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?
Don a mask and watch the Great Barrier Reef from the surface on Frankland Island Cruises. Your destination? Normanby Island, a reef-fringed haven in the Frankland Islands National Park group.
This island paradise is home to vibrant fringing reef that hosts an abundance of marine life, including clownfish and turtles.
Don’t worry if this is your first time snorkelling – the team will provide full instruction and can also fit you out with life jackets and handy flotation devices affectionately known as noodles. Join a Master Reef Guide on the guided snorkel tour, which explores the fringing reef right off the beach.
Those feeling a little more adventurous and up their snorkel game on the adventure snorkel safari and explore the reef off a boat on the western side of the island. Your snorkel guide will teach you about the reefs residents, including hard and soft corals, fish and giant clams.
Swimmers, sunscreen, towel and a hat are the only packing essentials, with all snorkelling gear and sun suits provided by your experienced crew, plus they’ll also feed you a delicious buffet lunch!
Want to do an intro dive?
If you’ve tried snorkelling and have mastered the basics, why not take things up a notch with an introductory scuba dive? Join Divers Den AquaQuest to get a whole new perspective of the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll visit two sites between Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reef, which your skipper will select, depending on the conditions of the day.
If you’re thinking of taking an introductory dive, no experience is necessary, Divers Den’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 join a diving expert as you descend up to 12m below the surface over the Great Barrier Reef. Expect to find Nemo, turtles, stingrays and Wally the friendly Maori Wrasse.
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. Or if you’ve really fallen for Scuba Diving, sign up for one of the dive courses at the dedicated dive centre in Cairns.
Want to do a certified dive?
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?
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!