Adventure

How To Turn Your Great Barrier Reef Day Trip Into A Weekend Away

Isn’t it bizarre that even though 70 percent of the Earth is covered with ocean, we know more about what happens on the moon than the deep sea below. Crazy, right?

Not everything underwater has to be a mystery though, especially when it comes to our very own Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Instead of dipping your toes on a day trip out to the reef, call it home by hopping on a liveaboard.

Here we share with you how you can follow in the fins of the Little Mermaid and live life down where its wetter (and better).

On A Budget

Stay With:

Divers Den

Divers Den’s OceanQuest is practically a hotel on the sea, stationed on the doorstep of Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs.

From $655 for two days and one night, you can have up to five dives along this DIY liveaboard with all meals catered. Being DIY, you have the chance to extend your time out at sea without going back to the mainland (all trips kick off from Cairns) as its sister ship makes a daily stopover to pick up and drop off eager divers.

They’ve also announced a 5-day, 4-night liveaboard expedition to the Ribbon Reefs. Spots are super limited — only 14 people can join — and it leave on November 30, so you’d better hit up their website and get in quick.

The trip is as part of the 2020 Great Reef Census, a citizen-led science project by Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef. It basically means that you can help the reef while exploring it by sharing what you see.

Don’t Miss:

#1 Shark Mountain

How could you not be intrigued and excited by a name that sounds reminiscent of an adventurous video game? Here you can expect to see white tip reef sharks lurking around a mountain consisting of brightly hued corals. This dive site is one of Norman Reef’s most popular due to its excellent visibility spotting an abundance of fish. Turtles are also regularly seen here.

#2 Caves

If this isn’t some kind of under the sea playground, then I don’t know what is. No dive is ever the same adventure at Norman Reef’s dive site Caves where it is filled with many arches, thoroughfares (some a tight squeeze) and of course, its namesake, a cave. It is also home to an underground mural, a 24-metre-high wall of coral worth giving it the flirtatious up and down look. A large portion of the site features shallow areas where it attracts a large number of small fishes including the Finding Nemo’s of the sea against a vibrant coral backdrop.

#3 Fluoro night diving

If you get your kicks out of night diving, then take it up a notch by going on a fluoro dive. This type of dive is not for the faint-hearted, as you will see the ocean in a whole new light (literally) with the assistance of a specialist torch and mask filter.

With these special torches, you can view corals with more intricate detailing that you would typically miss on a day dive. The torches will enable you to see the reef (and some of the animals that call it home) in neon hues of green, purple and blue. To see orange and red is counted as a lucky find as these colours demonstrate the lack of sunlight nutrients that the organisms receive.

In my fluoro dive of Caves, the most mind-blowing sight was seeing a usually camouflaging stonefish burning bright red on the sand bed. What made it even more extreme was a white tip reef shark circling the area at the time, completely unaware that a potential meal was sitting on the ocean floor directly below it.

Ready To Splurge

Stay With:

Spirit of Freedom

If you want to treat yourself to the finer things along the reef, then hop on board the Spirit of Freedom. This liveaboard is for the avid divers who wish to see this great reef like a boss, getting spoilt with pub-like cuisine morning, noon and night. Not to mention the super comfy beds, which is important because after all, you’re diving up to five times a day.

The boat crew are readily at your service — assisting with scuba gear, right down to fitting your fins before each dive. It’s as if the team had a collective Botox smile treatment with the number of pearly whites visible on board; a clear indication of a crew loving what they do.

This epic liveaboard has been voted one of Australia’s best as it voyages to the reef’s less frequented areas — meaning less coral bleaching, more colour and greater biodiversity. Visiting the edge of the continental shelf, divers can find themselves amongst roughly 2000 fish and coral species in this remote section of the reef. Better yet, some of its trips include a one-way charter flight to or from Lizard Island, giving you more bang for your buck to see the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef from above.

Spirit of Freedom offers three, four and seven day trips to the Ribbon Reefs, Coral Sea and the famous Cod Hole. Unfortunately, trips are on hold for the moment, but you can check in on their website here for new announcements.

Don’t Miss:

#1 Snake Pit

Enter the pits of the Great Barrier Reef – the Snake Pit that is. Situated in the Ribbon Reefs, close to Lizard Island, this dive site is home to the venomous yet placid olive sea snake. The site features two large bommies and sublime patches of coral.

Despite the name, I did not see its famous sea snakes, but what I did see was its larger-than-a-coffee-table resident turtles. Other marine life that can be spotted here include stingrays, barracuda and more white tip reef sharks – just watch out for the triggerfish.

#2 Goggle Gardens

Just like a Google search, expect to find more than what you bargain for at Goggle Gardens along the Ribbon Reefs. It is a coral utopia with a seabed that’s illuminated with a kaleidoscope of bright corals, frequented by the odd-looking lion and trumpet fish.

Besides the bright hues, other highlights of this dive site include seeing giant clams with their dazzling purple and blue-trimmed openings shimmering with specks of gold. They honestly look large enough engulf a human.

#3 Cod Hole

Here you get the chance to witness the feeding of another big creature of the ocean: the giant potato cod. This world-famous spot attracts a cod family, and many divers pose for selfies with these gentle giants. This is one of only a few spots in the GBR were feeding the fish is allowed, making it a unique diving experience only had by few.

Sleep Underwater

Stay With:

Reef Suites

Imagine star-fishing in a comfy bed laying and receiving a wave goodnight from a passing turtle? Or waking up to the commotion of morning peak hour traffic with schools of fish swimming by? Then realising you aren’t dreaming, and you aren’t watching TV either.

Live out your very own David Attenborough-style doco without even dipping your toes in water with an unreal stay at Reef Suites, the first underwater accommodation along the GBR. Its two spectacular underwater rooms have their own exclusive floor-to-ceiling views of the reef, allowing you to catch all oceanic action in creature comforts.

Forming part of Reefworld, the one-of-a-kind pontoon in the Whitsundays hosts various activities for those sea lovers wanting to explore the reef by day and sleep with the fishes at night.  Forget land, who knew you could live a life of luxe under the sea too?

Don’t Miss:

#1 A private guided snorkelling tour

With suites like these, no-one could blame you for letting the underwater world come to your window. If you feel like changing things up and venturing out to find it, however, the Reef Suites’ experienced crew run guided tours as part of your package. There’s also the added extra of scuba diving, if you want to get deeper.

#2 A semi-submarine tour

Or, if you would like to go exploring and still avoid getting wet (no judgement), a semi-submarine tour is also included. You’ll get to ride around the ocean in a half sub/ half glass-bottom boat ‘semi-submarine’ while a reef interpreter explains everything you’re looking at.

(Lead Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)