Blog Post

Snorkel vs intro vs certified dive

Hannah Statham

TNQ Writer

Check out this handy guide to find your reef style – from donning a mask and snorkel or taking your very first dive, to unique diving experiences reserved for certified divers.

You’ve come to Cairns, you want to see the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, what’s next? Choosing how to see the reef – snorkel, introductory dive or certified dive – can sometimes feel as overwhelming as the sheer size (348,700 km²) of this natural wonder itself.

Whether you’re more comfortable just cruising the surface with a mask and snorkel, yearning to experience the thrill of scuba diving or wanting to explore on a certified dive, there’s a reef tour for you.

Want to snorkel?

Snorkel with Divers Den

Don a mask and watch the Great Barrier Reef from the surface, joining Divers Den ReefQuest for a day on the outer reef. Your destination? Two different locations on the outer reef, which guarantees plenty of snorkelling action in shallow tropical waters. Don’t worry if this is your first time snorkelling – the Divers Den team will provide full instruction and can also fit you out with lifejackets and handy flotation devices affectionately known as noodles.

Expect to find Nemo, turtles, stingrays and Wally the friendly Maori Wrasse across four hours of dedicated snorkelling time.

With Divers Den, you’ll visit two sites between Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reef, which your skipper will select, depending on the conditions of the day.

Swimmers, towel a hat are the only packing essentials with all snorkelling gear, sun suits and sunscreen is provided by your experienced crew, plus they’ll also feed you a delicious buffet lunch!

Want to do an intro dive?

Try diving for the first time

If you’ve tried snorkelling and have mastered the basics, why not take things up a notch with an introductory scuba dive? Join Tusa Dive to get a whole new perspective of the Great Barrier Reef, from two different outer reef dive sites approximately 50km offshore of Cairns.

If you’re thinking of taking an introductory dive, no experience is necessary, Tusa’s instructors will do the rest – provided you’re over the age of 12 and can pass a medical questionnaire. Note, those with pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking prescribed medications may need complete a diving medical prior to boarding.

You’ll have access to the same sites as the certified divers, only you’ll be restricted to a maximum depth of 12 metres as your instructor takes you on a tour of the reef.

If you enjoy yourself so much on your first dive, you can back it up with a second introductory dive in a new location too. Underwater photographers are also on hand to capture your experience and you’ll also receive a certificate of achievement to share on your socials.

Want to do a certified dive?

Potato cod at the famous Cod Hole dive site

Towering coral walls at Osprey Reef

Sharks in the Dark

Fluoro diving with Divers Den

If you’ve got your open water scuba licence, you’ve got your access-all-areas ticket to a Great Barrier Reef adventure. As a certified diver your choice comes down to a single day cruise or multi-night experience where you can maximise your dives.

If time is on your side, don’t look past Spirit of Freedom’s liveaboard adventures. Their three-night Cod Hole and Ribbon Reef adventure is the stuff diver’s dreams are made of – up to 11 dives packed with sightings of giant potato cod, clouds of colourful tropical fish, anemones, turtles and pristine coral gardens.

You’ll need to be an advanced certified diver or above to join their four-night Coral Sea trip, which includes the famous Osprey Reef shark dive located 240km offshore and up to 15 dives of the World Heritage-listed wonder across the trip in tropical waters ranging from 30-100m visibility.

Of course, if time isn’t on your side and you only have a day to spare, Divers Den and Tusa and all offer certified-dive day tours of the reef for up to three dives, all with all the latest gear included. Tusa also offer an unguided option if you would prefer to buddy up with travelling companion.

If you’ve been there done that, or have just one night to spare why not opt for a rave on the water aboard Divers Den’s liveaboard vessel Ocean Quest? Diver Den’s Bio Fluorescent Diving takes diving to a new (read: fluro) level.

Or, for a fright in the night, book in for the Sharks in the Dark experience, to see Australian Reef Sharks in hunt-mode. Don’t worry, they’re non-threatening!

Want a completely different view of the reef?

Spirit of Cairns Dinner Cruise

If the idea of snorkelling and scuba diving is enough to have you aborting your Cairns Mission, don’t forget not all reef cruises require physical output.

Enter Spirit of Cairns – the ultimate Great Barrier Reef dining cruise – where the only fish you’ll see are served on your plate. This 26m catamaran takes off at sunset each day, with dinner served aboard seven days a week. We’ll cheers to that!

A great wonder

Learn more about Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef
25 Fun facts about the Great Barrier Reef

As you’d expect from one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Great Barrier Reef is home to some weird, wonderful and just plain loveable creatures. Here’s 25 fun Great Barrier Reef facts about a marine world larger than Italy.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
Ways you can help the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is an extraordinary mosaic of coloured corals spotted with curious creatures. While the threats to its future are real and immediate, it’s important to know that there are many things you can do to help.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
Reef Talk – A chat with marine biologist Gareth Phillips

The Great Barrier Reef is a thriving, living marine environment. It inspires all who visit, even those who see it every day, like marine biologist and owner of Reef Teach, Gareth Phillips.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
12 Famous residents of the Great Barrier Reef

Only 12 residents? There’s probably a gazillion of them, but let’s start things slowly shall we. It’s not easy to keep track of every single one of the Great Barrier Reef’s inhabitants but here are some of the most famous ones in Tropical North Queensland.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
All you need to know about the coral spawning

Strap on your mask and snorkel or oxygen tank for the Great Barrier Reef’s biggest event of the year – the beautiful and mysterious mass coral spawning. The 2018 spawning event is predicted to occur between November 26 and November 29.

Read more
Great Barrier Reef
Swim with dwarf minke whales

The Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world that you can swim with dwarf minke whales: an experience so exclusive it only happens for two months of the year and only in Tropical North Queensland.

Read more