Cairns, Australia/ Embark ShipThe Cairns region is internationally recognized for world class attractions, superb natural features and friendly north Queensland hospitality. It is the focal point for the magnificent World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and is surrounded by tropical rainforests. Visitors enjoy browsing at indigenous art galleries, shopping at the night markets and dining out on multicultural cuisine in the many restaurants along the esplanade.
This morning Orion will anchor close by Hardy Reef’s “Reef World” floating pontoon, moored at one of the most vibrant spots on the Great Barrier Reef. The reef stretches for over 2,500km (1,550 miles), is the world’s largest ecological structure ever built by living creatures and is home to over fifteen hundred species of fish.
You’ll enjoy complimentary and exclusive access to the Reef World pontoon at the best time of day. There is an underwater viewing chamber built into the platform and snorkeling on the reef is as simple as putting on your masks and fins and slipping off the side of the platform where you will be surrounded by fish in their natural reef environment. The Reef World semi-submersible will also conduct complimentary tours throughout the morning so those who would like to see more of the reef whilst keeping their feet dry are able to do so.
An exceptional helicopter ride over the reef for a great view of all its spectacular formations is available at an additional cost, as is certified SCUBA diving for those with the appropriate experience and qualifications.
Included in your day will be a transfer by Orion’s Zodiacs to the Hardy Reef pontoon. Orion guests will have exclusive use of the pontoon and the underwater viewing chamber. Tours on the semi-submersible are also included in today’s activities.
Optional Shoreside Expeditions
HARDY REEF SCUBA DIVE Duration: One Dive
Cost: $120 per person
REEF APPRECIATION SCENIC FLIGHT Duration: Approximately 10 minutes
Cost: $280 per person
One of the best known islands on the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island is the largest inhabited island in the Whitsunday Island group. Originally developed in the 1970’s by Keith Williams, the island has continued to grow and develop over the years and was just recently featured in the “Best Job in the World” promotion.
As with most of the Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton was formed as sea levels rose over time, “drowning” once coastal mountain ranges, turning them into islands. After a short Zodiac transfer to the Hamilton Island Marina you are free to explore the island. Take advantage of the shuttle bus to move around the island, you can easily access Cat’s Eye Beach for swimming and snorkeling, or access the island resort center with its swimming pool, bars and restaurants. Take a walk down Front Street for some shopping, drop into the art gallery or prop yourself at one of the cafes or bars, or take one of the island trails for some more energetic walking (maps of the island trails will be available to you).
The explorer Matthew Flinders visited the Percy Isles in September 1802 and described one of the coves as "one of the prettiest little places imaginable". Middle Percy, the largest of the three islands in the group, is a favorite stop for cruising yachtsmen en route between the tropical north and southern seas. An A-frame hut on the beach is decorated with memorabilia and souvenirs from these yachts. Middle Percy was first settled in 1870 and the homestead dating from that time is today occupied by the island caretakers.
What more perfect way to spend your day than to while it away in the shade or in the shallows with a glass of wine in your hand? A sumptuous beach BBQ is provided today, a fleet of sea kayaks will be available for you to explore the coast and estuaries of Middle Percy (tide and weather permitting) and the island has a series of walking trails where you may come across resident population of Emu and other native and introduced wildlife.
Lady Elliot IslandIn addition to swimming and snorkeling on the idyllic beach, Orion guests are offered an included glass bottom boat and snorkel tour around the island. There are also optional scuba tours for certified divers and beginners who wish to experience scuba diving. The diving and snorkeling environment on Lady Elliott Island is second to none.
Brisbane, QueenslandSituated midway up the east coast of Australia is Brisbane, capital city of Queensland. With the Gold Coast beaches to the south and the Sunshine Coast to the north, Brisbane is well situated to commence your Orion journey and it is well worth arriving a few days prior to enjoy the city and surrounds.