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Surviving Seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef

Surviving and Avoiding Seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef

You’ve been dreaming of a trip to the Great Barrier Reef for years. So don’t let the day be spoiled by getting seasick on your way to or from the Great Barrier Reef!

Use these tips to avoid getting seasick at the Great Barrier Reef or survive seasickness at the GBR if the motion of the boat does get the better of you.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, like the Grand Canyon and Victoria Falls.

The Great Barrier Reef is a dream destination for travelers from around the world. It’s vibrant coral reefs, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life attract millions of visitors each year.

The Great Barrier Reef is in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of North Queensland. The largest coral reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 1,400 miles and contains approximately 3,000 individual coral reefs.

Great Barrier Reef catamaran sails on clear blue water

The Great Barrier Reef is separated from the Australian coast by a channel. So you have to take a boat or helicopter to access the reef at a snorkel platform or dive platform stationed at the reef.

Unfortunately for many of the reef’s visitors, the 90 minute to two hour boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef can make them extremely seasick. This happens even to people who aren’t usually prone to motion sickness.

What is seasickness? you may be wondering. Seasickness results when your inner ear, eyes, and body send conflicting signals to your brain.

Seasickness can cause nausea, dizziness, sweating, headaches, and lightheadedness.

Unfortunately, seasickness can ruin what should be an amazing, fun day at the Great Barrier Reef.

After traveling a long way to the Southern Hemisphere and spending a lot of money for a tour to the Great Barrier Reef, you don’t to feel miserable while you’re there.

When we went to the Great Barrier Reef for a day trip, more than half of our family group experienced seasickness. The water was a bit choppy, and even people who had never been seasick before were throwing up.

Fortunately, the dive boat crew were very patient and attentive to the wellbeing of all passengers. They handed out sick bags and then, without judgement, let green-faced guests hand the bags back, full of smelly, sloshing contents.

When we (finally!) arrived at the Reef, it took a little while for everyone to recover before participating in the water activities.

Fortunately, based on our experiences, I have several tips and tricks to avoid seasickness at the Great Barrier reef or at least help you survive it. Read on for the most effective ways to prevent seasickness so that you can have an unforgettable experience at the Great Barrier Reef.


Tips for Preventing seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef

Choose Your Great Barrier Reef Tour to Avoid Seasickness

1. Take Flight

Skipping the boat altogether is the best way to avoid seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef. You can bypass the boat ride through the open ocean by booking a flight.

This scenic flight lets you soar over the Great Barrier Reef and take in its vastness.

Avoiding seasickness might be your number one reason to book a helicopter out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Of course, another excellent reason for taking flight rather than bouncing across the choppy open water to your dive site is that the views of the reef from the sky are amazing!

Flying over the Great Barrier Reef is really the only way to understand how immense it is. The reef is absolutely spectacular.

From a air, you’ll be able to see the many individual reefs and sandbars, variations of color in the water, and perhaps some manta rays or green sea turtles swimming through the coral.

Every passenger gets a window seat for this approximately forty minute flight.

If you are someone who always gets sick on a boat, this might be the best way for you to visit the Great Barrier Reef.

(And if you don’t get seasick, I recommend it anyway, because the views are unbeatable!)

GBR Scenic Flight Tour

This Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight allows you to see the enormity of the Great Barrier Reef, without getting seasick.

⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (472 reviews)

2. Opt for a short trip to an island

Most boat rides to pontoon platforms moored out on the Great Barrier Reef last around 90 minutes. If you have a history of seasickness and you’re already feeling ill just thinking about 90 minutes on a boat, opt for a tour that’s closer to the mainland. Visiting one of these islands could be a great option for anyone who anticipates getting seasick.

Green Island

Sail on a two-masted schooner from Cairns to Green Island. You’ll spend less time on the boat and more time in the water viewing the amazing coral reefs, or on land relaxing on white sand beaches.

Green Island’s reef is perfect for snorkeling, and there’s a lovely rainforest to explore.

Since you’re landing on an island, you won’t have to worry about whether you’ll feel unsteady on an anchored platform.

And the crew will be available to answer any questions, offer tea, coffee, and snacks, and alleviate any anxiety. This tour is limited to 25 guests, so you won’t feel crowded or rushed.

⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (537 reviews)

Frankland Islands

If you want a very brief cruise over open water, take the full-day cruise tour to the Frankland Islands.

You’ll enjoy the white sand beaches of the pristine Frankland Islands, snorkeling, morning tea, and lunch. You can also add on scuba diving, stand up paddle boarding, or kayaking.

⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (238 reviews)

Low Isles

Departing from Port Douglas, this Low Isles Great Barrier Reef cruise takes you to a beautiful coral cay with resident green sea turtles. You’ll travel in a luxury catamaran.

You’ll be able to take a guided nature walk, relax on white sand beaches, snorkel, and take a glass-bottom boat tour.

⭐️ Rated: 4.5 out of 5 (158 reviews)

3. Go on a large catamaran

The most stable boat option for day cruises to the reef is a large catamaran. Many reef tour companies use catamarans to take visitors to their pontoon platforms on the reef. Catamarans are large boats that provide a pretty stable, fast ride.

If you can’t spring for a helicopter to the reef, it’s definitely worth paying for a tour with a catamaran, rather than smaller, slower boats where you’re even more likely to suffer from seasickness.

The good news is that once you arrive at the stable platform, you’ll start to feel better. The pontoon platforms have covered seating, changing rooms, and eating areas.

You might find an underwater coral viewing area, glass bottom boat tour, or semi-submersible ride. Outside, there will be a snorkel platform, a dive area, and an enclosed swimming area.

Sunlover Reef Cruises

You’ll go by catamaran to the Sunlover Reef Cruise platform moored on the reef. Once there, you can scuba dive, snorkel, or see marine life from a glass-bottom boat or semi-submersible.

⭐️ Rated: 4.5 out of 5 (540 reviews)

Catamaran Cruise to Marine World

Travel in a catamaran to the Marine World pontoon platform. You’ll be able to snorkel, scuba dive, listen to a marine biologist presentation, and take a glass-bottomed boat tour.

⭐️ Rated: 4.5 out of 5 (664 reviews)

4. Take a sailboat

It might seem counterintuitive that you could experience less seasickness on a small sailboat than on a large catamaran, but it’s true. You are less likely to get seasick on a sailboat because the boat slices through the water, instead of rolling side to side.

Also, if you go out to the Great Barrier Reef on a sailboat, you’ll be with fewer people and be able to experience different things about the reef than you will on a large platform dive site.

Sailboat GBR tour

On the Ocean Free cruise to Green Island on the Great Barrier Reef, you’ll sail on a two-masted schooner to Green Island.

Once at Green Island, you can snorkel, swim, and scuba dive. You can also walk in the rain forest or relax the white sand beaches.

One of my favorite things about this GBR tour is that it’s limited to 25 people. This schooner cruise feels much more personal than a large catamaran trip to a pontoon platform.

⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (334 reviews)

5. Opt for an Overnight

If you want to make the most of being at the Great Barrier Reef, choose one of many liveaboard trips. On a liveaboard reef trip, you can spend one night or more on a boat at the GBR.

These trips allow you plenty of time to recover fully from motion sickness experienced when taking a boat to the outer reef. Once at the reef, the boat will be stable, so you’re unlikely to suffer from any form of motion sickness.

Spending a few days at the reef will allow you to complete multiple dives at the Great Barrier Reef or simply snorkel all day.

Overnight Dive and Snorkel Tour

The Coral Sea Dreaming Overnight Dive, Snorkel, and Sail tour offers snorkeling as well as introductory and certified diving. This tour is limited to 12 people to ensure a personal experience. The tour has access to a variety of moorings so you can get away from the crowd and visit more remote reef sites.

⭐️ Rated: 5 out of 5 (226 reviews)

How to Avoid Seasickness on a Boat the the Great Barrier Reef

Get some fresh air

On the boat, sitting outside in the fresh air can help make you feel less sick. Head towards the back of the boat, where you’ll feel a bit more stable.

Watch the horizon

Having a clear view of the horizon can help reduce feelings of motion sickness by orienting the brain and inner ear. It’s important to keep your eyes focused on the horizon instead of looking around.

Look straight ahead

Face the direction towards which the boat is traveling. In other words, face forward. Don’t try to read a book or scroll through your phone. Just keep looking straight ahead.

Be horizontal

Many people find that a rough boat journey over open seas passes more easily if they’re able to lie down. It’s not always possible to find a spot on a boat where you can lie down, but if there’s room, you might try it. If you can possibly manage to sleep through your seasickness, that would be a good idea.

Avoid caffeine

For some people, avoiding all caffeine is essential to avoiding seasickness. Others have a better chance of avoiding nausea if they’ve had their regular morning caffeine. As a general rule of thumb, if you do drink caffeine before getting on a boat, don’t indulge in more than you normally have.

Have a mint or gum

Some people find that chewing gum or hard candies help alleviate seasickness. It’s easy enough to try!

Eat a light meal

Avoid heavy, greasy food for breakfast on the day you tour the Great Barrier Reef. Also avoid spicy, fatty, and acidic foods, which can upset your stomach.

Have a simple morning tea to have some food on your stomach, but don’t overdo it.

Take medication

Several over-the-counter medications can help prevent seasickness. If you know of a medication that works well for you, bring it with you on your trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

If you aren’t sure what to take or you just forgot to pack it for your trip to Australia, over the counter medication is readily available in drug stores. Just ask the chemist (pharmacist) what they recommend for you.

Antinausea medicine is also available on the boats. Ask a crew member if you need seasickness medication but forgot to bring any with you.

The trick to successfully taking motion sickness medicine is taking the pills an hour before you get on the water. If you wait too long, it will be too late.

Some people who get extremely seasick find that the best time to start the medication is the night before a trip. Then they take another one thirty minutes to an hour before departure. (Ask your doctor or a pharmacist for specific advice!)

The side effects of anti-nausea medications include drowsiness and a dry mouth. You may find that sipping on soft drinks or cold water helps.

Wear a medicated patch

There are prescription patches that can be work for up to three days to prevent seasickness. If you know you suffer from seasickness, talk to your doctor before your trip to see if this might be a good option for you.

Wear acupressure wristbands

Some people who are prone to seasickness swear by acupressure wristbands. These special bracelets apply pressure to specific points on the wrist.

Take ginger tablets

If you’re heading out to the reef for the first time on a day tour and aren’t feeling great, but it’s too late for the motion sickness medication, try a ginger tablet. For many, ginger helps alleviate motion sickness.

Avoid anyone suffering from seasickness

Now is not the time to attend to the comfort of other guests. Try to ignore anyone else who is getting ill.

Simply put, there’s nothing like the smell of sick to trigger your own gag reflexes.

Of course, if you’re traveling with your own children or see someone in medical distress, you’ll need to help.

But don’t feel obliged to help seasick individuals who aren’t with your group. The boat crew will attend to them.

Avoid alcohol

As you are probably aware, the consumption of alcohol can increase the odds of feeling seasick. If you experience motion sickness, it’s best to avoid having a drink on the boat.

This would only be an option on your return trip, as alcohol is prohibited on the reef until all water activities have ended.

Other Considerations to Minimize Seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef

Time your visit

The ideal time for taking Great Barrier Reef tours and avoiding sea sickness is between October and December, when the southern tradewinds have gone, before the monsoon trough arrives. The waters are calmer during these months.

Decide day-to-day

If at all possible, stay several days in the area, so you can choose the best day for your tour. Check the wind conditions before committing to a tour. Reef tour operators will be happy to advise you on which day of your stay is expected to have the best weather conditions.

Get in the water

Once you arrive at the outer barrier reef, get in the water. The coolness of the water will help alleviate any remaining symptoms of motion sickness.

Ask for assistance

Helping guests who experience motion sickness is all in a day’s work for the tour boat crew. They are well-stocked with anti-nausea medication and sick bags, ginger tablets and sodas, in addition to the stinger suits and life jackets that are essential to reef tours.

They are concerned with the safety of all passengers, so don’t hesitate to tell them if you need help. Also, if you have any medical conditions or have questions about safety procedures, discuss them with the crew before your tour begins.

Be careful of the sun

The sun on the Great Barrier Reef is no joke. Being exposed to too much sun can make you feel nauseated, overheat, and become dehydrated.

These symptoms might increase your odds of experiencing seasickness. Wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunscreen while at the reef.

Final thoughts on Avoiding Seasickness at the Great Barrier Reef

So, you might ask, Was the Great Barrier Reef worth braving rough seas and feeling miserable? Yes, absolutely!

The Great Barrier Reef truly is a natural wonder of the world worth visiting. It’s one of the best places in the world for certified divers or families with kids to go to experience the magic of the underwater world.

As ocean water temperatures in the Great Barrier Reef continue to rise due to climate change, the future of the Great Barrier Reef is uncertain. However, the reef is certainly not dead, and there is so much to see!

So yes, absolutely take a snorkel tour or go scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef! A trip to the reef is one of the great adventures of a lifetime that you just can’t miss.

Plan your trip carefully, use this packing list for your Great Barrier Reef tour, choose the best tour for you, and follow these tips for how to not get seasick at the Great Barrier Reef!

The Great Barrier Reef is an adventure like no other, so don’t be afraid of getting seasick on your way to the the Great Barrier Reef. You’re going to have an amazing time!

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