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When to Go
The Great Barrier Reef can be experienced any time of year. Dwarf minke whales can be found during June and July, while coral spawning may be observed in October or November. Calmer winds in November and December can allow access to rarely dived outer reefs.
Travel from the West Coast of the U.S. entails a 16- to 17-hour flight to either Sydney or Brisbane, followed by another short flight to Cairns. Arrive at least a day or two early to explore Cairns and the surrounding area, recover from jet lag, and allow time for possible lost bags to appear. Popular sites include the Kuranda Koala Gardens, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and the Daintree Rainforest.
The warmest water occurs during the monsoonal period from January to April, averaging 84ºf. Visibility ranges from 60 to 100 feet year-round. The dry season runs from May to December, with water temps averaging 75ºf through August and 80ºf through December. An SMB and Nautilus Lifeline (provided) are required.
Spirit of Freedom
(spiritoffreedom.com.au) is a 122-foot-long metal-hull liveaboard with a 24-foot beam. A crew of 10 serves up to 26 guests spread out over 11 cabins, ranging from ocean-view deluxe to twinand quad-share options.
The July 2018 through June 2019 price for a twin-share three-day trip starts around $1,600, with seven-day excursions coming in around $3,300 before a small marine-park fee. Rental gear, alcohol and nitrox are offered at an additional price.