Located 22 nautical miles (40 km) from Cairns, the same as 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.
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 two vessels which travel daily that are permitted the right to use the Cay on their trips.
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.
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.
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.
"Michaelmas Cay is the SAFE and easy way to snorkel and dive."
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.
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.
We serve our delicious Hot & Cold buffet luncheon, including a variety of Hot dishes, scrumptious cold meats, selected breads, tropical fruits and salads before departing Michaelmas Cay for 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.
Hastings Reef 30 nautical miles out from Cairns, during the last ice age some 15,000 years ago is where the Australian coast line resided and it was here the reef began to grow.
This is the preferred location for corals, well away from the coast and the effect of the rivers and streams; out here on the very edge of the Pacific Ocean is where the corals thrive. Of course, with the healthy corals there are many dynamic and colourful fish.
Hasting is a typical outer reef, on most days a line of breakers marks where the deep ocean swells break onto the reef wall. The reef itself is shallow on top, with steep sides reminiscent of cliffs falling away into the surrounding water.
For divers and snorkellers you are swimming in the clear ocean water which provides the utmost visibility.
Seastar moors on the calm side at one of the most interesting locations and although the back of the boat may be hanging over the shallow coral the bow of the boat is in 20 metres of water.
It is here you can experience the true wonders of this Outer Edge Reef, there are the coral caves, coral overhangs, deep water drop offs, coral canyons, swim throughs and shallow coral bays that are only metres from the side of the Seastar. Along the steep edges there are swirling schools of small fish, colourful parrot fish, turtles, giant clams, “friendly" little reef sharks, bright yellow butterfly fish, pairs of rabbit fish, countless varieties of brightly coloured damsel fish and of course, Nemo.
Even so with all this to experience some may wish to take life even easier and to cater for the lazy snorkeller, here at Hastings Reef Seastar has the comfortable, safe and dry Glass Bottom Boat.
As you cruise by, your skipper will be able to explain more about what is below and how the reef works. In the Glass Bottom Boat, you’re sitting nice and dry with your friends, chatting and just having a lot of fun, you may have even brought a drink with you.
A somewhat light hearted, relaxed and stress-free tour of this reef, you float over the coral, sometimes only 30cm or 1 foot from the top of the reef.
However, as the boat begins to glide over the reef the very practical nature of this vessel becomes apparent, you’re still having fun but now there are many intriguing and fascinating corals and creatures to be seen, to all of which you have an excellent view! Take your camera!