Great Barrier Reef Welcomes Significant Superyacht Interest

By George Bains

After months of a fine balance between protecting safety and mitigating economic losses, the superyacht industry is slowly welcoming back charter in many areas of the world. One region which has seen a marked growth in interest recently is the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s kaleidoscopic paradise is building a momentum of inquiries over the past few months with vessel entries being approved and now beginning to arrive into the port of Cairns. We spoke to Joanne Drake, Manager of the Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef, to understand the current situation and the reasons for this interest.

Australia’s swift and decisive response to the COVID-19 outbreak has made the country one of the most promising destinations in the world. In fact, this can be extended to the South Pacific region as a whole. New Zealand and Fiji have recently declared themselves coronavirus-free, while there were only 88 cases reported across New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Tahiti. In Australia, the approach to re-opening has been a slow and cautious process and now with the help of Superyacht Australia there is more certainty for vessels to be granted entry. Several renowned Top100 superyachts are known to have made plans to visit the country and make the most of the newfound opportunity for charter. Joanne Drake lifts the lid on why the region is set to welcome some of the world’s most exquisite superyachts.   

What level of recent interest has there been from international superyachts in coming to the GBR region?

We certainly have experienced a raised level of inquiries from vessels wishing to return and also new visitors to the region wanting to keep their crew in a safe and secure homeport, with all of the necessary infrastructure and services and then the added bonus of the beautiful tropical weather.  Our yards are also fielding extremely high levels of interest for the purposes of maintenance and refit.

Of course Cairns is a popular choice in Australia as it offers a one stop shop for superyachts with everything conveniently at their fingertips, including all the essentials - the world's largest mobile boat hoist, an international airport [Which is now allowing international crew to join their vessel], private jet facilities and Cairns Marlin Marina's largest superyacht dock in Australia at 140m! You will also have all the destination advantages at hand being located in the only place in the world where two world heritage sites meet – The Wet Tropics Rainforest and the magnificent Great Barrier Reef!

There is a choice of even more superyacht-capable and experienced marinas not to be missed, nearby to the customs clearance port of Cairns, with the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina in Port Douglas, Coral Sea Marina Resort and Hamilton Island Marina in the Whitsundays.  

Why is the region an ideal spot for superyachts to base themselves at this time?

Given the current concerning times, our isolated and safe region is now truly being seen as a secure and reassuring location for owners to keep their vessels and very importantly their crew with outstanding world-class maintenance and refit facilities and destination experiences at our toes. The skilled and experienced work carried out in our yards by the local marine trades and services equates to fantastic value considering the currently low Australian dollar. All the quality and high-end essentials a vessel needs may be acquired here, plus even better – fresh, local and organic produce from our Tablelands local farmers.

The Great Barrier Reef region is an ideal location for vessels to base themselves close to other nearby cruising hotspots in Sydney, Tasmania, The Kimberley and further afield internationally to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Fiji, NZ, and French Polynesia. It's the perfect home port for vessels wishing to explore the South Pacific region and be a part of events such as the Olympics and the America's Cup in 2021, plus many smaller local events soon to be announced.

How do you view the potential of travel opening up for superyachts in the South Pacific region? (both for charter and for owners flying in by private jet)

I believe that this can be done safely, by looking to our neighbours in Tahiti who are soon to be open to International travel and have set strict guidelines in place to minimize any risk.  I believe that private jet charter will be a safe option prior to commercial charter opening, to allow private jet charters for owners and guests to meet their vessels with extremely minimal contact. 

If we also look to utilizing similar guidelines as Tahiti (ie: medical certificates, self-distancing protocols etc) for private international flights to arrive, then I do believe this will mitigate any unnecessary risk.  The opening up to our Pacific Island friends and family will need to be done carefully in the confidence of having no risk of significant outbreak where vulnerable communities may exist.

More than the magnificent Reef, what makes the region a complete superyacht destination?

All needs and requirements superyachts have may be met in the GBR region, experienced service providers abound with many ex superyacht crew now based here permanently. The highest quality of provisions and services are available, supplied and delivered with a high-level etiquette, exceeding all expectations.  The Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef provide a complimentary service to assist vessels with all required information and guidance prior to and during your visit.  We assist with itinerary curation and facilitate introductions with the local experts necessary to ensure your visit is exceptional.

As a cruising destination this region screams originality, authenticity, cultural awareness and exotic adventure!  There is something for everyone with amazing bucket-list items, or a string of quiet luxury isolated island resort visits with optional spectacular diving and snorkelling.  If you are keen on experiencing the abounding land activities, then there are plenty to choose from! Multi-faceted and imbued with ancient wisdom, this destination offers some of the richest travel experiences available with our warm, welcoming, and extremely generous Australian Aboriginal people. What you’ll discover is a rich culture that has always lived softly. The wet tropics rainforest contains the relics of the great Gondwanan forest that covered Australia and part of Antarctica 50 to 100 million years ago!  Enjoy the peace and tranquillity amongst the waterfalls, gorges and untouched forest surrounded by beautiful wildlife.

"Given the current concerning times, our isolated and safe region is now truly being seen as a secure and reassuring location for owners..."

Joanne Drake, Manager of Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef

"Given the current concerning times, our isolated and safe region is now truly being seen as a secure and reassuring location for owners..."

Joanne Drake, Manager of Super Yacht Group Great Barrier Reef
By George Bains