Latest operating days & updates. More info here.


Reef cruise frequently asked questions


Operating Days:

Temporary changes:

Reef Tour:

  • Temporarily unavailable: fruit platter, cheese and biscuits and live music. Mini muffins and a slice will be available instead.
  • Temporarily unavailable: semi-submersible/glass-bottom boat

Rainforest Tour:

  • Changed: Lunch will now be a main meal lunch at a local Daintree cafe instead of a BBQ Lunch
  • Temporarily unavailable: fruit platter, billy tea and damper
  • Temporarily unavailable: wildlife stop to visit the wallabies

Outback Tour:

  • Requires a minimum of 5 passengers to operate.

Cancellation & Refund Policy:

Customers can cancel their trip up to 18 hours before travel for a full refund (2 pm the day prior to travel) or up to 24 hours prior to day 1 for Multi-Day Package Bookings. If you cancel within the 18-hour period (or 24-hour period for packages) before travel, no refund will be issued. Rebooking fees of $50 also apply.

In the instance that your preferred date of travel is cancelled by us, we will rebook you on the next available date we are departing at no additional cost to you. For more information on booking changes and other options contact our Reservations team via email: or phone: 07 4052 8300.

Please consider the weather and wind strength before booking. The operator reserves the right to cancel the tour, change vessel type, or arrange an alternative carrier in the event of bad weather or mechanical problems. No refunds for voluntary uncompleted dives.

Bookings via third-party agents: If you booked through a third-party travel agent, please contact your agent directly regarding your refund or rebooking request first. Please read the agents Terms & Conditions carefully before booking with a third party as their specific Terms and Conditions are out of our control and may differ from our Terms and Conditions.

COVID-19: In the event that you need to cancel due to COVID related medical reasons or if the Government changes travel restrictions and you are forced to cancel your tour which is outside of your control, you can cancel and rebook at no additional cost to you.

Important Dive Information:

All divers must complete a Queensland Medical Questionnaire.

Certified divers must show an internationally recognised scuba card.

Minimum age for Introductory divers and dive courses: 12+ years and Certified divers: 10+ years.
Please keep in mind that all divers are required to complete a Medical Questionnaire. In our commitment to the safety of our guests, divers over 65 years (or 45 years for PADI dive courses) must have a medical clearance with a physician the confirms they are Fit To Dive. This can be provided by your own GP before you leave for your holiday. Please be aware that certain medical conditions (e.g. asthma, heart disease, diabetes) and/or prescription medication may prevent some people from diving.

In the interests of safety, we recommend no flying within 24hours of the last dive. You will not be allowed to dive until you are declared medically fit to dive. For advice please contact our office directly.


Please consider weather and wind strength before booking Semi-Submarine tours and Helicopter scenic flights are weather permitting. 130kg Helicopter flight weight restrictions apply.

Travel Well:

The health and safety of our customers and employees are and always has been our highest priority.

Recording contact information: before travel, agents and/or passengers must provide passengers phone number, email or accommodation address. If we do not have this information before travel, passengers will be refused entry. These records are used only to trace COVID-19 and are stored securely.

Cashless payments: all bookings must be paid in full before travel (including the $20 per person administration/fuel levy). We do accept cash onboard but prefer Eftpos to avoid any contamination with money handling.

Changes to food-service: staff-controlled catering and service to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers. There will be no self-serve food option, so we have temporarily removed the tea/coffee station, cheese, biscuits, and fruit. Lunch will remain the same with staff serving each guest individually.

Sanitising stations: hand sanitising stations will be placed throughout the vessel and buses and at entry points. Sanitising wipes will be available for passengers to wipe down seat belts, trays and armrests themselves.

Enhanced cleaning of equipment: with a focus on high contact areas, entrance points, signage, and changes to our food service.

Masks: while these are not mandatory from a safety point of view, we will have these available for use if you wish. Customers can also bring their own mask.

Staff training: all employees have completed the QTIC COVID Safe Training Program and will follow strict personal hygiene protocols including daily pre-screening.

Symptoms: each passenger will be contacted prior to travel to complete the COVID screening questionnaire. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you will be refused entry and advised to seek medical advice and to contact our reservations team or your agent to reschedule your activity.

Social distancing: will be enforced on board as well as at boarding and disembarking to minimise crowding.

Capacity: we have reduced our maximum passenger numbers to comply with current COVID stage restrictions. We are fortunate to have one of the largest reef vessels in Cairns. Evolution has three floors and considerably spacious so there is plenty of room to allow for social distancing. There will be signage to allow for everyone to move around the vessel, when required, safely. Passengers are asked to limit movement around the cabin, once seated and travelling between sites.

For our rainforest tour with Billy Tea Safaris, COVID-Safe restrictions for seating within vehicles requires social distancing between staff and passengers. Although COVID restrictions have eased passenger seating, we will also ensure to not allow passengers to sit immediately beside other passengers from other bookings or family units.

General FAQ:

Where do you check-in and what time does the boat depart and return?

Passengers are required to check-in at Reef Fleet Terminal, 1 Spence Street, Cairns.

Check-in time is from 7.15am - 7.45am
Evolution departs at 8.00 am sharp
Evolution returns about 4.30 pm

Do you operate every day?

For the most up to date availability, please visit the tour page and click the Book Now button.

What if the weather is bad?

The rain in Cairns tends to stick to the mountains. Cairns is located in the wet tropics and attracts fairly high rainfall. However, as our reef is 40kms offshore, the clouds don’t collect, and the rain tends to stay away. When you wake up in the morning in Cairns and it’s raining…do not panic! It will usually be fine on the outer reef locations.

Why choose Down Under Cruise and Dive?

Down Under Cruise and Dive is a locally owned and operated company for over 30 years! We were recently awarded #5 Best Day Cruise in the World by Tripadvisor 2020 and #4 Travel Experience in Australia by Tripadvisor 2020.

Our luxury superyacht, Evolution, departs Cairns offering a fast, comfortable, and affordable cruise, with five hours spent visiting two spectacular outer Great Barrier Reef destinations. This luxury, modern vessel provides a superior ride in all weather conditions, and exclusive protected reef locations. Professional, friendly, and attentive staff ensure a safe and enjoyable fun-filled experience.

Do we only have one boat?

Yes! Evolution is her name and we love her! When Evolution launched in 2016, she was named Ausmarine Best Tourist & Dive Boat in Australia.

Evolution is a 35-metre three-level custom designed and built catamaran. The saloons are air-conditioned providing comfort for your day tour on the Outer Great Barrier Reef. With the largest specialised dive decks, you will have ample room to enter the water for all of your reef activities.

You can read more about Evolution on our About page:

Which reef locations do you visit?

We have 12 exclusive moorings at six reef locations. Locations are chosen each day based on weather conditions and water clarity to ensure the best experience for all activities. Generally, we travel to one of our two outer reef locations in the morning (Norman Reef or Saxon Reef) then make our way to North Hastings Reef in the afternoon to conduct Helicopter Flights and our Semi-Submersible tour.

How long we are at the reef?

With over 5 hours at the reef, there's plenty of time between dives for snorkelling and relaxation. Evolution is our award-winning, Australian built luxury reef superyacht. With 3 massive spacious decks to lounge around and innovative drop-down water entry platforms, you'll have space and time to prepare for the experience of a lifetime. Learning to dive or snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef!

Which city is closest to the Great Barrier Reef?

Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the perfect place to stay when you want to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is the closest city so that you reduce your travel time and spend more time at the reef.

When is the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the best season/month to go scuba diving or snorkelling?

The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is from April to November, but honestly, the answer is whenever you can really! Temperatures around the GBR don’t usually drop below 26°C. In November, the mass spawning of corals is a sight to see snorkelling and scuba diving. Once a year after the full moon in November/December, the corals release eggs and sperm into the water creating multi-coloured underwater snowfall making this an unforgettable natural experience!

Generally, from April to November you’ll experience fewer crowds and less rainfall, which can mean increased water clarity, fewer people around and you’ll see more specials and discounts on Cairns reef tours.

How far in advance should I book my reef tour?

We normally advise our customers to book at least 3 days before the date of travel to secure a spot. However, please note that June, July, and August are very popular travel periods, therefore it’s advisable to book as soon as you’ve decided to travel, that way your spot is secured for your Great Barrier Reef tour.

Do you offer a locals discount?

Yes, we have a locals reef discount at times throughout the year. This is for direct bookings only. Please check out our Local Deals page for all the latest specials! This applies to all locals with 48 postcodes (Cooktown to Townsville).

What are your child ages?

Child 4 - 16 years
Infants 0 - 3 years FOC
Adult 17+ years
Family 2 Adults, 2 Children (child age 4 - 16 years)

Passengers under the age of 18 years old, must be accompanied by an adult guardian.

What thickness are your wetsuits?

Our wetsuits are Scubapro wetsuits with 3mm thickness. They are shorts with short sleeves (i.e. not full length). These are an additional $10 per person onboard for snorkelers and introductory divers. Wetsuits are included for Certified Scuba Divers.

Lyrca/sun-suits are included for all passengers at no extra cost. The sizes range from XXS to XXL.

Food-service and special dietary requirements:

For lunch, we provide a delicious Aussie BBQ lunch including prawns, fish, steak, vegetarian option, vegan option and tropical salads. We can cater to guests with vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free diets - you must advise reservations of your special dietary requirement at least 48 hours prior to travel. View lunch menu here.

VEGAN LASAGNE: this meal is on a request basis. Please advise reservations at the time of booking or at least 48 hours prior to travel so that we can cater this additional meal for you. If you are vegan, we also recommend you bring some of your own snacks for the morning and afternoon tea so that you feel full and satisfied.

Please note due to COVID restrictions, there are temporary changes to our food service. We have now implemented staff-controlled catering and service to minimise touchpoints for crew and passengers. Each passenger will be served individually and we have changed the cheese, biscuits and fruit to an individual serving of mini muffins and a slice.

Can I use my credit card onboard?

Yes, we accept VISA and Mastercard. Amex not accepted. Due to COVID restrictions, we are now cashless to avoid any contamination.

How can I book my reef tour?

Book online at, call us on 07 4052 8300 or email

Can I book on the day?

Yes, you can book on the day, subject to availability. You can call reservations from 6.30 am, and you will need to be at the Reef Fleet Terminal at 7.15 am for check-in.

How many people can your boat accommodate?

Evolution is surveyed to take 300 passengers but we limit our numbers to a maximum of 180 passengers.

During current COVID restrictions, we have reduced these numbers even further to comply with current COVID stage restrictions and to ensure a 1.5m distance between passengers onboard. We are fortunate to have one of the largest reef vessels in Cairns. Evolution has three floors and is considerably spacious so there is plenty of room to allow for 1.5m distancing. There will be signage to allow for everyone to move around the vessel, when required, safely.

What languages are spoken onboard?

Our crew are English speaking. Chinese speaking staff available onboard.

Is this Reef Tour family-friendly?

Yes, our Reef Day Tour is perfect for families! We have a discounted rate for families of 2 Adults and 2 Children (4 -16 years). Infants (0-3 years) are free of charge. We also have a private Gold Class Lounge that you can privately book for up to 8 guests. This is great for families who want the extra space just for themselves. More info on our Gold Class package is available here:

Diving age restrictions requirements:

Minimum age for Introductory divers and dive courses: 12+ years and Certified divers: 10+ years. Please keep in mind that all divers are required to complete a Medical Questionnaire. In our commitment to the safety of our guests, divers over 65 years (or 45 years for PADI dive courses) must have a medical clearance with a physician the confirms they are Fit To Dive. This can be provided by your own GP before you leave for your holiday.

Do you offer guided dives with a PADI dive instructor?

All introductory divers will be accompanied by a PADI qualified dive instructor for the entire duration of the dive. Your instructor will provide you with ongoing instruction for your safety and point out marine life.

If you are a certified diver, you will not be accompanied in the water by a dive instructor. If you would like a guided dive, we have these available for $10 per dive. You can pre-book this or purchase onboard on the day. During busy periods, we recommend pre-booking with our reservations team before travel.

What is included in an introductory dive?

During your introductory scuba dive, you will learn the basic skills required to dive down to a depth of up to 12 metres while accompanied by one of our experienced PADI qualified dive instructors. The scuba dive experience lasts up to 20 minutes giving you time to feel comfortable and begin to enjoy your first dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

What is the difference between an introductory dive and a certified dive?

Introductory dives are for those who are not certified or who have never dived before. A certified dive means you hold a certified diving qualification and are competent to dive in a group guided by a Dive Master.

Do I need to complete a dive medical?

Please keep in mind that all divers are required to complete a Medical Questionnaire. In our commitment to the safety of our guests, divers over 65 years (or 45 years for PADI dive courses) must have a medical clearance with a physician the confirms they are Fit To Dive. This can be provided by your own GP before you leave for your holiday.

Please be aware that certain medical conditions (e.g. asthma, heart disease, diabetes) and/or prescription medication may prevent some people from diving.

Do you have nitrox onboard?

No, we do not.

Can pregnant women scuba dive or snorkel?

Due to safety reasons, women who are pregnant are not allowed to scuba dive. However, pregnant women are allowed to snorkel. We have flotation devices available and snorkel supervisors in the water and on the lookout for any assistance.

Are there any weight restrictions for the helicopter?

Yes, for safety reasons there is a 130kg weight restriction that applies for helicopter rides.

How many passengers can the helicopters take at one time?

The helicopter flights are 6-seaters the majority of the time. However, there are unique circumstances where the helicopters may have 4 or 7 seats. The standard helicopters are 6 seats.

Where does the scenic helicopter flight take you?

The 10-minute scenic helicopter flight departs from our second Great Barrier Reef Tour site, Hastings Reef. Our team will take you over to the private helicopter pontoon. After boarding, you will fly over Hastings Reef and the nearby surrounds for 10-minutes before arriving back onto the pontoon. You will then re-board Evolution for the afternoon.

What if I get seasick?

If you’re prone to seasickness, it’s advisable to take something before you go. Check with a chemist. As Evolution is a catamaran, it’s more stable in rough weather than monohulls. We do sell seasickness pills on board the boat, but please remember, tablets are a preventative, not a cure, so take them before we depart. 

What do I bring to the Reef?

Bring what you would for a day at the beach; swimwear, towel, hat, sunscreen, change of clothes, and credit card for additional purchases on the boat.

What do I wear underneath my stinger suit?

No, you can't go naked! You must wear something underneath your stinger suit. This needs to be something you can get wet like your swimmers/bikini/bathers. You will not be allowed to wear your wet lycra sun-suit inside Evolution's saloons. You will need to remove your lycra sun-suit before entering inside the boat (please keep your swimming costume on though!) so it would be a good idea to be wearing something underneath ;)

Can I bring my own fins and regulator?

Yes, you can. However, we have everything on board that you need for snorkelling and scuba diving so this is not required.

Will the water be cold on the Reef?

The water temperature is pleasant all year round. Average temperatures throughout the year are December-February 29C 83F, March-May 25C 76F, June-August 22C 72F, September-November 25C 76F.

Do you visit an island or pontoon?

No, we don’t visit an island or pontoon as we have a beautiful 3 story luxury catamaran that is moored on the outer reef while you enjoy the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef.

Are you wheelchair friendly or have disability access?

We can accommodate guests with limited mobility, but we’ll need to speak to the person with a disability or their carer to ensure we meet their needs.

Do you have a professional photographer on board?

Yes, we do! Photographs taken throughout the day are available for viewing & purchase on the way home. You can also hire digital underwater cameras onboard with an SD card for an additional AUD 10.

Do you sell merchandise and where can I purchase merchandise?

Merchandise can be purchased from our office (287 Draper Street, Parramatta Park) or onboard the boat. During the year we sell a variety of merchandise including t-shirts, jumpers, Great Barrier Reef postcards etc.

Do you ever cancel?

Rarely. The only reason we would cancel a tour would be for the safety and comfort of our guests. During COVID restrictions, we may not run if minimum numbers are not met. We will contact you as soon as possible to reschedule or offer a full refund. We thank you for your understanding.

Is the reef dead?

Despite what you hear and read the reef is not dead, it's not dying, it's resilient, it's healthy and we've made great strides forward in the last few years. The health quality of the reef has been a hot topic of discussion in recent years with climate change impacting coral life. As a reef tour operator for over 30 years, it is our utmost priority to protect the heartbeat of our iconic region and this major part of our ancient ecosystem.

There is still lots of coral to see! Not only do we love to show off the natural beauty of the reef, but we also love to educate our visitors on the abundance of marine life that they’re seeing daily on our toursOur team of dedicated Marine Biologists are actively engaged in conservation work on the Great Barrier Reef and share information throughout the day tour on the reef ecosystem including how it came to be and how we can work together to protect the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – supports about 40,000 jobs in the region – stretches 1,430 miles, extending south from the northeastern tip of Queensland down to just north of Bundaberg. It includes 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays, 1,625 types of fish, and much more. Remember, when you are talking about something as large as the Great Barrier Reef, you are talking about something bigger than the United Kingdom.

Every year corals engage in one of nature’s greatest spectacles, their mass reproduction during a November full moon. Fertilized eggs (larvae) travel on ocean currents for days or weeks in search of a new home (New Coral Growth).

The reefs that Down Under Cruise & Dive travel to are the far offshore reefs and are bathed in oceanic water from the Coral Sea rather than the currents that flow past inner Cairns reefs. Indeed, access to deep—and often cooling—ocean water helps moderate temperature extremes in these outer reefs, which also reduces the risk of bleaching.

The Great Barrier Reef already has had more than 30 per cent of its area under protection from fishing, and many of its other individual reefs are important for tourism, fish habitats, and cultural benefits providing abundant marine life: tropical fish, sea turtles, sharks, rays and other underwater creatures. The government has committed more than Aus$2.0 billion (US$1.5 billion) to protect the reef over the next decade with the update highlighting progress on land management practices to prevent sediment runoff, which helps spawn the coral-eating starfish.