Finding Nemo. Exploring the Great Barrier Reef with children.

Learning to snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef

When my husband suggested that we take our 1 and 4 year old boys on a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef I thought he was dreaming.  Prior to having children both my husband and I were certified divers, and I couldn’t imagine how a trip to the reef with small children would work.  Thank goodness that I gave in to him and organized a family trip to the Great Barrier Reef this Father’s Day – it was among the most memorable days we have experienced together.

Sunlover Cruise to Moore Reef

We ventured out to Moore Reef on a Sunlover Cruise Vessel.  The trip is 90 minutes from Cairns but only was only 40 minutes from our departure port, Fitzroy Island. Seas were initially rough however, rather than becoming sea-sick both boys were lulled to sleep.  When we arrived at our destination, the permanent Sunlover pontoon, the protection offered by the reef miraculously stilled the seas and glorious sunshine illuminated the waters.  Our friend Catherine, visiting from Dubai had accompanied us on the trip and my husband and I left the slumbering boys under her watchful eye to have a quick snorkel.  Those ten minutes of adult water time were exquisite.  We entered the water to be greeted by vibrant coral, plentiful parrot fish, a giant Maori Wrasse, and two turtles.  As I headed back to the boat I was met by a Sunlover staffer who told me the boys were awake, and demanding my attention.  Bless her cotton socks, she offered to care for the boys in order for me to have more water time, although I thought it prudent to resume my motherly duties.  What followed was the only down point of the trip, Bub 1 proceeded to have a major meltdown for all to witness.  It turns out that when he awoke and was told I had gone for a swim, he thought he would have to snorkel out by himself to find me.  Tantrum over we focused on enjoying all there was on offer for families at the Sunlover pontoon.  It turns out that even small children not  capable of snorkeling have ample opportunity to engage with the Great Barrier Reef, on the right tour.

Glass bottom boat Sunlover pontoon


We boarded two different vessels from the pontoon to view the Reef from different perspectives.  A glass bottom boat took us over the top of the reef.  A semi-submergible vessel then allowed the boys to view the side of the reef.  There were multiple Finding Nemo references from four year old Bub 1.  “I just saw Dory!”  “This must be the drop off.”  And, “There’s Crush the turtle.”

A touch tank allowed the boys to become familiar with a variety of Reef inhabitants including star-fish and sea cucumbers.  The pontoon also has an underwater viewing area that, at fish feeding time was more impressive than the best aquarium.

Touch tank Sunlover pontoon


The children’s pool Sunlover pontoon

The highlight for all of us though was the opportunity for the boys to get up close and personal with some of the resident fish.  This was made possible by the children’s pool.  The children’s pool is an enclosed ledge off the side of the pontoon and within which the boys spent plenty of their day swimming.  We were given fish food that enticed tropical fish into the pool which invoked loud squeals from both boys.   The children’s pool also allowed Bub 1 to try snorkeling – next time, he tells me he will snorkel off the side of the pontoon with his dad.

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© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move

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