UNESCO World Heritage listed

One of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World”

So big, it’s visible from outer space

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef ticks the most impressive of impressive boxes and usually tops the must-do list for tourists.

There are plenty of coastal cities providing access to the reef, but Cairns (pronounced: cans) is considered the “gateway” and the most popular base for visitors. In fact, the number of operators offering reef tours from Cairns is overwhelming. But, luckily, I got a great world-of-mouth recommendation weeks before arriving in the city.

While waiting at a bus stop in Katoomba, I’d had a nice chat with an Aussie family who’d just visited the reef from Cairns and highly recommended a tour company called Skeedaddle. 

Unlike the “big boy” operators with their huge pontoon boats built to carry 100+ passengers, Skeedaddle offers small group tours and a “super-fast” boat with 2000 horsepower jet engines and top speeds of 42+ knots.

I know nothing about boats but, as a passenger, that boat was fast — and fun! According to their website, Skeedaddle’s boat is the first, and fastest, of its kind in Australia. This means less time getting to the outer reef and more time enjoying it.

Visiting the reef itself was a bittersweet experience. For a whole bunch of reasons, there is pronounced, and very visible, die-off and coral bleaching. You can read more about the threats to the reef here.

But it was still a beautiful day and a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I was so grateful to have taken. Armed with a rented Lumix underwater camera and outfitted full-nerd with a life jacket AND floatation noodle, I spent two peaceful hours floating above the coral, giant clams and colorful fish.

Here are the photos from my Great Barrier Reef tour: