Great Barrier Reef Day

edited February 27 in Australia

Hi there. We've just booked the March 13, 2025 Grand Australia & New Zealand tour, and are very excited for our first Tauck experience. We have been A&K fans for a long time, but so many friends have raved about Tauck that we decided to book this one. There will be 6 of us on this trip to celebrate my 60th birthday.

Friends have just returned from this exact tour and their only significant area of disappointment was the day they took the tour for snorkeling on the GBR. They said there were more than 400 people on this boat, and the majority of them were cruise ship passengers on an excursion. While they said the snorkeling was magnificent, the fact they were with 450 other people was not a good experience at all.

Like us, they are on a small group tour, and I think I would also not be pleased with this. So my questions to the group are if anyone else has experienced this, or if this was a one-off for them? If it's the norm and you knew about it in advance, did anyone book a separate, smaller group experience instead.


  • I think your friends may mean the boat that actually takes you out to the reef, which is a ways out to sea. I think people have a very romantic notion of going to the reef. When you actually get there, it is a huge sort of pontoon like landing where all the activities go from, changing rooms, a bar, platform for the submarine and landings for the snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s about 12 years since we went with Tauck, so I can’t recall how many people were on the boat going there. I’ve been to much better reefs in the Caribbean and places like Malta.

  • Hi, PSTodd1965 -

    Hopefully I can alleviate your concerns…as long as what we were offered is still available. We went on the Grand Australia & New Zealand tour in September 2019. At that time, Tauck had recently added an option for a small boat excursion in the Great Barrier Reef. We opted for this smaller boat - plus they offered scuba diving even for novices, which my husband really wanted to do. Only 6 of us in total chose to do that - everyone else went to the more popular area with the platform - I think because there were more activities available - you could take a helicopter flight over the reef for an extra charge (one couple on our tour did that and loved it), snorkel, or look through the glass bottom and they also had facilities there. Our boat included others who were not with Tauck, but it was still a small group. The boat took us out further to a quiet part of the reef. There was no platform or other manmade structures - just us and the ocean. I don’t recall other boats being around us either. My husband and tour-mates LOVED the scuba experience! They actually took us to 3 different spots to snorkel and scuba. Each one was great, and peaceful. I highly recommend the more remote small boat experience. We talked to others afterwards who told us similar stories as your friends - although I don’t think it was quite that crowded (perhaps due to the time of year) - but they definitely had more people around them than we did. We were SO glad we took advantage of that small boat opportunity. Our TD had explained that Tauck wanted to provide another option for those who might like to have a different experience. So hopefully that is still the case and if it is, do it!!! It was amazing!!! We saw huge fish, giant clams, etc. Definitely a memorable bucket list experience!!

  • We did this trip last October and there was not a small boat excursion. Perhaps that’s offered on the Tauck small group tour but not on the classic. The boat and platform was crowded but not unbearable. You could snorkel, take the mini sub, do a helicopter ride. The only difficulty we ran into was the crowd at the buffet lunch.

    If you’re staying at Silky Oaks, it might be difficult to book something on your own due to the distance from the main dock area, unless a private tour company would pick you up at SO.

  • That’s a bummer - sorry to hear they didn’t offer that excursion. We were not on a small group tour although it turned out we essentially had a small group tour. I wonder if not enough people took advantage of that option - I know it was reasonably new when it was offered to us. It’s a personal decision, of course, based on what you would like to do, but you could always inquire at Silky Oaks, and see if they offer something similar that you could book through them. Everyone on our tour enjoyed themselves, regardless, but I just think we had the more unique experience.

  • Note that Buonviaggio was mentioning a tour that took place pre pandemic. Australia has not been open that long, maybe smaller boat offerings have not been available yet.
    We enjoyed the unique experience of the platform, especially being able to go in the sub as well. It also meant we could change out of our costumes. People should not be disappointed if there is no small boat option because you can do that in any other countries that have reefs. Our favorite place to snorkel I guess was with the stingrays in the Cayman islands and they swam around your feet too. My husband would also say in Galápagos when the seals would pretend to dive bomb you.

  • When we did this tour (2017) there was no small group/ small boat option. It was at least 45 minutes on the large boat out to the reef. The day we went the boat was loaded with Asian tourists. It was not a problem on the boat- the Tauck people were not crowded in - we had our own area. You will fill out an activity form based on what you want to do. If you tell them you are on blood pressure meds they will not allow you to scuba dive- that happened to my husband who is a certified scuba diver. He went snorkeling instead. For snorkeling, he said it was too small an area and he was getting kicked in the head. I went in the mini- sub. Both of us thought there was not much to see…. The coral was pretty much bleached. Do not let this deter you from taking this trip. This is a great trip! The private charters in between itinerary stops provide a wonderful way to traverse a very large country in a luxurious manner. Also - for me personally- the best views of the Great Barrier Reef were from the plane. Ditto on the Outback. The hotels and itinerary in Australia are the same as when we went. We loved Silky Oaks, and have wonderful memories just wandering around in Melbourne and Sydney in our free time. If I were to do this trip again ( which we have often considered) I would go early and take a tour to the 12 Apostles from Melbourne, and consider doing a Blue Mountain tour with the free day in Sydney.

  • When we took this tour in 2019, Tauck was using Quicksilver Cruises, which took us to the platform at the Agincourt Reef. They are probably using the same company, but perhaps someone with a more recent trip could confirm.

    We had an excellent experience in September. The weather was great, no stingers and clear, calm waters. We did have a choice of a smaller boat option that did not go to the platform. I decided to go with the larger vessel in case of rough waters and for the activity choices at the platform.

    The Tauck group boarded the vessel first, so we could choose a spot on the boat to sit and leave our belongings. It was not crowded, probably because cruise ship high season had not yet commenced. We signed up for snorkeling with a marine biologist (at that time, no extra charge) and had a very good experience- she took us beyond the roped off area. We also took the helicopter ride (extra charge) and really enjoyed it. A good perspective to observe the vastness of the Reef.

    I took a quick look at the Quicksilver website and did not see a reference to a second vessel. You may want to inquire with Tauck as to whether such an option is currently offered. It also appears that there is a charge for all of the guided snorkeling options. I know that some in our group did the helmet diving and really liked it (extra charge).

  • I did this tour last year, Tauck used Quicksilver Cruises the ship is big and even though there were a lot of people it was comfortable, you can book private snorkel outings.

  • Looking at my photos, it looks like we were on a boat called the Silversonic, and it was through Quicksilver. I saw the name of the cruise company on the diving certificates that they gave to those who tried their hand at diving. I don’t recall seeing cruise ship passengers anywhere - probably because of the time of year. We had gorgeous weather - sunny and clear. I agree with Lotusgirl - try checking with Tauck to find out if they still offer the smaller alternative boat as part of the tour. I will say that the larger boat/platform location did have its advantages for those who wanted multiple activities, and maybe didn’t want to snorkel the whole time. However, if you like the idea of a smaller group and snorkeling in several locations in a more remote, uncrowded area, then it’s worth investigating! No matter what, it will be fabulous! 😀

  • Wow, Jowell - that is SO awesome!!! What a great story! 💛 Thanks for sharing!

  • Jowell - Incredible story but not surprising, that's Tauck for you.

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