My Experience on Ocean Spirit Cruises to Michaelmas Cay
Since making Cairns my home a little over a year ago, I’m grateful to say that I’ve been able to cross off many first time experiences from the old bucket list. Think, scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, swimming with sharks, and even witnessing a majestic manta ray glide by while snorkelling the Frankland Islands.
One of my biggest highlights in particular; Getting to chill with not one but six green sea turtles as they munched in the shallows on seagrass, and cruised through the coral beds without a care in the world.
Michaelmas Cay has a teeming variety of marine life to delight for hours. If you’re curious about what to expect on a stunning day trip that offers encounters like the one above, then I’ll share with you my experience onboard Ocean Spirit Cruises to Michaelmas Reef.
Jump On Board Ocean Spirit Cruises With Me
Normally, I’m not one for early starts. But when you’re blessed with the good fortune to secure a spot on a day trip out to the reef, there’s a different energy that moves you.
Upon check-in at the Reef Fleet Terminal at Cairns Marlin Marina, I was directed to make my way along the jetty to jump onboard the Ocean Spirit catamaran. Here I was greeted by the friendly crew, decked out in their traditional navy blue and white striped shirts.
After finding myself a seat upstairs on the outside deck and setting up camp for the 2-hour journey to Michaelmas Cay, I grabbed myself some morning tea that was on offer in the main cabin. A mix of blueberry and double choc chip muffins, focaccias, tea and coffee.
The Cruise Out To Michaelmas Cay
With the early morning sun starting to warm the day, we set out on glassy waters towards our destination. The crew gave an informative safety briefing before allowing us to freely explore the boat.
Marine Biologist Becky presented an interesting Great Barrier Reef marine bio talk as we passed by Green Island, and I learnt how Sand Cays are formed, much like the one we were visiting inside Michaelmas and Upolu Cays National Park.
Coasting along on the 32 metre sailing catamaran, I ventured out onto the front deck to watch the water change colours from deep blue to turquoise, passing other sandy cays along the way. Looking out on the horizon ahead, I had the brief pleasure of spotting a dolphin pop up for air as it crossed our path!
We finally arrived at our little slice of heaven on Earth, AKA: Michaelmas Cay. The crew dropped anchor just off shore where crystal clear waters surrounded us on all sides.
To the delight of children and adults alike, the Ocean Spirit squad hosted a fish feeding presentation off the side of the boat to be greeted by a swarm of all sorts of tropical fish fighting for a mid-morning snack.
From there everyone dispersed into their different activities for the day. I decided to jump on the first glass bottom boat tour at 11am.
Pro Tip: If you want to maximise your time out on the cay and snorkelling the reef, I recommend doing the 11am glass bottom boat tour first thing, then having lunch straight after that. That way you can catch the beach buggy boat over to Michaelmas and enjoy more uninterrupted time out on the cay and the reef before the last beach buggy departs at 2:30pm.
The Glass Bottom Boat Tour
By doing the glass bottom boat tour first cab off the rank, it was a great way to get a glimpse of what to expect when the time came for snorkelling. Underwater garden beds full of giant clams, big brain corals, soft swaying corals, mellow moorish idol fish and more. Some people even spotted a turtle poppin its noggin above water for air. The tour ran for about 30 minutes before coming back to the mothership.
Lunch Is Served
We arrived back from the glass bottom boat tour just in time for lunch to be served in the main cabin.
A spread of hot and cold dishes were on offer from 11:30am - 1:30pm. Steamed rice, Japanese pork curry, creamy potato bake, veggie ratatouille, a selection of cold salads and meats, along with fresh bread rolls were all on the menu. Cold drinking water was supplied on tap, while soft drinks and other beverages were available to purchase from the bar.
After lunch, I suited up and collected my snorkelling gear (which is included) ready to catch the beach buggy boat over to the cay. Because Ocean Spirit is unable to pull up to the beach, the crew operate a water taxi service that ferries people to and from the catamaran to the cay every 15-20 mins or so.
So even if you did skip the glass bottom boat tour in the morning in your eagerness to go snorkelling, there is a shuttle to bring you back for lunch or to use the bathroom. Yes, it should be mentioned here that there are no facilities on the white sandy island. It’s an important home, sanctuary and breeding mecca for hundreds of migratory seabirds. You’ll see a roped off section on the beach, along with signs requesting not to cross it.
Jumping off the boat and onto the white sandy beach, I immediately fell in love with this place. The crystal clear waters invited me to dive in and explore its underwater gems. You have the options to do a guided snorkel tour with one of the crew members, or simply go on your own adventure.
I dropped my towel and water bottle on the beach, grabbed some defog from the crew stationed on the cay, and with GoPro in hand, I set out to see what I could find. Within a matter of seconds, to my extreme delight, I came across my first sea turtle just chilling, munching on seagrass in the shallows.
As I cruised along the surface I came across more and more of them, which just simply made my day! Completely unphased by the snorkelers ogling them.
Venturing out further to where the abundant coral garden beds started to appear, my eyes were delighted with the sights of giant, multi-coloured clams, curious little clown fish hiding amongst anemones, fluorescent nudibranchs, Christmas tree worms, giant trevally and more sea turtles playfully swimming along the reef!
I returned back to the shore, shed my gear and just simply soaked in the sun until it was time to return to the catamaran. Those of us who were still on the beach loaded up on the last buggy boat, leaving the cay just as we found it.
The Journey Home
Back onboard the catamaran, the friendly crew collected our snorkel gear and directed us to grab some afternoon tea from the main cabin and relax on deck as we made the journey back to Cairns.
In my experience it was a stunner of a day out on the Great Barrier Reef! With activities like snorkelling, birdwatching, and relaxing on the beach, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
If you're visiting Cairns and looking for a nice chill day out on the reef with the option to visit pristine white sand beaches and snorkelling to your little heart’s content, the Ocean Spirit Cruise to Michaelmas Cay is a great choice whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple, travelling with friends, or on holidays with family.