Calypso Port Douglas is a family run and family friendly business with three vessels available for snorkeling and diving day trips to the Great Barrier Reef. Calypso Snorkelling is dedicated to snorkelers who don’t want to share a rear deck with divers and their intimidatingly cumbersome gear. Their newest boat Bubbles, a 20m catamaran takes both divers and snorkelers, but can also be dedicated either way. Their main boat Calypso is surveyed for 80 divers and snorkelers, but with five separate deck areas, it is the most conspicuously spacious day boat I have had the pleasure to be on.
Calypso Reef Cruises runs all boats daily from the Port Douglas Reef Marina. This page describes the Calypso scuba diving experience.
Calypso departs the marina at 9am and is back by 4.30pm, having taken in three different sites on the Opal Reef (one of the closest to Port Douglas). All certified diving is guided by qualified dive guides. (The website advises a maximum group size of 8, but our group was no more than 4 for the whole day). The equipment is modern, all regulators have computers, and the tanks are bigger than you need for the 45-minute dives at around 18, 14 and 12m respectively. Of course, you can skip one dive and snorkel, which was my plan, until I saw how diverse the fish life was. They also offer Discover Scuba Diving and work with a local dive school (if you were thinking of training in Port Douglas, and doing your open water certifying dives on the Opal Reef).
Transfers from the Port Douglas area are included, as is morning and afternoon tea and lunch. As Calypso is so spacious, the galley area and admin desk are separated, so tea and coffee are available all day as long as the boat is not moving. Underwater cameras including flash cameras for diving, caps, shirts, fish ID cards and charts are on sale, and there is the obligatory on-board photographer snapping away. Soft drinks, beer, wine, and champagne can be purchased onboard. They charge the reef tax at face value: $3.50, unlike the $20 some operators hike it up to.
Calypso also Carries ECO Certification promoting ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that foster environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation. There is an interpretive reef talk and a guided snorkeling tour. Snorkelers are also given instruction on safe snorkeling.
Calypso Reef Charters is part of Tropical Journeys, which includes Daintree Tours, offering small, personalized groups an insight into the ancient Daintree National Park. They also have two sailing cats, a daily snorkel/sailing option to Low Isles on the inner reef, and a luxury charter-only vessel. You can gain a discount by booking both a reef and rainforest experience with the one company – Tropical journeys.
Calypso operates day trips to the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland from the Port Douglas Reef Marina, and travels exclusively to three, from a number of different sites, on the Opal Reef.
Enquiries: please contact Calypso directly on 1800 005 966 or via their Contact page.
Boarding commences at 8:40am at the Reef Marina for a 9am departure. You can leave your shoes in a crate on the wharf as you don’t need them until your return. As you step on board, all snorkelers and divers are fitted with basics which they keep for the day. Light refreshments are served before the 9am departure.
During the safety briefing the staff are introduced, and guests are reminded that sea sickness tablets are preventative, and not a cure. After that, the certified divers are gathered in groups and taken through the usual reminders of diving and reef protocol.
The journey to the reef is only 80 minutes, and by 10.15am we’re on the dive deck and trying on wetsuits. The staff have already set up tanks and BDCs having guessed (correctly) our sizes and air consumption. Divers always depart the boat first, and our group is underway quickly. My dive log for the first dive at Bashful Bommie was 10.45am, 17.5m for 46 mins. (The reef is such that you can do your safety stop on a 5m part of the reef).
Each reef probably has its own mascot – in most cases a humphead Maori wrasse – as in the Reef’s ambassador fish Barry the Wrasse. The one on the Opal Reef was certainly the friendliest fish you could hope to encounter. Like a well-trained puppy he turns up as soon as the boat is mooring up and welcomes all the guests as they get into the water. It appears that somehow he has developed an intricate knowledge of photography as he manages to inject himself between guest and camera in poses so endearing that you wouldn’t think he was just a fish.
Calypso has four ‘bathrooms’ two on each side between the dive deck and main cabin. Each has both a toilet and (very) hot shower – great for a 20 sec warm up before donning a dry top for morning tea and fruit cake.
The boat moves a short distance to the second site and moors up. Our tanks have been re-filled and are exactly as we left them on the dive deck. Within minutes we’re geared up and ready to go for the second dive. This time the certified divers are taken out in the tender to the end of the reef wall so that we (with our guide) can make our way back to the boat without snorkelers overhead, or the distraction of the Discover Scuba Divers. (Sno: 12.05pm, 16m for 48 mins.)
Lunch is a generous affair with not just the cold meats and salad, but tandoori chicken and roast beef. After lunch the boat moves again and we depart for the third dive – again in the tender – to the best part of the reef where a school of barracuda have been sighted previously. To our delight we’re dropped right next to them. (Sandbox on Beautiful Mooring: 1.40pm, 11m for 48 mins).
On returning to the boat, I treat myself to a slightly longer hot shower, and dress dry for afternoon tea and the trip back. Our dive guide comes by with the dive sites and times, and dives are written up, and log books signed. The on-board photographer assists in the naming of the fish. We arrive punctually back at the marina at 4.30pm.
I enjoyed three guided dives that day each better than the last. There was no need to think about current or direction I could just follow the guide along the reef and snap away.
The coral on Opal Reef is in excellent condition, one of the reasons possibly the fish stock is so diverse yielding some new fish for my photo album, and some that I don’t recall seeing in any of the usual guidebooks and will need to go hunting in wider references to find.
For more information on diving with Calypso Reef Cruises Port Douglas check out their website directly.