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Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

Sunlover's new pontoon

Great Barrier Reef

Taking young kids out to the open waters of the Great Barrier Reef can be an anxious time for parents, but our trip with Sunlover Reef Cruises was anything but that. Our 5, 7, and 9-year-old were pumped to get on the massive boat that would take us out to Sunlover’s new pontoon at Moore Reef. With quite high winds we had a rather rough trip out, but staff were fabulous in assisting those feeling seasick, thankfully I had taken seasick tablets.

Feelings of unease were replaced with squeals of delight as the pontoon, completed with a waterslide, came into sight after nearly two hours of travel. We stopped at Fitzroy Island on the way and back to collect and drop off passengers which added time to the trip.

After hiring an underwater camera we eagerly left the boat and found a spot to put our bags for the next four hours. Of course the first thing we all did was get on the waterslide, it’s enclosed and quite dark but heaps of fun once you’re spat out the end! There’s a lifeguard on duty keeping a close eye on kids and adults to ensure a safe passage and that gave me peace of mind.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

Next we took a glass bottom boat trip and were rewarded with a turtle munching on coral algae and colourful fish and coral. Then we experienced the semi-submersible where the kids could get up close and personal to the reef underwater without getting wet. These two tours are perfect for non-confident swimmers, young kids or those keen to stay dry.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

A massive buffet lunch was served for one-and-a-half hours meaning we had plenty of time to tuck in and didn’t miss out. There’s pastas, seafood, salads, warm curries, bread, fruit, warm beverages and lots of other tasty treats for non-fussy kids. Once we had full bellies we got ready to take the plunge.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

Our 5-year-old was adamant he wasn’t getting in the ocean but my older two couldn’t wait to don flippers and a snorkel set. We eventually coaxed our little one to join us and once we were in the water he loved it, well for a little while. I think it might have been a bit chilly for him and the sun wasn’t out so he and his dad returned to the pontoon and waterslide.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

With my seven and nine-year-old at my side; one only wearing fins and a mask and no snorkel, we hovered above the reef seeing all types of fish. The kids spotted clownfish (Nemo) a Moorish idol (Gill) and heaps of cheeky parrot fish who swan up close to us. A little later hubby went out with the older two and they were swimming within a metre of a green sea turtle.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

You can take guided snorkel tours and we were grateful to have Pablo take us to see massive clams, another turtle and bright-coloured coral. Talk about smashing reef goals! Before we left the pontoon the kids got to touch sea stars and sea cucumbers at an educational talk and saw fish being fed underwater; it was quite the frenzy and made for some great photos.

Sunlover Reef Cruises pontoon

We should have packed jumpers, more snacks and a waterproof bag for wet swimmers, but otherwise it was a truly fun and well-catered for tour. There’s plenty of knowledgeable staff on-hand and snacks available for purchase onboard. If you’ve wanted to visit the reef with kids but think they’re too young to enjoy it, trust me they will be talking about it for weeks to come.

When former journalist Emily Toxward isn't wrangling her three kids she's juggling the demands of writing and failing fabulously at being a domestic goddess. A writer for 20 years, she's always on the go and looking for an adventure. She lives on the Gold Coast, the ocean is her happy place and she keeps parenting real on her blog Have A Laugh On Me.

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