Low Isles Daytrip: Sailing and Snorkelling from Port Douglas

aquarius low isles
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Only a few kilometres offshore from Port Douglas, the Low Isles Queensland are a beautiful protected marine park in the Great Barrier Reef and a haven for seabirds, green sea turtles, reef sharks and snorkellers.

If you’re staying in Port Douglas, a day trip to the Low Isles should definitely be at the top of your itinerary.

snorkeling great barrier reef low islesApproaching the Low Isles from the comfort of a luxury sailboat on a glorious sunny morning is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

The views are stunning and with swaying palm trees and a distinctive lighthouse popping up out of the blue, you won’t forget that ‘castaway on a tropical island’ feeling as the anchor drops into the water.

There are several tour operators heading out to the Low Isles each day but if you’ve got the budget, we would definitely recommend opting for a small group sailing tour rather than one of the big boats.

aquarius

picture of low isles reefOne of the most popular and highly rated trips is on Aquarius, a luxury catamaran with a 3-person crew catering for a maximum of 23 people.

With such a small group the service is intimate and personalised. The boat is sparkling white and clean with plenty of space for everyone to stretch out comfortably for a relaxing chat or snooze on the way home.

snorkelling

aquarius glass bottomed boatOnce we had moored on the outside of the reef, we were given the choice of a guided snorkel to the beach or a ride in the glass-bottomed boat.

Andy, the skipper, gave the group a good lesson on how to snorkel for those who hadn’t done it before, and explained where the best areas to swim were.

One of the reasons the Great Barrier Reef is so ‘great’ for visitors is the fact that you don’t need to be a fully certified scuba diver to experience it up close.

The Barrier Reef’s coral-fringed islands, like the Low isles, are ideal for people who are not confident swimmers.

In fact, on the day we went there was at least one fellow guest who couldn’t swim at all, but with a couple of ‘noodles’ tucked under her body she felt confident enough to swim all the way back to the boat.

the reef

soft corals, low islesThe reef around the Low Isles is pretty healthy with lots of soft corals and plenty of fish.

And while the visibility and colours around the islands are not as good as the outer Barrier Reef, one of the positives of coming to the Low Isles is the chance of seeing sea turtles and reef sharks.

We were lucky enough to see both as well as lots of others varieties of fish.

low island

picture of low isles lighthouseOn the island, Andy took us on a guided walk and explained how the cay was formed, its role in the ecosystem and its importance as a bird nesting site.

We also had a look at the lighthouse although you can’t go in it.

There are actually two islands in this group – Low Island and Woody Island (a unique mangrove island and fish nursery).

lunch

lunch aquarius port douglasAfter our walk around the island we went back to the boat for lunch. By this time we had worked up a good appetite so we were very happy to see our delicious buffet lunch laid out for us.

We tucked in to salads, cold meats, prawns and breads.

The left over prawn heads were thrown into the water and quickly eaten up by a couple of black tipped sharks and giant trevallies.

sharks

picture of black tipped shark, low islesTalking about sharks…if you’re lucky enough to see one while you’re snorkelling you’ve hit the jackpot.

Andy had already mentioned during his snorkelling briefing that there were sharks in the area and I have to say he did a really good job of allaying peoples fears about ‘Jaws’.

Reef sharks are beautiful elegant animals to see in the water and they’re quite small and timid so there’s definitely nothing to be afraid of.

After lunch we had time for another snorkel before a nice relaxing sail back to Port Douglas. Overall this is an awesome day on the reef and highly recommended.

travel nq fast facts

  • The daytrip on Aquarius to the Low Isles includes food and drinks. Soft drinks are extra. Guests are allowed to take their own alcohol along if you fancy a nice glass of wine on the way back.
  • Snorkelling equipment including stingers suits are provided.
  • This is a protected area so no fishing, hunting or collecting is allowed.
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For the record it’s pretty tricky taking a snorkelling selfie, especially when your friend is saying: “Make sure you get the island and lighthouse in the background”!

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