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Liveaboard Diving in the Great Barrier Reef

The largest living thing on Earth, diving the Great Barrier Reef is something everyone should do in their lifetime. Get ready for encounters with giant potato cod, walking sharks and whales.

Great Barrier Reef liveaboards

Just offshore of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef stretches out like a beacon for underwater enthusiasts. It is the largest living thing on Earth. 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 Cairns, the outer reefs offer better biodiversity, healthier corals and fewer divers. Most of the liveaboard cruises to the Great Barrier Reef last between 2 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 carries 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 the Great Barrier Reef

Quick facts

The Great Barrier Reef boasts one of the richest marine environments in the world with more than 1,500 species of fish and 360 species of hard coral. In the areas accessible by liveaboard, you can encounter up to six species of sea turtles and several species of shark, including silky sharks, grey reef sharks, whale sharks and even tiger or hammerhead sharks. Manta rays are frequently seen around the southern edges of the Great Barrier Reef, and dugong can occasionally be found 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 make a stop by Cod Hole where friendly potato cod greet divers. Ribbon Reefs is also a must-visit area of the Great Barrier Reef due to its amazing marine biodiversity. Liveaboards visiting the Great Barrier Reef are perfect for both beginners and advanced divers. Be sure to ask us about the experience level needed for any itinerary you are interested in as some requirements may vary.


June to December

The best time to dive the Great Barrier Reef is from June to December. 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 whales all pass through during Australia’s winter. As previously mentioned, water temperatures drop below 77˚F (25˚C). The coldest temperatures occur from July to August when your dive computer might 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). The absolute best visibility is found at the beginning of the season in June. Finally, it should be noted that diving in the Great Barrier Reef is also possible from January 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 the Great Barrier Reef

The departure port for most liveaboards heading to the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns Harbour. Many of the dive safari crews will pick you up at the airport and take you directly to the boat. If this is not an option, taxis and ride shares will be readily available at the airport or your hotel of choice. The most popular airport for those visiting the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns International Airport, conveniently served by a number of international and domestic carriers.

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