. A map of the island can be found here.

What is included?

Travel to and from Fitzroy Island on our air-conditioned catamaran is included in transfer purchases.

Other inclusions might be available depending on the package you booked.

Are there additional costs on the day?

Day visitors to Fitzroy Island have a chance to arrange snorkel hire, GoPro's, paddle boards, kayaks and glass bottom boat tours onboard the vessel. Snacks and drinks are also available for purchase. You may take your own snorkelling equipment and food, however alcoholic beverages are not permitted to be brought to the island.

Where does the tour leave from?

Our catamaran departs from the Cairns Marlin Marina.

How do I get there?

Check out our getting here page for lots of information including how to book coach transfers ad where to park.

How do I check in?

On the day of your reef tour, you can check in at the Sunlover reservations desk inside the Reef Fleet Terminal. Have your booking confirmation on hand to present to our team. You will be issued with boarding passes and given directions to the Sunlover catamaran.

CHECK IN  Opens 8:30 / Closes 09:45

*The boat departs Cairns Marina at 10:00AM, the boat will not wait for guest who have not checked-in on time.

What do I need to bring?

Simply pack a bag as if you were going to the beach for the day. Suggested items include:

  • swimming costume and beach towel
  • sunscreen (SPF 30+) reef friendly is recommended
  • sun protective clothing such as t-shirt or rash vest, hat and sunglasses
  • cash or credit card for onboard purchases, snacks and optional activities (we accept AUD$, VISA, MasterCard, Amex, Unionpay, Royalpay)
Can I fly a drone?

No, drone operations are strictly prohibited within the vicinity of our Moore Reef pontoon. This restriction is in place due to an active flight path overhead, where aircraft regularly transit. The safety of both our customers and the general public is of paramount importance, and adherence to this policy is crucial to prevent potential conflicts with air traffic. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in maintaining a secure environment for everyone.

Can I bring a pram?

Yes, our team will be able to provide assistance to you when getting on and off the catamaran. However as space is limited onboard, we encourage you to pack light or use a baby carrier where possible.

Are seats allocated on the catamaran?

No, the seats are not allocated for guests however, there is plenty of room and seating on our large air-conditioned catamaran with indoor and outdoor seating. 

How long does it take to get to the reef?

It takes approximately 2 hours to get to Mooe Reef pontoon from Cairns

What is the schedule for the day?

8:30 - 9:45 Check-In
10:00 Departure from Cairns Marlin Marina
11:00 - 11:30 Arrive at the Pontoon
15:30 Depart the Pontoon
17:00 - 17:30 Return to Cairns Marlin Marina
Note, seasonal departure times may apply.

How long do we spend at the Great Barrier Reef?

You can expect to have 4 hours reef time.

Is sea sickness a possibility?

Even the most experienced sailor at times can get sea sick, however this is generally easy to prevent. You can take a medicated tablet called TravaCalm (not available to minors without parental supervision/consent) or natural ginger tablets. These can be purchased at the bar onboard the catamaran.

Tablets are a prevention, not a cure, so we recommend taking them as soon as possible to allow as much time for it to take effect prior to sailing. Alternatively, discuss the best option for you with your doctor or pharmacist.

Can I hire an underwater camera or have my photo taken?

Yes, WiFi is available on our catamaran free of charge. See our team on board for logon details. Moore Reef is 47km off shore so mobile reception coverage may be available, depending on your provider.

Can I smoke?

There is a designated smoking area at the top level of the catamaran which may be used when docked at the pontoon. Smoking during the catamaran journey is not permitted. Please use the ashtrays provided.

What is a pontoon?

A pontoon is a flat man-made structure that floats on the surface of the water. The Sunlover pontoon is two stories and is permanently moored in a coral fringed lagoon at Moore Reef. Large and spacious, it provides a safe and stable platform for our guests to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. Our pontoons are custom designed to makes the coral gardens and marine life of the Outer Great Barrier Reef easily accessible for visitors of all ages and swimming abilities.

What is included?

Snorkelling & equipment
Semi-submersible & glass bottom boat tours
Underwater observatory
Touch tank & fish feeding presentations
Waterslide
Enclosed ocean pool
Lunch + tea and coffee while docked

What activities are extra?

You can book extra activities online when booking your Moore Reef day tour. We recommend booking early to avoid missing out as they are subject to availability. Contact our reservations team directly to book helicopter flights.

For more information about in-water activities and your health, please visit our health checklist page.

Are there additional costs on the day?

The following are available for hire or purchase on the day.

  • underwater photography - hire an underwater camera or purchase print or digital photos captured by the Calypso photographers
  • wetsuits - $10 hire (no charge for people doing SCUBA / helmet dives)
  • prescription mask - $5 hire + $50 deposit
  • lockers - small coin operated lockers are located on board the catamaran
  • snacks - from a selection at the bar on board the catamaran
What changing and bathroom facilities are at the pontoon?

There are toilets located on the catamaran, which are accessible at all times when the catamaran is docked at the pontoon. We also have fresh water rinse showers and change rooms on the pontoon.

What food is included and do you cater for dietary requirements?

A full tropical buffet lunch is included for all guests on board.

Our standard buffet menu includes numerous dishes to cover vegetarian, vegan & gluten free options.  Please inform us if you have a nut allergy at the time of your booking.

We have a bar onboard that sells snacks and ice creams and we also allow our guests to bring their own snack food, however there are no onboard cooking or reheating facilities.

Buffet Menu - Moore Reef

 

What snorkelling gear is included?

We provide masks, snorkels, fins, lycra suits, and buoyancy jackets. These are all regularly washed and sanitized. Wetsuits are available to hire onboard for $10 (wetsuits are provided for guests who have booked SCUBA or Seawalker dives). We don’t provide or allow pool noodles.

What if I wear glasses?

We offer prescription snorkel masks for those who are short sighted. Available from -1 to -6 strength levels, the masks can be hired for $5 with a $50 deposit refundable on return. Please enquire with our team onboard.

Is there child minding?

We don’t have a crèche onboard so we can’t care for children. Anyone under 12 years must be directly supervised at all times by an accompanying adult. All children under 18 years must be supervised and are the responsibility of their accompanying adult.