Located 22 nautical miles from Cairns – 40 klm – the distance across the English Channel, and close to the outer reef systems, Michaelmas Cay is the largest of the uninhabited coral cays in the Cairns region; in fact it is huge in comparison to the others. Being so large it can sustain a permanent low grassy area the size of 2 football fields, approximately 3½ metres high (11’ 6”) and is home to up to 35 different species of sea birds.
Seastar is the first vessel to arrive at Michaelmas Cay. Very few tour boats are now permitted access to this sensitive island and there are only three vessels which travel daily that are permitted the right to use the Cay on their trips.
Sitting on the western tip of Michaelmas Reef, a mid-shelf reef formed by living coral animals, the cay developed when fragments of corals and shells were washed to the calm side of the reef by waves and wind, forming a single plateau. In these sheltered areas behind the sand bank, seeds carried by birds flourished, stabilising the cay and encouraging more seabirds to roost and nest. Their droppings fertilized the sand and more plants were able to grow. This is the large grassy area which now covers the centre of the cay.
Unlike other cays, it is always above water no matter how high the tide.
Environmental restrictions placed on the cay have considerably reduced the numbers of people who can visit, creating the unique situation, where the island and reef remain essentially untouched in a pristine state. Those visiting will notice when diving or snorkelling that the corals appear wholly unspoiled.
Similarly the birds are not intimidated by people on their island, as chicks they see people every day and consider these harmless creatures to be a natural part of their environment. Likewise the fish are accustomed to people swimming around, so much so you can approach most very close, usually within an arm’s length, before they move slightly away, just to keep that “comfortable” distance.
Michaelmas Cay is the SAFE and easy way to snorkel and dive.
It truly is the simplest destination to try snorkelling and diving by far. Being such a large cay it protects the waters around it and combined with its gently sloping beach, provides a simple and familiar entry into the calm water. As you head out the water gradually becomes deeper, with the reef so near on the low tides you can actually walk to the first coral only a few metres from the water’s edge. The result is that you remain more relaxed not worrying so much about swimming and being calmer, you can enjoy the reef more.
Take the ferry to the beach and start form here, it is just so easy. Standing in the waist deep water off the beach is the best place to adjust your mask and snorkel for trouble-free snorkelling. Life is a lot simpler when you are able to merely stand up to fix a problem and not have to keep swimming or treading water.
in addition to the snorkel equipment included in your fare are:
- Stinger suits or Wetsuits – depending on season
- Buoyancy vests – ideal for snorkelling
All these assist to make snorkelling as effortless as possible; they help you to either float or protect you from the cold or sun. The upshot is that you remain relaxed and if you are calmer you will enjoy the reef more.
To give you the freest time at both destinations, we serve our delicious Hot & Cold buffet luncheon, including a variety of Hot dishes, cold meats, selected breads, tropical fruits and salads whilst travelling from Michaelmas to Hastings Reef, where on arrival, you are content, rested and ready to enter the water again.
While travelling over to Hastings Reef we often see dolphins and whales during their migration.