Ocean Spirit Reef Cruise
Set sail aboard the beautiful 32 metre sailing catamaran, Ocean Spirit, to experience Michaelmas Cay’s unique reef environment - a pristine sand cay surrounded by fringing reef and a protected sanctuary for migratory seabirds. Your cruise will combine motor and sailing, depending on the day’s conditions.
Be active and enjoy all the included activities – snorkel in the cay’s protected shallow waters, cruise in the semi-sub for a diver’s view of the reef, watch the fish feeding presentation and observe the island bird life. Throughout the day, the “beach buggy shuttle” will transfer you between Ocean Spirit and the beach. To protect this renowned bird sanctuary, access on the cay is limited to the roped beach area. If you prefer a more leisurely day on the Great Barrier Reef, relax on the beach or onboard Ocean Spirit’s spacious decks. The choice is yours!
Included in your day with Ocean Spirit
- Return Ocean Spirit cruise from Cairns.
- 8.5 hours experience with 4 hours on the Reef
- Morning and afternoon teas.
- Hot and cold buffet lunch including fresh prawns
- Fish feeding presentation on arrival
- Snorkelling equipment and instruction
- Buoyancy vests
- Marine Biologist presentation
- Semi-submersible coral viewing tour with commentary.
- Glass of complimentary sparkling wine served on the homeward journey, cheese and crackers
- Lycra suits
Our buffet lunch is catered by a 5 Star Cairns Hotel to meet a variety of tastes and needs, including Gluten Free and vegetarian dishes. If you have any food allergies or specific dietary requirements, please advise at time of booking. Please note an extra charge may apply for some requests.
Ocean Spirit Cruise Itinerary
Ocean Spirit operates daily, some times and scheduled activities may vary subject to conditions on the day.
- 7:30 am Check-in at Ocean Spirit’s counter inside the Reef Fleet Terminal for boarding passes.
- 8:00 am Boarding commences. Complimentary tea and coffee served until departure.
- 8:30 am Depart Cairns for Michaelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef
- 9:00 am Safety demonstration, reef brief and snorkelling demonstration..
- 9:30 am Informative Marine Biologist slide show presentation.
- 10.00 am Dive brief for introductory divers.
- 10:30 am Arrive at Michaelmas Cay. Reef Activities commence:
- Fish feeding presentation
- Semi-submersible coral viewing tour
- Scuba diving for introductory divers. (Dive session times are 11:00am, 12:15pm & 1:30pm)
- 12:00-1:30 pm Buffet lunch served onboard.
- Time to enjoy more Reef Activities!
- 2:30 pm Afternoon tea is served onboard
- On completion of safety head count we depart Michaelmas Cay for return journey to Cairns.
- Glass of complimentary sparkling wine served on the homeward journey, cheese and crackers.
- 5:00 pm Arrive Cairns.
Snorkelling at Michaelmas Cay
Snorkelling is fun and a great way to experience the many treasures of the Great Barrier Reef! With easy access from the beach at Michaelmas Cay, people of all ages, whether you’re experienced or a novice, can enjoy the reef, quietly drifting over the myriad of corals and colourful fish. The Cay, with its calm, shallow waters, is ideal for first-timers and young families who want to experience it together. Most of the reef's diversity, around 90% of it, is known to be in the top 4 metres of the water.
A mask, a snorkel and fins are all provided and you’re set for your snorkel adventure on Michaelmas Cay. Our qualified crew are on hand to supervise and show you the basics (if you need them). Buoyancy vests are also provided and will help you stay effortlessly afloat as you discover the world below.
For some great snorkelling tips, make sure to watch the crew’s fun snorkelling demonstration on your journey to Michaelmas Cay too.
Lycra suits are available for adults and children entering the water, providing sun protection and reducing the possibility of stings and irritations from marine stingers that can frequent tropical waters seasonally. The lycra suits have long sleeves and legs with a hood and mittens. They're a great fun fashion statement and photo opportunity too!
Semi-submersible Coral Reef Viewing Tour
Cruising in our air-conditioned semi-sub, seated just one metre below the waterline, you’ll get a diver’s view of the reef without getting wet!
With the large viewing windows, our expert crew provide an informative commentary on the corals and marine life before your eyes as you learn about the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef in this interactive tour.
You’ll be in the midst of beautiful coral formations as we observe a treasure trove of marine life going about their daily life. The reefs surrounding Michaelmas Cay are home to several varieties of spectacular giant clams, sea turtles, giant trevally, hump-headed parrotfish, black tip reef sharks and a magnificent variety of colourful and exotic tropical fish.
Our semi-sub tour takes around 30 minutes and is included in your day at no extra cost so make sure you hop on board to join us for an up close encounter of a very special kind!
Marine Biologist Guided Snorkel Tour
If you’d like to learn more about the fascinating marine creatures of the reef, you can join an optional guided snorkel tour with the marine biologist. You’ll be part of a small group as you get an up close and personal insight into this amazing underwater world.
Michaelmas reef is renowned for an abundance of giant clams and sea turtles amongst a myriad of colourful marine life. Just some of the commonly seen marine life you may encounter on the guided snorkel tour include all types of hard and soft corals (there are over 400 types of corals on the Great Barrier Reef!), colourful parrotfish and fusiliers, schooling fish, trevally, clownfish (Nemo!), sea cucumbers and giant clams.
This tour is conducted directly from the beach in the cay’s protected waters. Depending on your level of experience, both beginner and more advanced tours are offered. The tour lasts for approximately 45 minutes and is a great activity for the whole family to enjoy together. It’s a great educational experience and most of all a lot of fun!
Optional extra Introductory diving at Michaelmas Cay
Explore the reef from a fish’s point of view! Scuba diving is a close encounter of the most unique kind. Glide past stunning coral formations, swim along with schools of fish and discover what’s hiding in the reefs around Michaelmas Cay.
No experience is necessary to take a fully supervised, guided introductory dive and you’ll be able to add another dimension to your reef experience delving beyond what a snorkeller can see in this special underwater world.
It’s fun and easy with one of our professional and experienced instructors by your side who will guide you through every aspect of your dive, allowing you to have a relaxed, enjoyable experience.
The only requirements are that you are over 12 years of age, pass the onboard medical questionnaire and participate in our 30 minute dive brief.
Michaelmas Cay is the perfect dive site for first-timers. The island is wind protected and its waters calm and shallow. Once at Michaelmas Cay, you’ll gear-up and start your dive experience with a skills practice session with your instructor in the shallows of the cay and soon you will be ready for your dive adventure!
At the completion of your first Scuba Dive, you’ll also receive a certificate of recognition and exciting memories to last a lifetime!
If you are considering an introductory dive please see our dive crew on boarding the vessel. Pre-booking is recommended to avoid disappointment as places are limited.
All equipment, including wetsuits and prescription masks (if required) are included. Multi-lingual diving instructors are available upon request, however it is advisable to contact our office for specific language needs to ensure availability.
About Michaelmas Cay
A low lying vegetated sand cay encircled by a spectacular fringing reef, Michaelmas Cay is a National Park and a protected sanctuary for migratory seabirds.
Michaelmas Cay is a small, vegetated sand cay
Located on the western tip of Michaelmas Reef 43km north-east of Cairns and 17km north of Green Island.
The vegetated coral reef island covers an area of 1.8 hectares and rises to a height of 3.5m above sea level.
Around 360m long x 50m wide.
For a period during the late 1800s and early 1900s the island was used by sea cucumber pickers (Beche-de-mer) and for guano mining. In 1937 it was declared a fauna sanctuary and formally a national park in 1975. The Cay has cultural significance to the local Gungandji, Mandingalbay-Yidinji and Yirriganydji indigenous peoples.
How the Sand Cay formed
Michaelmas Cay was formed by the accumulation of broken coral, shells and remains of calcareous algae, continually washed over the reef by currents. Seeds deposited by visiting birds over time, and the resulting vegetation, helped to stabilise the cay. The formation of beach rock (sand and other reef remnants cemented into a rock by the action of algae) further stabilised the cay. The seeds carried in by the birds and the waves help vegetation flourish which in turn provides an ideal habitat for the seabirds to roost and nest.
The Cay is rich with a myriad of sea life including green sea turtles (which occasionally nest on the cay), molluscs and invertebrates of all kinds and hundreds of species of tropical reef fish including Humphead Maori Wrasse. The reef surrounding the Cay is especially renowned for its abundance of giant clams.
The Cay’s vegetation is low growing and composed of grasses including sand spinifex Spinifex sericeus, stalky grass Lepturis repens and other cover such as goat’s foot vine and bulls head vine and Sea purslane Sesuvium portulacastrum.
Access to Michaelmas Cay is only allowed between 9.30am and 3pm daily and is limited to the restricted access area marked out by rope.
A Protected Bird Sanctuary
Michaelmas Cay is a major natural seabird habitat and one of the most important in the Southern Hemisphere. It is home to at least 23 species of seabirds. Many breeds find this island an ideal nesting habitat and is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef. At the height of nesting and breeding season (during Summer months) up to 20,000 birds have been observed. Breeding activity occurs throughout the year, most of the seabird species breed annually, Sooty Terns breed every 8.5 months.
Daily Departures from Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal
Vessel departs at 8.30am and returns at 5.00pm.
Transfers from most Cairns and Northern Beaches hotels/accommodation are available. Pick up times are advised on booking confirmation.
What to Bring
- Swimming costume & towel
- Hat & sunscreen
- Sunglasses and camera
- Cash or credit card for $6.50 EMC (Environmental Management Levy)
Certainly a great day, crew supportive. Excellent variety of activities. My first time to the reef, what a magnificent place, thank you so much.
With perfect weather little could go wrong. I had a wonderful day and particularly thought the crew did all they could to make sure all went well.
Could not have been better! Helpful, attentive staff, excellent facilities for underwater viewing for novices.
Fantastic experience! Staff were friendly and professional. Snorkelling & Submersible experiences Awesome. Possibly in terms of improvement the only suggestion I could add is the buffet is good, but it could be even developed further and key items - eg fish ran out without being replenished. Overall the cruise experience was amazing and will be long remembered!
Enjoyed the day, time spent on the reef should have been longer.... not long enough to enjoy the sights.
Great stay on the reef
Check-in at Ocean Spirit’s counter inside the Reef Fleet Terminal for boarding from 7.30am.