Experience Co. launch Cairns’ first new-build pontoon in over a decade

A new $7 million marine science and tourism pontoon owned by Experience Co., has officially launched in Cairns at an event attended by senior state and local politicians, industry partners and travel trade.

Built with the support of a $3m grant from the Queensland Government, the Hon. Stirling Hinchcliffe, Minister for Tourism, Innovation and Sport said the pontoon was expected to generate $50M in economic revenue for the region.

The Reef Magic platform is Cairns’ first new-build pontoon in over a decade creating around 40 jobs during the construction process.

Reef Magic will offer visitors the Great Barrier Reef’s only sea country, science and sustainability-led on-water product, weaving a narrative of Indigenous knowledge with western science and eco-powered initiatives.

Due to be operational in mid-March, the 1000sqm activity pontoon will be based at Moore Reef, a large horseshoe-shaped reef system nearly 45km offshore from Cairns.

The new three-level floating platform will provide capacity for up to 250 guests who can enjoy guided snorkelling and diving, entering and exiting the water easily from an innovative 15m wide staircase.

Helmet diving is also available using an underwater platform that loops around the pontoon. Experience Co. CEO, John O’Sullivan, said he is excited about the new pontoon and what it will bring for local tourism.

“Experience Co. has been operating touring on the Great Barrier Reef for many years including snorkelling and diving tours and Island day trips,” O’Sullivan said.

“This rich history provides us with deep insights into how to curate experiences which will be of strong appeal to travellers when they visit our new Reef Magic pontoon.

“We have worked closely with Traditional Owner groups and their respective land and sea country guides, which has enabled us to incorporate culture and Indigenous ecological knowledge into our interpretation, education research and site stewardship actions.”

Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Mars Sustainable Solutions, and The Reef & Rainforest Research Centre – have all shown an interest in working with Experience Co. to utilise the onboard laboratory.

Experience Co. has worked with local construction companies, Austal Shipyards and English Engineering and their suppliers, to build the pontoon ensuring a large economic benefit for the city of Cairns.

Once Reef Magic is operational, the company estimates over 50 full time jobs will be created over a five-year period, through the appointment of Indigenous cultural guides as well as through employment opportunities in other areas of the business, including sales and marketing, operations, and frontline services.

“There are multiple benefits associated with this exciting new project” said O’ Sullivan.

“It is not only a shot in the arm for tourism in the region but also a win for the marine science community who will have access to our purpose-built onboard laboratory; and the local Cairns community who will continue to gain economic benefit.

“The new Reef Magic platform, in addition to our existing Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel tour, will also provide enhanced employment and career opportunities for local Indigenous communities across all areas of our operation.

“The past two years have undoubtedly been the hardest for tourism operators throughout Australia and we are excited to be able share some good news,” O’Sullivan concluded.