Blog

Cairns Snorkelling Guide: The Best Of The Great Barrier Reef

Cairns snorkelling is undeniably some of the best on the entire globe. With the Great Barrier Reef just a stone's throw away from the Cairns coastline, travellers can live out their wildest mermaid dreams amongst coral and marine life in every vibrant shade of the colour spectrum. Meet Nemo (and the whole "Finding Nemo" cast for that matter), explore staggering coral drop offs, befriend a Green Sea Turtle and tick the ultimate Australian adventure of your bucket list!

But with 348,700 square kilometres of this natural wonder to explore, it can be hard to know exactly where to start. Wondering where the best place to snorkel is? What about the best time of year? And what exotic marine wonders should you keeping an eye out for? This Cairns Snorkelling Guide will ensure that you experience the very best that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer...

When Is The Best Time Of Year To Snorkel In Cairns?

Due to the exotic tropical climate, Cairns is great for snorkelling all year round! With water temperatures varying from 29 to 23 degrees Celsius, Cairns snorkelling is a comfortable, enjoyable experience no matter what month of the year you decide to dive in! 

Unlike southern cities in Australia, Cairns does not have four specific seasons. The climate in Cairns is generally separated into two seasons; wet season, which runs from November to March, and dry season, which runs from April to November. Advantages of snorkelling in the wet season include warmer water temperatures. On the other hand, advantages of snorkelling off Cairns in the dry season include the chance of spotting Minke and Humpback whales.

Turtle Mating Season

Two Green Sea Turtles spotted in courtship off Sunlover Reef Cruises' Moore Reef Pontoon

Guests regularly spot Green Sea Turtles on our Moore Reef full day tour, however, the Great Barrier Reef turtle mating season allows snorkellers to see turtles interact with each other on a whole different level.

Turtle nesting season typically begins in November and is in full swing by December. Turtle hatching season takes place in February and March. Breeding season runs over this whole period and snorkellers can catch a glipse of Green Sea Turtles' unique courting techniques. Look out for males nuzzling female's heads or nibbling on their flippers.

Cairns Whale Season

Two Humpback Whales perform a synchronized tail slap.

Snorkelling with whales should be on every marine life lover's bucketlist! The Great Barrier Reef off Cairns is annually visited by Minke and Humpback whales who are making their annual migration from the Antarctic to the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Minke whale season runs from late May to September, with Humpback whales following in tow from July to August.

Read more about the Great Barrier Reef whale season here.

Best Cairns Snorkelling Locations

Our Moore Reef snorkelling area features some of the most pristine coral off Cairns

The Outer Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly the best place to snorkel off Cairns. As a matter of fact, the Outer Barrier Reef off Cairns is home to some of the most pristine coral on the entire reef.

These vibrant coral gardens are located close to the Continental shelf of Australia and are known for their colourful hard corals, incredible visibility and abundance of fish and marine life. Due to it's position on the Continental shelf, the Outer Barrier Reef is home to staggering coral drop offs that can drop hundreds of metres below sea level.

Sunlover Reef Cruises's Moore Reef pontoon is surrounded by some of the best quality coral in Far North Queensland. Best of all, the coral is located just a few metres off our easily accessible snorkel pontoon, making it perfect for swimmers of all abilities.

Our designated snorkelling area is 300 square metres in size and is home to hundreds of marine life species. This includes a variety of colourful soft corals, as well as hard corals including staghorn coral, brain coral and boulder coral.

With a shallow depth of 1-4 metres and unbeatable visibility, there's no need to worry if you don't want to dive! There's a kaleidoscope of coral and hundreds of fish to be spotted just by snorkelling. Tick an abundance of iconic Aussie marine species off your must-see list including Nemo, sea turtles, giant clams and more! You can even befriend, Wally, our friendly and goofy resident Maori Wrasse!

If you are after a soft coral ecosystem, our Arlington Reef pontoon is just what you've been looking for! This unique, horse-shoe shaped reef is only accessible via Sunlover and is a stunning rainbow of soft corals and anenomes. Home to an array of giant clams, anenomefish and colourful molluscs, this unique ecosystem also offers regular manta ray sightings.

Marine Life To Look Out For

There's a rainbow of fish to look out for on your Cairns snorkelling adventure! We recommend keeping an eye out for these adorable Aussie icons...

Nemo/ Clownfish

If there's one celebrity on the Great Barrier Reef, it's the Clownfish! After soaring to international fame in Disney's "Finding Nemo" this small and colourful fish is sure to give you literal heart eyes. These little guys live in anemones and have a symbiotic relationship with their homes. The Clownfish uses the anemone's venomous tentacles to protect itself from predators, whilst the anemone benefits by the increased circulation of water. The Clownfish also removes the anemone's dead tentacles.

Maori Wrasse

Maori Wrasse may be some of the larger fish on the Great Barrier Reef, however they are nothing to be feared!

As a matter of fact, our resident Maori Wrasse, Wally, is perhaps the friendliest fish on the Great Barrier Reef. This gentle giant loves being the centre of attention and befriends Sunlover's snorkellers, divers and seawalkers on a daily basis.

Head out on our Moore Reef full day tour to meet Wally!

Giant Clams

The giant clam is the largest bivalve mollusc and can grow to a whopping 500lbs in weight! Clams survive by their symbiotic relationship with the algae that live in their tissues, which provide nutritious sugars and protein for consumption.

Brightly-hued giant clams are located off both our Arlington Reef and Moore Reef pontoons.

Parrotfish

There's nothing more relaxing than hearing Parrotfish crunching on coral underwater! These colourful critters use their 'beaks' to break down dead coral, which they then consume and convert into sand.

There are 30 different types of Parrotfish on the Great Barrier Reef and you can spot a rainbow of them on our hard coral at Moore Reef.

Rays

From small spotted sting rays, to large majestic manta rays, a ray flying gracefully over the Great Barrier Reef is always a wonderful sight to behold.

With hundreds of marine species to spot, yours Cairns snorkelling experience is sure to leave you with memories to last a life time...

Ready for the ultimate Cairns snorkelling adventure? Head out on our Moore Reef full day Great Barrier Reef tour today!