Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Australia Update #3: Reefsleep

Travel is full of memorable and unique experiences. Many of them you could never recreate even if you tried (and there are some you never want to). That said, I rarely have an experience I would describe as once-in-a-lifetime. It just feels like that should be reserved for extra-special adventures or experiences. That’s not to say I am not continually looking for opportunities that deserve the title, but they are not always easy to find. However, I did find one recently on my trip to Australia in the form of a Reefsleep. This unique experience was like nothing I have ever done in my life. For lack of a better way to describe it, it was awesome.

Reefsleep Australia Great Barrier Reef vacation travel
The Great Barrier Reef and its many colors.

Reefsleep in Australia

I admit, I had high expectations going in. I debated for weeks on whether to even purchase it because of the price–this trip was already expensive enough! (See my post on the true cost of traveling in Australia.) In the end, I decided it would make a nice (albeit rather extravagant) birthday present. Let me just say, it was worth every penny.

The experience begins when you board a Cruise Whitsundays boat alongside 200+ other people. That part is not so delightful. And when you get to a pontoon boat out in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, you’re still dealing with those same 200+ tourists. But as they frantically try to cram in as many “reef” activities as they can in a few hours, you get to relax. I did go on a dive and it was a nice small group of four divers. But after that, I just took it easy. When the boat sailed away at 3 p.m., it took with it most of the tourists and crew.


There were just a handful of us left on the pontoon: six crew and nine guests. It was so peaceful. The first thing I did was get in the water, along with a few others. Snorkeling the reef with only three other people around you is definitely a privilege. And the things we saw! It was spectacular snorkeling.

sea turtle Reefsleep Australia Great Barrier Reef vacation travel
We saw several sea turtles, but only after everyone had left.

Dinner and a sunset

After we tired ourselves out, it was time for dinner. Our Reefsleep host fired up the barbie (as they say here) and proceeded to provide us with one of the best meals I’ve had here. It was so good. And don’t get me started on the view. The sun just happened to be going down right when we were enjoying our meal.

Reefsleep Australia Great Barrier Reef vacation travel sunset
Not a bad view to have during dinner.

Sealife views

Once dessert had been consumed, we made our way to the viewing chamber to watch the fish feed. This was another privilege since the fish are way more active in the evening, plus you don’t have to fight anyone for a good view. It was a good way to pass the time while the crew set up our swags.

Swag sleeping

I won’t lie, after my experience with a swag in the Outback, I was not really looking forward to giving it another go. But these swags were an entirely different ballgame. They were big and roomy and had screens on them. They were more like little tents and the experience was a much more positive one.

swag Reefsleep Australia Great Barrier Reef vacation travel
Roomy swags.


The best part of the evening however, was the stargazing. I will never forget what it felt like to lay there and look up at the sky. THAT was what made the whole experience worthwhile and elevated it to once-in-a-lifetime.


The next morning, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast (or brekkie), some more snorkeling and general relaxation before the day trippers arrived. Then we watched them frantically trying to fit everything in before 3 p.m. This time when the boat left, I was on it saying goodbye to one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Reefsleep Australia Great Barrier Reef vacation travel
Saying goodbye.

Experiences like the reefsleep may not happen on every trip. That is probably why they mean so much more when they do happen. The key is to keep searching for them and then to soak up every moment when they do happen.


If you get the chance to do a Reefsleep, do not hesitate. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will never forget.

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