The Great Barrier Reef tours…Glass bottomed boat…Semi-submersible interior photo…Cost for the day…

A semi-submersible boat with passengers in the lower deck checking out the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef.

Once we arrived at the pier in Green Island, it was almost time to board the first of the two boating events, we’d booked, a tour in the glass-bottom boat. We’d both wondered what a tour in this type of boat would be like.  Our expectations were in check.

There was a support post down the center of the boat that sorely impeded viewing and photo-taking opportunities. I’d expected a single flat window running along the bottom of the boat over which we’d learn, watch and take photos.

The glass bottom boat wasn’t as conducive for watching and taking photos of marine life and coral.

With the equivalent of window panes trimmed in metal frames as shown in the above photo, when a fish swam within the frame of our window, it was lost in a second when it reached the “windowpane” of the person sitting next to us. Also, there were vertical posts supporting the structure between every two people further impeding the view.

Photos of the coral reef appear monotone.

As a result of this design, it was nearly impossible to take any decent photos. Of the group of possibly 40 tourists, a few were taking photos struggling for good shots, not unlike me. The glass appeared to be tinted a light green making everything in view a monotone color. This proved to also be the case on the semi-submersible submarine.

More coral reef from the glass bottom boat.

As for the semi-submersible aspect, it had an appearance comparared to an aluminum pontoon, such as an old fishing boat. Once on the deck of the boat, we walked down a short staircase, broken up with a landing, turning and then maneuvering a steeper almost ladder-like structure in the full interior.

The variety of life in the coral reef is beyond anything we’d seen.

Two tourists sit side by side on a pull-down aluminum seat until all 20 were in place. Tight quarters. The interior was no more than 1.22 meters, 4 feet wide. Very tight quarters. 

Marine life in the coral reef is unlike anything else in nature.

With babies crying, passengers trying to find seats where there were none, I felt like offering up my seat and getting out. Tom looked at me reassuringly that staying put was for the best. There was no way I could crawl out anyway. 

Although there were a few moments of passing massive schools of fish swimming, here again, it was nearly impossible to get good photos through the green tinted glass as the semi-submersible vehicle moved along the water.

This tiny space in the semi-submersible had seats for 20. As shown, it’s packed as tight as sardines.

The reason the boat is referred to as semi-submersible is due to the fact that the top deck of the aluminum boat is not underwater. A door is left open during the tour while a tour guide sits on the steps describing some of the fish passing by below.

If one suffers from claustrophobia, this boat may not be an ideal scenario, not as much from the submersion, as from the tight person-to-person contact of a total of 20 people jammed into very tight quarters. From what we’d read online at the company’s site, no more than 10 passengers would board the boat.

The fish have learned that these boats provide a government approved “feeding” of a marine based pellet to allow the visitors in the boats to see more fish.  As a result when they see the boats coming, they gather around for food.

We saw a number of fish, a few sea turtles, and a small section of the coral reef. Although photos taking wasn’t ideal, we were glad we had the experience and sighed a breath of fresh air when it was over. I doubt we’ll care to partake in either of these two types of boat tours again in our future travels.

Surely, snorkeling would have been a better alternative but, much to our surprise we only spotted a handful of snorkelers in the designated areas, although many tourists were swimming at the sandy beach, most without wetsuits.

Mostly, tourists used smartphones for photo taking.

After the back-to-back boat tours ended we wandered down the long pier to Green Island stopping frequently to peak over the edge of the pier to check for any signs of life. 

With no tinted glass to impede our view, we still weren’t able to get good photos being high above the water’s surface while standing on the pier. Also, as much as a sunny day was preferable, the brightness of the sun created a glare on the water.

With only a small amount of food offered to the fish from the boat, in an attempt to keep them interested in seeking their own sustenance, the fish quickly swam away.

At Green Island, we were surprised to find a beautiful visitor’s area shaded by trees, including a variety of shops, dining establishments, and scuba and snorkeling rental shops. Tables, chairs, and park benches lined the area creating comfortable seating for tourists to stop to relax. 

After taking our time walking through the tourist area, it was fast approaching time to return to the pier to board the departing 4:15 pm Rocket Reef boat to make our way back to the port in Cairn The return boat ride included a distant whale breaching sighting, here again too distant for any good photos. 

The boat to the left is the semi-submersible “submarine” we boarded to see the coral reef.

Including the two boat tours, the glass bottomed and semi-submersible, our total cost for the half day visit to Green Island was AUD $219, USD $157 plus AUD $12, USD $8.61 for parking. The parking area was approximately 10 minutes from the boat tour check-in building that had restrooms, seating, and beverages. 

Only credit cards with a chip are accepted in the pay machines in the car park at various points in the outdoor lot. Luckily, a few of our newer cards actually have chips and this worked well.

A boat, the Big Cat, remained docked at the pier in Green Island for visitors to use as a rest station and meeting point for other tours and events their company hosts.

Finding the Reef Fleet Terminal at Pier Point Road, for check-in was tricky if unfamiliar with the area as we were. With less than ideal directions from the website of the tour company, we easily spent extra time searching for the building. We’d suggest allowing no less than an extra 30 minutes before the required check-in time to find the terminal. 

In essence, we were smart to have booked the half day tour as opposed to the full day. We had the perfect amount of time at the site. If we’d booked the full day, we’d have an extra four hours. 

A view from the pier at the reef.  As the coral ends, there often a pristine sandy bottom.

I’d have enjoyed lounging on the sandy beach for a few hours but, Tom would have been sunburned.  In all of our travels, our first consideration is one another’s comfort and well being.

Had we known more about the experience we still would have booked the tour. There was no way we wouldn’t have gone to see a portion of the Great Barrier Reef when we were so close living in this area. Overall, it was a fine experience.

Another view of a small portion of the reef from the pier.

We’re fast losing interest in booking any large group tours if other options are available such as small groups we’ve joined with other cruise passengers we’ve met on cruises or at

However, in our upcoming Mekong River cruise, there are days and days of land group tours with other passengers. These types of tours are unavoidable and there’s no doubt we’ll have a good time as we tour Cambodia and Vietnam.

As the boat left Green Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

With only 10 days remaining until we depart Australia, we now feel satisfied that we’ve experienced the area as much if not more than we intended. During this remaining period, we’ll visit a few parks and beaches, walking for exercise, and to further revel in the beauty of this nature-rich continent until we return again in the future on many upcoming cruises.

Tomorrow, we’ll post a new story and wrap up a few more Great Barrier Reef photos. Have a wonderful day!

                                               Photo from one year ago, August 28, 2014:

As we wound down the time in London with only three days remaining, we had dinner after a visit to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. For many museum photos, please click here.