Two elderly tourists are reported to have died while snorkelling on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The pair were found unconscious in shallow water near Cairns in Far North Queensland at about 11am local time today.

The man and woman, both in their seventies, were among a group of 21 French holidaymakers, according to tour operator Passions of Paradise.

The local Courier Mail reported the pair suffered cardiac arrests.

The incident happened at Michaelmas Cay, a popular tourist spot about 25 miles north east of Cairns.

“The two people indicated they had pre-existing medical conditions before they got in the water,” Col McKenzie, chief of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, told the BBC.

“The company actually had guides in the water swimming around the snorkellers making sure they were OK.”