I have dreamed of going to the Great Barrier Reef for years. It’s one of those places that goes on your bucket list or vision board. I created a vision board while I was planning my trip and I put Australia and the Great Barrier Reef on there. I didn’t realize that I’d get there so soon! The flight from Chiang Mai to the Cook Islands was going to be around 20 hours, so to break up the flight I decided to stop in Cairns and book a 3-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
It was the best three days I’ve had diving since I started! Doing a liveaboard is something every scuba diver should experience. I went with Pro Dive Cairns and did 11 dives in 3 days including 2 night dives. Once aboard, literally all you do is dive, eat, sleep. This is truly the best way to dive as you wake up, and you’re already at your dive site you just put on your gear that’s already set-up and waiting for you and jump out for your dive. What was even better is these were all unguided dives, so you pick your buddy and off you go to explore the reef on your own (with direction on where to go during the dive briefs). This was my first time going without guides, and it was pretty awesome. I was able to practice navigation skills, and we could look around the dive site at our own leisure and move away from areas if they got too crowded.
THE GREAT BARRIER REEF : FLYNN & MILLN REEFS
We spent our three days exploring two reefs: Flynn Reef and Milln Reef. Both these reefs are huge with a lot of dive sites on each. There’s plenty to see at these reefs including sharks, groupers, schools of bumphead parrotfish, cuttlefish, nemo and tons of colorful coral everywhere. We got lucky and the second day there we saw coral spawning that only happens a couple of times a year. We also met Brian the resident turtle during our night dive at Mickey Mouse reef. He's a bit of a celebrity in Cairns and is even printed on t-shirts!
Both reefs were clear with no current, just fish and critters to see every which way. The coral is definitely the main attraction! They were so colorful and huge! They call them “Baummies“ which is like big boulders of corals that you can swim around. There're baummie clusters everywhere. I was surprised that we only averaged 14-18 meter dives. With the reef being so shallow, it was perfect for snorkeling too. My dive buddy’s wife snorkeled while he dove and she saw just as much as we did just from looking down. She saw turtles and all the fish and coral. What I loved about doing a liveaboard (my first!) was we were the only boat out on our dive sites all three days. The reef is huge! It covers 132,974 square miles and to reach part of it from Cairns is a 3.5-hour boat ride. Most same day dive boats won’t go out there, so it’s limited to the liveaboards which with the reef being so huge and plenty of sites to choose from, you might not see another boat for the three days while you’re out there. It was true bliss!
SPENDING 3 DAYS AT SEA
There are many companies that go out to the reef. I found Pro Dive Cairns through TripAdvisor (I was not sponsored), and booked them off their great reviews.
I found staying on the liveaboard really enjoyable and would absolutely do it again. I was in the sleeping quarters for singles which included 2 bunks in the room; I was paired with a girl from Holland. The rooms are small, but you literally just sleep there, so it’s all you need. There're plenty of shared showers on board too so if you have to wait for a shower, you’re not waiting long. I loved falling asleep to the rocking of the ocean. After being spoiled with Cairns, I will be looking for more liveaboards to go on in the future.