Diving and Snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef

Rachel Tries Life: Diving and Snorkelling in the Great Barrier ReefIn case you missed my relentless Instagramming through November and December it may have escaped your notice that I went on a 3 week trip to Australia (spoiler alert – it was epic).

After road tripping our way from Sydney to Cairns we headed out into the open Australian ocean with Cairns Dive Centre for 3 days of diving and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. Jealous yet? You should be. This is the stuff bucket lists are made of.

We booked a 2 night and 3 day stay on the Kangaroo Explorer, a big live aboard boat. This boat stays out in the reef, only returning to share once a month to refuel. Other than that there is a smaller boat which ferries those arriving and leaving to and from Cairns each day. Quite a clever set up really.

When you arrive on board you have a full tour and induction into how life on the boat works. From safety procedures to when meal times are.

* As a side note the food is ace. We had everything from pork chops to homemade boat-made snickers cheesecake.

As James and I are not qualified divers we booked on as snorkelers and then added a set of 3 intro dives to our package. I have done one intro dive before whilst I was on holiday in Gozo. So I wasn’t a total newbie. As we were not qualified divers intro dives allows you to complete a basic skills assessment and then you can do dives under the supervision of a qualified guide.

Here comes my only small criticism of the whole trip. They advertise that you do not need to have ever dived before to be able to complete their intro dives. To a certain extent this is true. They provide you with all the necessary equipment. You are given a qualified instructor who explains everything from how the pressure will affect your body to the hand signal for turtle. However breathing underwater is not a natural sensation and it takes different people different amounts of time to get used to.

Each dive session is only an hour however, so there is an expectation that you will be able to pick up the basic skills pretty quickly. You don’t get endless attempts to master these skills. Luckily for us, having done a dive before we were happy to demonstrate removing our respirators and clearing our masks of water. However, if this is your first time breathing underwater I can imagine the fast pace to be intimidating and even overwhelming.

Do not panic and definitely do not let it put you off one of the best experiences you will have in your life. If you’re nervous or want to get ahead of the game then I would recommend doing a more slow paced intro dive in advance of your trip. There are plenty of 3 hour intros about that will allow you to adjust at your own pace and then get the most out of your live aboard experience.

Besides we saw the best marine life actually whilst we were snorkelling rather than diving so is you decide it diving isn’t your thing, you will still be amazed by the Great Barrier Reef.

This set up worked really well for us as it meant after nailing our necessary skills first time we were able to have maximum time admiring the beauty of the reef and finding Nemos!

The other thing I really appreciated is that they have a photographer that stays on board and will accompany you on your first dive and you can buy one, a couple of the whole album of photos from them as a souvenir of your experience (I obviously bought the lot).

I have an underwater camera of my own but the photos really just do not compare.

Plus sods law kicked in when the session I decided to go snorkelling without my camera was also the session that a giant turtle swam right at us. By the time we’d managed to scramble out of its way (flippers flying everywhere) it can’t have been more than 3 metres away. I may not have a photograph but that is an image that I can honestly say I will remember for as long as I live.

We also saw a shark who did not seem impressed that we interrupted his peace and quiet.

Fish of every colour of the rainbow (including Nemos!)

We even managed to escape a barricade of jellyfish that had surrounded the boat.

The Great Barrier Reef is absolutely phenomenal. However it is being badly damaged by coral bleaching caused by global warming. If you want to find out more about what we can do to protect it take a look at Fight for the Reef.

If you are wondering whether you get your money’s worth on a live aboard experience let me share with you a run down of what a day on the Kangaroo Explorer looks like…

A day on a live aboard

5:30am – Wake Up Call

6:00am – first dive or snorkel session

7:00am – Breakfast (move to new dive site)

10:00am – Second dive or snorkel session

11:00am – Lunch

13:00pm – Third dive or snorkel session

16:00pm – Fourth dive or snorkel session

18:00pm – Dinner

20:00pm – Night Dive Session (for certified divers)

21:00pm – Uncompulsory bedtime but you’ll be so shattered that you’ll collapse in a big heap.

Add to this that your meals are all included and you get to stay with a boat’s worth of friendly, easy going and professional staff that will bend over backwards to ensure you’re having a great time. Plus, could you ever put a price on getting to watch the sun go down over the open ocean.

If you are considering diving and snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef I would definitely recommend booking with Cairns Dive Centre. You won’t regret it.



  1. Wow it sounds amazing! We didn’t get as far north to the Barrier Reef this time but I’m sure it will happen on one of our trips soon!

    1. RachelTriesLife

      Definitely do it! It’s absolutely incredible!

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