First it was an underwater museum. Now underwater accommodations are coming to the Great Barrier Reef.
Since Cyclone Debbie wreaked havoc in 2017, upscale operator Cruise Whitsundays has been hard at work redeveloping its popular Reefworld pontoon, and when the $8 million job is complete, the company will anchor the boat at Hardy Reef, just 39 nautical miles from Airlie Beach. The project’s crown jewels are the Reefsuites: premium king or twin singles, located below sea level, that will be available for summer overnights as soon as bookings open. Australia’s first underwater accommodations, the private rooms will have glass-walled en suites and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the reef’s marine life, so guests can relax and watch the tropical fish, turtles, and manta rays swim by from the comfort of their own well-appointed quarters.
The full experience, which starts at AU$749 (US$511) per person, will include a scenic cruise through the Whitsundays to reach the pontoon and a return cruise out to the reef, as well as meals under the stars and activities like a private guided snorkelling tour and a semi-submarine tour. Another all-inclusive option will give 28 guests the chance to spend the night on the pontoon’s top deck from AU$595 (US$406) per person, and the boat will also have the capacity to handle up to 300 day trippers out to explore the reef, providing underwater observatory access, semi-submersible tours, scuba diving, snorkelling, and more.
It may seem like smooth sailing, but it’s taken some work to get to this point. When the pontoon’s original mooring infrastructure had to be removed, it necessitated the Great Barrier Reef’s largest-ever natural coral transplant, according to the Airlie Beach–based operator. “Over a week, almost 4000 pieces of coral were sustainably removed from old moorings and replanted onto the existing reef wall to rejuvenate the Hardy Reef environment,” the company said in a press release.
“The new Reefsuites will combine unrivalled access to a World Heritage-listed destination with quality hospitality and a unique food and wine experience,” Cruise Whitsundays general manager Shaun Cawood said in a statement. “The pontoon itself will have new interactive experiences providing education and inspiration for guests and shining a spotlight on the unique natural environment that is our incredible backyard.”