Frankland Islands Reef and Island Cruise
The Frankland Islands departure point is 45 minutes south of Cairns at a place called Deeral. The operator offers the service of transfers from your Cairns or Northern Beaches accommodation for a very reasonable additional cost, or you can self-drive.I decided to drive from Cairns on the morning of travel and I hit every set of traffic lights on red on the way. I would highly recommend that you allow 1 hour driving from Cairns and 1 hour 30 minutes if you are driving from the Northern Beaches. The check in time is no later than 8.15am for an 8.30am departure, so this is rush time traffic wise if you are self-driving.Upon arriving at Deeral just along from the boat ramp, I met my friend who was heading up from Mission Beach. Parking is just at the side of the road, so no parking fees.Brett the skipper was there to greet us as we boarded the vessel and showed us to the coffee, tea and biscuits that was being served in the saloon. There was only a handful of us on board at this stage, but the coach had not arrived from Cairns yet. By 8.40am we were on our way with safety briefings taking place in English and Japanese.The boat is moored on the Mulgrave River, so it was a very calm slow cruise along the river out to the ocean. The views were amazing with a mountainous rainforest backdrop and the river banks fringed with mangroves. The journey took 30 minutes to get to the ocean then another 30 minutes to get to the Frankland Islands.The vessel anchors off the island and then you transfer in a smaller boat to the beach, where you jump into ankle deep water and walk ashore.The Frankland Islands are national park and consist of 5 islands, we visited Normanby Island, one of the larger ones, absolutely stunning covered in sparse rainforest and uninhabited. The beaches are made up of broken bleached coral, with a sandy inland. When the tide goes out there are numerous rock pools left behind to explore with lots of interesting sea life to discover.
After everything was transferred over to the island required for the day, we set up at the picnic area with a tarpaulin overhead to protect us from the sun, then we set off on a guided island walk for around half an hour. Very interesting, learning about different beach dwellers, shells, coral, birds and plants.I was ready for a snorkel afterwards to cool off, there is no shade on this walk so a hat is needed, covered shoulders and plenty of sun cream.It was a very choppy morning so most of the operations were run from the opposite side of the island to try and keep away from the northerly’s that were blowing.A delicious tropical lunch was served at noon and consisted of chicken, cold meats, vegetable noodles, fresh prawns, cheese, 4 different salads, bread and fruit.
After lunch it was time for the advanced guided snorkel tour, there were only 2 of us doing this and we set off in a little boat to the reef that the guide thought was best for the conditions. We jumped in over the edge of the boat and snorkelled around for around for roughly 40 minutes. I would recommend this tour for confident swimmers. The ocean was rough and not much fun to be bouncing about on. I can see that it would be wonderful to do on a calmer day which would mean that also the visibility would be better.
Because of the change in itinerary due to the weather, they actually operated the semi-submersible tour at the same time we were snorkelling, so we missed out on that. We heard that it was fantastic though, and the guests saw plenty of sea life. I personally saw 9 turtles on this trip, fantastic!
We started getting ready after this to transfer back on to the Frankland Islands catamaran and our departure to the mainland. Once on board, we were served with afternoon tea including coffee, tea and fruit cake.
The journey back was very relaxing arriving back in Deeral just before 4pm.This trip was totally different to all other snorkel trips I have done on the Great Barrier Reef. It is a small operation offering the day to an exclusive island where you will see no one apart from the people on your vessel. So this is how to get away from the crowds for the day. The river cruise combined with the travel time to Frankland Islands is stunning and relaxing; it makes for a nice change from other trips where this is a crazy time for organising the droves of people into groups and issuing equipment. We were issued our snorkel gear and everyone was back on the deck or their chair within 10 minutes.
For a small operator the languages available on Frankland Islands Reef and Island Cruise is wonderful. English and Japanese speaking staff are on board daily, with French, Spanish and Italian on Wednesdays and Fridays and German and Chinese on Wednesdays and Thursdays.It really is worth the drive from Cairns to experience something different to what everyone else is offering.
Thank you very much everyone, a very enjoyable day indeed. Frankland Island Reef and Island Cruise
Other Island Trips in The Great Barrier Reef National Marine Park
08:00AM Departure - Same Day Return Fitzroy Island Ferry transfers (Full Day 5:00PM Return)