Diving and snorkelling in Far North Queensland

Firstly it’s important to know some facts about the Great Barrier Reef before packing your flippers:

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  • Largest reef in the world
  • 2900 separate reefs
  • 900 islands
  • 2 million tourists annually
  • stretches from Bundaberg to Cape York along 2600 km (344,400 km2)
  • Biggest living organism in the world
  • Visible from Space
  • Formed around 18,000 years ago during the last ice age
  • World heritage listed by UNESCO since 1981

To enjoy your trip to the maximum, we advise you to go between May and September. July and August are the best months because of the mild temperatures and the whale migration season. October to May is stinger season so avoid this time.

Underwater the marine life offers a huge variety of possible encounters: six of the world’s seven turtle species live here. It’s also the habitat of Nemo (the Clown Fish), blue sea-stars, the Napoleon fish is found here, as well as fish of many different colours, a variety of corals, and during whale migration season most probably you’ll see whales. The must-have item is an underwater camera like a GoPro which you can buy for around $299 or hire for your time on the reef.

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To get to the reef there are several possibilities: boat, plane or helicopter ̶ it’s up to you! Cairns is one of the best launching platforms. The offers here are numerous and lots of companies depart from Cairns. Port Douglas is also a good spot to reach Agincourt Ribbon Reef offering huge diversity. This place is a mecca for scuba divers and considered one of the most beautiful places to view coral reefs in the world. Catch a sailing boat at Airlie Beach to the Whitsundays, from Townsville for Magnetic Island or Town of 1770 to get to Lady Musgrave Island which is a deserted island, protected, and allows a maximum of 40 campers at any one time. As you can read there are lots of ways to explore the reefs of Far North Queensland.

Practical considerations

Getting there:

Brisbane – Cairns: 1700 km

Sydney – Cairns: 2700 km (via Brisbane)

Cairns – Port Douglas: 65 km

Cairns – Airlie Beach: 625 km

Accommodation (campground):

BIG4 Cairns Coconut Resort, 23 – 51 Anderson Road – Woree, 4870, 0740546644

South-east Queensland is also a good place where you’re sure to have some great marine encounters. For example, 80 km (75 minutes) from Brisbane you’ve got beautiful Moreton Island: here you have a good chance of encountering kangaroos, koalas and many bird species. Moreton Bay itself is overflowing with rich marine life: turtles, dolphins, dugongs and small sharks. Old boats have been deliberately sunk to create habitat for fish and a good spot for diving and snorkelling. Numerous activities are available on the island: kayaking, quad biking, catamaran sailing, sand surfing or feeding dolphins; there is a resort there too if you plan to stay overnight.

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So now you know now what you’ve got to do: get in your campervan, head up to Brisbane and  Far North Queensland, go on board one of the boats and be amazed by this natural wonder that runs along the eastern coastline of Australia.

Demystifying Insurance Options for Campervan and RV Hire in Australia and New Zealand

When customers are planning their motorhome or campervan holiday and are at the stage of checking prices and vehicle types, one of the most common questions we are asked at Salamanda Travel is “what are my insurance options?”

4-berth Uluru road

So we’d like to explain how it works with some of our most popular suppliers for campervan and motorhome hire in Australia and New Zealand. We’ll deal with the USA in another blog post.

First of all, at Salamanda we refer to “liability” ? each vehicle hire has a built-in limited liability amount included. In other words, our major supplier has limited the amount you are liable for in the case of an accident or incident. Please also note that the liability is irrespective of who is at fault, as per the Terms and Conditions, and that the liability is applicable per incident or accident.

However, if another driver is at fault and the supplier can retrieve costs from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider, once this money has been successfully claimed you will receive the relevant refund. This could take some time though, depending on the insurance provider concerned.

So, I hear you ask, what is the standard liability on the vehicle you have selected? The standard liability varies from brand to brand and from vehicle to vehicle – and there are also options to reduce this amount even further, or even to zero, which I’ll go into shortly.

Some of the most popular vehicles and their standard liability amounts are set out here: (dollar amounts are AU$ in Australia and NZ$ in New Zealand):

Vehicle size Supplier Country of Travel Standard liability
2/3 Berth and 4 Berth Hitop Hippie Australia & New Zealand $2500 ($3500 <21)
Cheapa Campa Australia & New Zealand $2700
Apollo Australia & New Zealand $5000
2 Berth S/T Hippie Australia & New Zealand $2500 ($3500 <21)
Cheapa Campa Australia & New Zealand $2700
Apollo Australia & New Zealand $5000
Star RV Australia $7500
New Zealand $5000
4 and 6 Berths Cheapa Campa Australia & New Zealand $5000
Apollo Australia & New Zealand $7500
Star RV Australia $7500
New Zealand $5000
4WD Campers* Cheapa Campa Australia $5000
Apollo Australia $7500

*4WD campers are not offered in New Zealand

When you request a quote for a campervan or motorhome either online or by phone from Salamanda Travel you can just leave the quote at “standard liability”. Or, you can reduce the liability further with a choice of two options.

Liability Reduction Option 1 reduces the liability by approximately half in most cases and in some cases even more, and Liability Reduction Option 2 reduces the liability to zero. With this last option, on vehicle pickup an imprint only will be taken from your credit card for pre-authorisation of a bond amount of $250. This is not charged to your credit card, and assuming all is well it is released on drop-off of your campervan or motorhome.

An exception to this is the Hippie vehicles ? a bond is always charged for Hippie campers. The lowest the liability for Hippie campervans can be reduced to is $100 (or $250 for drivers under 21).Hippie Camper Budget

Many customers enjoy the peace of mind of Liability Reduction Option 2. And especially for those who are travelling one way, have extra drivers and require chairs and tables, the All Inclusive Option is often the best choice price-wise because it includes zero liability, as well as all those extras and more, and the one-way fee is then not charged either (except in the case of Cheapa Campa). This last option can really give great value for money in such cases – as one customer put it recently, “A no-brainer.”Cheapa 6 Berth

If you have chosen standard liability or Option 1, the liability that remains will be deducted as a bond at pickup. Please note that this is irrespective of what other insurance you may have taken out. If you have travel insurance, or as in the case of some other agents, you believe you don’t have anything extra to pay, please do take into account that the supplier will always deduct the liability level you have selected as a bond, and it is payable on pickup. Please always check your confirmation which will include this information.

If you have separate travel insurance you may be able to claim money back from your insurance provider in the case of an accident, however any payments to the vehicle supplier will come from you first. It’s then up to you to contact your travel insurance provider and submit a claim with them. We also recommend checking whether your insurer does provide cover for the specific campervan or motorhome you are hiring.

Still have questions? Don’t worry, we’re available by phone to assist.