Ocean Freedom Frequently Asked Questions & Answers


What sort of guests would enjoy Ocean Freedom?

Ocean Freedom welcomes all guests from youth, families, couples, solo travellers, active retirees – anyone wanting a personal experience.  However, guests are required to transfer from the main vessel to the Glass Bottom Boat and on days when conditions allow, from the main vessel into a dinghy and out of a dinghy onto the Cay, so they need to be fairly mobile and steady on their feet. We cater for anyone wanting a 5-star Great Barrier Reef day tour. It’s very personalised, with small numbers and unsurpassed service from a very attentive, experienced crew.

Accessibility and Fitness to enjoy this tour

Ocean Freedom is a 20M twin hull motor cruiser with saloon / back snorkel + dive deck on first boarding level with stairs up to upper deck and “ladder stairs” up to flybridge so no deck/saloon space for access in terms of pushchair / wheelchair access.

In regard to older clientele or mobility issues, for safety and enjoyment of this tour guests need to be mobile and stable enough to move around a moving vessel, and to be able to transfer from the main vessel into the tender and then tender to the Glass Bottom Boat and back – and have a sense of soft adventure!

There is a small “lip” to step over from the back deck into the saloon

In regard to travelling infants – it is more on how comfortable parents are on a boat. The infant has to be with parental care at all times. Small children can enjoy the tour and crew will look after everyone and assist parents with all in-water activities if required but , as with any day tour, they must be under constant parental supervision throughout the journey and the day.

To move between lower and upper decks guests need to be able to walk up down “stairs”

In order to get into / out of the water guests need to be able to climb up and down a ladder which goes into the water – so can put foot on under the water and grab rails and climb up.

Crew will do a “Safety Brief” once on the boat which includes how to safely move around the moving vessel, how to enter into and out of the water

Why should I choose Ocean Freedom?

The owners (Perry and Taryn) have been operating reef tours locally for over 25 years. The crew are “hand-picked” for unsurpassed service, professionalism and a high respect for safety. They are the operation’s greatest asset.

Price wise, it is extremely comparable in its range with many “add-ons” included in the tour price, including snorkel jackets and small group snorkel tours, glass bottom boat tour, coffee and tea and large smorgasbord lunch with seafood so no “hidden costs” – the only extras being the optional SCUBA diving offered on board and soft drinks and alcohol.

Ocean Freedom is the only luxury cruise boat to Upolu Cay Reef area and arrives there before any other operator. Guests therefore experience this beautiful area uninterrupted! The Ocean Freedom company has a well known reputation for looking after guests and making the tour feel more like a family outing than an organised tour. The Ocean Freedom has been given a million dollar refurbishment and is a truly stylish and comfortable vessel being made to resemble a private  “white boat” more than a commercial tour boat.

All crew are trained to a high level of Great Barrier Reef Interpretation with some Master Reef Guides and 3 Marine Biologists and all have a passion to teach you about the wonders of the reef and marine life – the more you learn the more you truly start a strong bond with this stunning environment – it truly draws you in and becomes addictive!

With 6 hrs of actual reef time (the longest by an hour of any other reef operator)  this tour offers the most immersive experience in all that is reef and allows time for you to also relax and take it all in at your own pace!

You can also rest assured that this company has operated responsible and sustainable GBR tours and been stewards of their reef sites for over 25 years and have a strong commitment to all their sustainability projects – see the ECO page for details

How many people can go on Ocean Freedom each day?

We limit our daily guest numbers to 75, we are surveyed to carry 105. Most clients prefer the more personal, smaller tour. We are one of only a few choices in this price bracket offering this.

Where does Ocean Freedom go?

Ocean Freedom visits  two stunning  Great Barrier Reef  sites, one close to Upolu Cay and the other on the outer edge of Upolu Reef. Upolu Cay is a naturally formed coral cay situated 30 kilometers from Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef. Its protected shallow waters make it the perfect location from which to explore the reef, for both snorkelers and certified and introductory scuba divers. As it is a natural pontoon, the cay size and visibility is subject to conditions on the day but the clear shallow blue waters surrounding the cay (whether visible or not) are always there! In this area you can view pretty patches of reef, surrounded by shallow crystal clear turquoise waters. On occasions, the water may be shallow enough to allow landing on the Cay itself, on other days you can sometimes stand in ankle to knee deep water and get photos of you apparently standing in the middle of the ocean! On other days, the cay may be totally submerged but still have the beautiful crystal clear shallow waters to snorkel in. At our second reef site, guests are stunned by the amazing “Wonder Wall” streaming with sea life. Crew comment that they have never seen so many different “nemo” species on one site! Guests are treated to an adventure drift snorkel tour with our marine naturalist, under the watchful eye of our look outs. For more detail Upolu Reef

Do you operate daily?

We operate every day apart from Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Occasionally, we do private charters so please check with our friendly reservations team to ensure the day you want is available.

On rare occasions we may have to cancel due to adverse weather conditions . Refer to Cancellation Policy for  more details

Do you provide transfers?

Yes, at an additional cost as we use a separate bus company for this service. Transfers can be arranged from inner city, right through to Northern Beaches and as far as Palm Cove. Transfers must be pre-booked at time of booking or minimum 24hrs before travel date on (07) 4052 1111.

The bus also picks up for other tour operators so it is imperative you are at your allocated pick up spot in good time – at least  5 minutes early – the bus will not wait for late guests as it has to operate to a schedule

Where do you check in and what time do you depart?

Check in is at 7.15 am at the “Ocean Free & Ocean Freedom” desk inside the Reef Fleet Terminal, 1 Spence Str Cairns.

Ocean  Freedom is berthed at A Finger, no 5 at the Marlin Marina, Cairns. Boarding after check-in is from 7.30am A Finger no 5 Marlin Marina Cairns and we depart at 8am.

If self driving where can I park ?

We are located at the Marlin Marina Cairns with check-in at the Ocean Free & Ocean Freedom desk inside the Reef Fleet Terminal.

In this particular area, the closest parking areas, with just a few minutes’ walk to the Reef Fleet Terminal are

  • Southern Esplanade: this is located 1, Spence Str Cairns and is public open air car park which costs around $15 for the whole day (pay upfront at the machines) This car park could be a good option if you are in a campervan as being open air means there are no height restrictions
  • Undercover car park in the Shangri-La Hotel (next door to the Terminal) there is a public car park which is underground which costs $20 (If you leave the car park before 6pm) but this does fill up quickly, so if there are no spaces underneath you might end up having to park in the open-air car park anyway.
  • Please ensure you use these prices as a rough gauge as they are subject to change at any time


How long does it take to get out there?

Ocean Freedom gets to Upolu Reef in just over an hour.

How many hours are we out there?

We have six (6) hours to experience the Reef and Cay area, so there is absolutely no rush in the day.

We are the only Great Barrier Day Reef Tour to offer this amount of actual reef time!

What time do you return?

Ocean Freedom returns to Cairns around 4pm – 4.15pm.

Is there any shaded area on the boat?

Yes, the whole aft lower section and the upper deck is under a canopy. There is also a spacious, lightly air conditioned, saloon. However, please remember that even though shaded areas offer coolness and some UV protection, you can still get some rays through reflection off sand and decks, so you still need to apply sunscreen regularly and cover up if you are prone to burning.

What is included in the ticket price?

A Great Barrier Reef day to Upolu Cay Reef and Outer Edge Upolu Reef with Ocean Freedom: travel with speed, style and comfort on our luxury cruiser with plenty of space to be pampered by our exceptional crew.

Enjoy Danish pastries and fresh fruit on boarding, a buffet lunch including seafood, afternoon tea (tropical fruit, cheese and cracker platter, selection of cakes), tea and coffee all day.

Wetsuit or lycra suit (depending on the season), Informative talk by our marine naturalist,

Top quality snorkel equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, snorkel vest), snorkel tuition and Adventure Drift guided Snorkel tour with Marine Naturalist / Master Reef guide and a Glass Bottom Boat tour (subject to sea conditions on the day ) conducted by the same.

Oh .. and did we say lots of fun and many life time memories to be made!

Refer here for full Itinerary

What is not included in the ticket price, but available as an optional extra?

Certified (includes complimentary guide, small group and all top SCUBA equipment)  Non-Certified Diving  (includes 2 divers to one instructor – the only operator to promise this) Also prescription mask (if needed). Guests can do one or two dives in the day (subject to clear dive medical on board )

Refreshments (soft drinks and alcohol) from the licensed bar; merchandise (t-shirts, sun shirts, jumpers and coolers).

Bus transfers to and from you accommodation can be booked (must be pre-booked minimum 24 hrs) – ph +61 7 40521111 / em: info@oceanfree.com.au

What sort of food do you serve?

We pride ourselves on serving top quality food. In the morning you are greeted to Danish Pastries, fresh fruit and tea and coffee. For lunch you will be served a large smorgasbord with prawns, smoked salmon, chicken and mixed meat platter, 3 different salads and a selection of breads. During the afternoon, tropical fruit, cheese and crackers and a selection of cakes will be served, all inclusive in tour price.

Chilled water and tea and coffee also supplied throughout the day.

If you have any dietary concerns or preferences let us know you can order Vegan, Vegetarian,  Lactose free, Gluten free for no  extra cost – but you must pre-order at least  24 hours prior (can make choice on online booking).

Also if you have any allergy concerns please also advise us.

Please note if you have any severe allergic reactions please ensure you carry your epipen – whilst all care is taken we cannot control all guests on board.

Do you cater for vegetarians?

Yes we do. We have three different types of salads and breads, but will order a vegetarian meal for you on request. Please let our reservations team / or order option online . Always make us  aware of any dietary needs when you book, as it has to be pre-booked minimum 24 hours prior to date of travel.

What sort of drinks do you serve?

We have the usual soft drinks (Coke /Diet Coke / Lemonade/ Fanta) and water. We also serve orange and apple juice and from our licensed bar and there is a selection of UDL’s and good Australian wine and beer and champagne.

Please note we are a licensed venue and subject to all RSA controls.

Alcohol can be served when lunch is served but it is highly recommended to not drink until all in-water activities are ceased.

What is a typical day on Ocean Freedom?

Check in at the Reef Fleet Terminal at Cairns’ Marlin Marina from 7.15am, boarding commences at 7:30am with an 8am departure. On boarding be greeted by our friendly crew and help yourself to coffee or tea and Danish pastries and fresh fruit. Your bags and shoes can be stored in cubby holes on the upper deck, our crew will direct you. Once all guests are boarded, the skipper will do a head count to ensure all are on board and the boat will depart. As you sit on the comfy cushioned seats, our friendly crew will welcome you, introduce themselves and give the safety brief. Depending on the conditions on the day, the skippers will decide which of our two sites to visit first, but regardless of that, arrival at the reef will be around 9.15am – only just over an hour travel time on our fast vessel! On arrival at the reef you will be given a “Snorkel Brief”, covering how and where to snorkel and when the Glass Bottom Boat tours and Snorkel tours will be happening throughout the day. At our outer edge Upolu Reef site you will be introduced to “Wonder Wall”. Here, many different types of hard and soft coral festoon the wall, in addition to fans, giant clams and turtles. There is a huge diversity and bountiful abundance of reef fish of all sizes, nemos everywhere! Snorkel and dive here. We conduct guided drift snorkel tours along the breathtaking wall. A self serve buffet lunch is presented at approximately 11:30am and while you dine, Ocean Freedom cruises to its second site (10 mins). At our second destination Upolu Cay Reef you can swim, snorkel or dive the beautiful turquoise shallow waters surrounding the cay. Look out for turtles and stingrays feeding on the bottom amongst the pretty coral formations. How much cay is visible on the day will depend on the conditions of the day. Throughout the day guests can experience a Glass Bottom Boat Tour (subject to sea conditions on the day)  and an Adventure Drift Snorkel Tour. If you are not a strong or confident swimmer let the crew know and they will guide you around in a small personal snorkel group with a snorkel jacket and a ring to hold onto. Ocean Freedom departs at 3pm after 6 hrs of fun and relaxation for the cruise back to Cairns. On the way back, enjoy afternoon tea, a sumptuous selection of tropical fruit followed by mouth-watering cheese + crackers. Lastly, a decadent cake platter: an ultimate way to wind down after a magical day on the one and only Great Barrier Reef.

What more could you want – a day of reef, food and pampering – pure indulgence!

Click here for more


What if it’s raining?

Don’t worry if you wake up in the morning and it’s raining. The rain in Cairns tends to stick to the mountainous areas and it can normally be much clearer offshore. In fact, when it is raining in Cairns, it is quite often sunny at Upolu Cay and Upolu Reef; look out at the horizon for a lighter “strip” indicating sunlight on the sea. Also, it is the tropics and the weather can change rapidly, sometimes it will rain heavily first thing in the morning and be glorious sunshine in the afternoon. Many guests have still enjoyed their day out, even if conditions are not perfect, our crew will endeavour to give you the best day possible in all conditions. The fish and coral are always there!

What if it’s windy?

With wind 20 knots and below it’s considered to be beautiful. 25-30 knot winds are stronger but don’t let the wind put you off, particularly if you are limited to the amount of days you have to spend in Cairns. You can still dive and snorkel the reef and our crew will ensure that you have the best possible experience, even getting in the water with you if necessary. Sea-sickness and being cold are the only two reasons a guest may not enjoy the experience. If it is a little windy or raining, please ensure you take some warm clothing for when you finish your water activities.

Guests come from many countries and many only have a small opportunity to visit the reef. The vessel will operate in all weather conditions (apart from gale force and severe weather warnings) and has extra procedures to make the day the best possible. If you are concerned about the weather, please visit www.bom.gov.au cairns coastal report. 10-20 knots is a normal good day. Date of travel can be changed subject to availability and full refund if cancelling with minimum 24 hrs notice. Our vessels are open air with good boat movement so less likely to suffer seasickness than some other vessels however, if prone to motion sickness we recommend taking travel sickness tablets 20 minutes before boarding the vessel.

Can I get burnt even if it is overcast?

Yes, you can get burnt. You must apply sunscreen (factor 15 +) every 2 hours and if prone to burning it is wise to wear a light long sleeved T-shirt particularly when snorkeling. For your protection and convenience, we do sell sun tops on the boat; please enquire on boarding if required on the day. Do not ruin your day by getting burnt! Ensure you bring a hat and sunglasses. Please apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before entering the water so it is absorbed into your skin protecting you and the reef!


Does Cairns Premier Reef and Island Tours offer diving?

Yes, Ocean Free and Ocean Freedom are both well known for offering extremely safe and fun diving for certified divers and first timers, who are wishing to try an introductory scuba dive. We specialise in first time divers, offering a very exclusive one instructor to 2 diver experience and even 1:1 for those requiring extra attention!

Our certified divers are in small groups, with a complimentary guide to ensure maximum enjoyment.

Click for more info on diving 

How many dives can you do?

Guests are able to do 2 dives at 2 different sites.

Can anyone dive?

There are certain conditions that preclude one from diving, such as asthma, diabetes, heart conditions and epilepsy. All divers are required to fill out a diving medical questionnaire on board the boat to ensure that they have no medical condition (past or present) or taking any medication that could be detrimental to diving. It is absolutely imperative that you are honest when filling in this form as diving has some special requirements due to pressure changes. Some clients may need a diving medical from a diving doctor in order to dive. Should you have any questions regarding diving and dive medicals, please phone us on our booking number +61 7 40521111 or em: info@oceanfree.com.au and we will gladly assist you. This will  avoid any disappointment on the day. Please remember our staff are not allowed to make any medical or medication decisions on the day – these must be cleared by a diving doctor prior to date of travel

Top Tip: QLD has the highest safety standards in the world; you can be assured of the very highest standard of care.

Is there an age limit to diving?

Yes, in order to do an introductory dive you must be 12 yrs old. The upper age is only limited by the fitness and medical condition of the individual. All divers, regardless of age, will need to fill out a dive medical on board . If you are keen to dive and have any medical issues – past or present – or taking any medication please let us know ( info@oceanfree.com.au / +61 7 40521111)  so that we may advise if any diving medical clearance may be required by a QLD diving doctor. This avoids any disappointment on the day!

I have not dived for a while, can I still do a certified dive?

Yes, all of our certified divers are assessed for their ability and provided with a guide free of charge (dive master or instructor); therefore, you can feel confident that you will be looked after, even if you are a little “rusty”. If the instructor assesses you to need more attention, they may suggest doing an intro dive as your first dive.

All divers ( introductory & Certified ), regardless of age, will need to fill out a dive medical on board . If you are keen to dive and have any medical issues – past or present – or taking any medication please let us know ( info@oceanfree.com.au / +61 7 40521111)  so that we may advise if any diving medical clearance may be required by a QLD diving doctor. This avoids any disappointment on the day!

What if I don’t have my dive certification card?

You should try to contact your certifying agency, to get them to fax you a copy of your dive certification (you can have it faxed to our office, if you wish). Bring your log book if you have it. If you can’t get any proof of certification, you will still be able to dive but you will need to dive with an instructor as long as you have no medical problems. However, most certifications can now be checked online. If you send through your details, our office staff may be able to find it online prior to your day of travel.

All divers ( introductory & Certified ), regardless of age, will need to fill out a dive medical on board . If you are keen to dive and have any medical issues – past or present – or taking any medication please let us know ( info@oceanfree.com.au / +61 7 40521111)  so that we may advise if any diving medical clearance may be required by a QLD diving doctor. This avoids any disappointment on the day!


Can I try scuba diving with no experience?

Yes! Anybody who is in general good health can experience an introductory scuba dive; you don’t even need to be able to swim! In fact, diving is easier than snorkelling when taken by our experienced instructors. There are certain medical conditions that can preclude you from diving, such as asthma, epilepsy and heart conditions. All divers (including certified divers) must complete a dive medical questionnaire aboard the boat. Call our reservations team if you have any queries regarding this. Our team is renowned for giving people an unforgettable experience for their first time dive, as we are passionate about giving others the opportunity to experience the joys of the underwater world! We offer a guaranteed 1:2 ratio of dive instructor to diver and even 1:1 for those needing extra attention. Most boats offer 1:4.

All divers ( Non-Certifed  & Certified ), regardless of age, will need to fill out a dive medical on board . If you are keen to dive and have any medical issues – past or present – or taking any medication please let us know ( info@oceanfree.com.au / +61 7 40521111)  so that we may advise if any diving medical clearance may be required by a QLD diving doctor. This avoids any disappointment on the day!

Why try a Non-Certified Dive?

Ever felt what it is like to be “flying under water”? Have you ever been “neutrally buoyant” where you feel weightless – gliding through the water not ascending and not descending – it is a great feeling! Now getting this right (neutral buoyancy) does require some skill that you do learn when doing a diving course and you perfect as you become more experienced. However, if it is your first dive your instructor will be doing this for you – all you have to do is breathe and equalise your ears (you will be taught this). With diving you are under the surface, so on those days where the water might be a little choppy on the surface this disappears and all becomes calm down under! When you are under the surface you are also very much part of the environment – the fish life seems to surround you – you are not an “object” on the surface, but part of the underwater realm – one of them! Why not give it a go? If you have any queries drop us an e-mail info@oceanfree.com.au

All divers (Non-certified  & Certified ), regardless of age, will need to fill out a dive medical on board . If you are keen to dive and have any medical issues – past or present – or taking any medication please let us know ( info@oceanfree.com.au / +61 7 40521111)  so that we may advise if any diving medical clearance may be required by a QLD diving doctor. This avoids any disappointment on the day!

What is involved in trying a Non-Certified Dive?

On the way out you will fill out a diving medical questionnaire, to ensure you have no medical conditions (past or present) or taking any medications contrary to diving (please e-mail us if you have any concerns, just in case we require you to have a QLD dive medical clearance to dive). You are then questioned on your swimming / snorkelling ability – but no previous experience is necessary. Once the medical is checked and clear the group is briefed on: the equipment / how to equalise ears and lungs / how to hold your body position and how to clear your mask / a few signs needed to communicate /how to inflate your bcd and the rest is done by us! The dive is about 5-6M deep (great so you can see the top and the bottom!) – the most life and colour on the Great Barrier Reef is in the first 10M – so great depth for your first dive! The dive instructor will “kit” you up in your SCUBA gear (it will feel like a backpack). You are shown and taught a couple of skills. You can walk or jump into the water (either way – your instructor will “catch” you) and once comfortable put you holding on a bar on the surface looking down and practicing your breathing and repeating your skills. You will then be taken down slowly holding onto a bar and signalled to gently equalise the pressure in your ear (taught in the brief),  the instructor will then take your hand and guide you around the amazing Great Barrier Reef! The dive is 25-30 minutes long.


I’m not a good swimmer, can I still snorkel?

Yes, you can. We have top of the range buoyancy vests and aids available for your use (for children as well), and we have snorkel stations in the water for you to hold on to when you need to. If you are still in need of assistance, we will put a crew member in the water with you until you feel more confident. We have a crew member on watch at all times keeping an eye on all snorkelers, swimmers and divers ready to offer help if necessary.

What if I get seasick?

If you are prone to seasickness, please take a preventative medication 20 mins before you board the boat, as you will have a much more enjoyable day. The crew will look after you at all times. The boat however is mainly open with lots of fresh air so can be a better option than closed style boats.

Can I snorkel and scuba dive if I wear glasses or contact lenses?

Yes, we have a range of prescription masks on board the boat for hire. Please check with us in advance on availability and sizes and pre-book if necessary. Please note: If you have contact lenses and you feel comfortable, you can wear them while snorkeling and diving as long as they are soft, disposable lenses (you cannot wear hard contact lenses whilst scuba diving). However, we obviously cannot say that you will definitely not lose them when snorkeling or diving and cannot be held responsible for this.

I have heard there are stingers on the reef. Can I be stung?

The stinger season runs from October to April. Out on the reef there is only a very small probability of being stung, so regarding safety, it is the same wherever you decide to go. The dangerous “box jellyfish” is not found out on the reef but along the coastal areas, so it is unwise to swim on the beaches unless enclosed by a “stinger net”. Other stingers possible are the blue bottle (a little painful but not deadly) and the Irukandji. These can both occur on the reef. The Irukandji is a small jellyfish which until recently hadn’t caused any deaths. In 2002 there were 2 deaths where both the people stung had an underlying medical problem. One has to remember that there are more deaths from bee stings! No one can honestly say that it is impossible to be stung, however looking at the thousands of snorkelers and divers that visit the region each year it is a rare occurrence. We have been snorkeling and diving off our site for 25 years and had only one suspected Irukandji sting on our site. You can wear a stinger suit which covers most of your body if you are concerned. It is recommended that anyone who has a known medical condition or is over 40 yrs and may have an unknown medical condition, wear one during stinger season. These are provided free of charge and also great for sun protection

Will I see sharks on the reef?

There are black and white tipped reef sharks on the reef, but they are normally smaller than people and are very shy. They pose absolutely no threat to humans and we count ourselves very lucky if we are able to see them!!

Is Ocean Free / Ocean Freedom available for Charter?

Absolutely, our boats have always been a very popular option for private charters. Charters can run as per the normal day or can be customised to clients’ requests. Prices vary depending on the season. We have been operating exclusive charters for over 25 years and are very experienced in ensuring the day suits your specific needs. We cater to family and friends , business incentive and conference groups looking for some “soft adventure”   Enquire by e-mailing us Reservations and Enquiries Number: (07)4052 1111 or Email: info@oceanfree.com.au

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