A NEW two-storey pontoon that has been towed out to the Great Barrier Reef will offer the first theme park-quality slide into Reef waters.
Sunlover Reef Cruises is preparing to transport its new pontoon out to Moore Reef as part of the company's $4 million investment in new and refurbished marine infrastructure.
The large steel structure, which has been built from its ballast float tanks up, features two large decks for passengers and crew, plenty of seating and shade, and a theme park-style waterslide.
Sunlover's group general manager Eugene Kotze said it would take about 10 hours for a barge to tow the new pontoon out to its moorings, about 46km east of Cairns.
"We'll be releasing the current pontoon that's there and moving it off into a safe area," he said.
"Then we'll put the new pontoon up and tie it on.
"It's quite an involved process, with quite a lot of people from engineering and everything else that goes with it."
He said the new pontoon would allow the company to capture different markets.
"You have some markets who want to get out to the Reef but also want to do a bit of sun tanning and relaxing, and you can do that up on the top deck," he said.
"You'll also have families with kids who want to have a bit of fun with the waterslide, and they can do that.
"And you've got people who just want to go out and do a bit of snorkelling, and get around on the glass-bottom boat, and semi-subs.
"It's really a multi-pronged strategy we're trying out there and backing heavily."
The old pontoon will be refurbished over a two to three-month period, and then towed out to Arlington Reef, about 40km northeast of Cairns.
Mr Kotze said Sunlover would then be offering cruises to the prime Reef site.
"It's an exciting step for the company because we'll be the only operator with a pontoon out at Arlington Reef," he said.
FOUR PONTOONS IN PARADISE
THERE are four pontoons on the Reef off Cairns, operated and maintained by three separate tour operators.
Sunlover Reef Cruises, Reef Magic and Great Adventures each have pontoons at Moore Reef, about 46km east of Cairns. Great Adventures also has a pontoon at Norman Reef, 60km northeast of Cairns.
Quicksilver also operates two pontoons at Agincourt Reef, northeast of Port Douglas.
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