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Liveaboard Diving in Cairns

The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is the departure port for the most liveaboards in Australia. Get ready to dive the largest barrier reef in the world!

Cairns liveaboards

Cairns is located on the northeast coast of Australia in the Province of Queensland. Just offshore, the Great Barrier Reef stretches out like a beacon for underwater enthusiasts. With over 2,900 reefs and 900 islands, this bucket list diving area is best explored by liveaboard cruise. While you may be able to sample the inner reefs on a day trip from Queensland, the outer reefs offer better biodiversity, healthier corals and fewer divers. Most of the liveaboard cruises from Cairns last between 3 and 8 days. ProDive Cairns operates 3 custom-built vessels. These travel to the Great Barrier Reef twice a week for two nights at a time. The luxurious Spirit of Freedom carriers divers a bit further for 3 nights in the Great Barrier Reef, while the Coral Sea Dreaming offers 1 night dive safaris aboard their well-equipped sailboat. Finally, the Spoilsport boasts 3 night itineraries to Cod Hole. The cabins of the Spoilsport are particularly spacious.

Diving in Cairns

Quick facts

The Great Barrier Reef, which is accessible by liveaboard from Cairns, has rich marine biodiversity with more than 1,500 species of fish and 360 species of hard coral. You can encounter up to six species of sea turtles and several species of sharks in the outer reef, including silky sharks, grey reef sharks, whale sharks and even tiger or hammerhead sharks. Manta rays are frequently see around the southern edges of the Great Barrier Reef, and the shy dugong can occasionally be seen in the reef’s shallow seagrass beds. Furthermore, the Great Barrier Reef has dive sites to suit every interest. Coral gardens, bommies, pinnacles, channels and caverns make up the majority of the dive sites, but seagrass beds and cleaning stations for pelagic species can also be found. Liveaboard divers will want to ensure a stop by Cod Hole where friendly potato cod great divers. Ribbon Reefs are also a must-visit due to its amazing marine biodiversity. Cairns liveaboards offer dive expeditions suitable to both beginner and advanced divers. Be sure to ask us about the experience level needed for a particular itinerary on your liveaboard of choice.


June to November

The best time to dive in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef is from June to November. During these months, several factors create great diving. From June to November, water temperatures drop, attracting a plethora of pelagic species. Manta rays, whale sharks and minke whale all pass through during Australia’s winter. As stated above, water temperatures drop below 77˚F (25˚C). The coldest temperatures occur from July to August when your dive computer might even show 72˚F (22˚C). Like most places, the further you travel from land, the better the visibility becomes. The inner reefs normally have visibility in the 50 feet (15m) range while visibility on the outer reefs is often in excess of 100 feet (30m). If you’re lucky, you might even experience waters as clear as 200 feet (60m). Finally, it should be noted that diving in the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns is also possible from December to May. The weather becomes increasingly hot and rainy, but underwater conditions are still prime for exploration.

View our full scuba guide

How to Get to Cairns

The departure port for Cairns liveaboards is Cairns Harbour. Most of the dive safari crews will pick you up at the airport and take you directly to the boat. The most popular airport to fly into is Cairns International Airport, conveniently served by a number of international and domestic carriers.

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