The Great Barrier Reef has to be the most famous dive location on the planet and, as a result, trying to find a company to experience it with can be a little overwhelming. After many hours of research, I was convinced that Deep Sea Divers Den offered exactly the kind of Great Barrier Reef liveaboard I was looking for.
It has the perfect balance between comfort and affordability and their name cropped up over and over again on review sites and in conversation with other travellers in Cairns. While the clientele varies hugely, this liveaboard attracts a large number of solo travellers in their 20s to early 30s, making it very easy to meet people if you fall into that bracket.
OCEAN QUEST AND CONQUEST
Deep Sea Divers Den does daily transfers to and from its Great Barrier Reef liveaboard boat ‘OceanQuest’ using the transfer dive boat ConQuest. This means it’s your choice whether you do a day trip or stay anything between one and six nights.
The crew of both OceanQuest and ConQuest have a great sense of humour. Their introductory talks and dive briefings are full of entertaining comments and playful digs at the Kiwis. They’re also keen to show you around the boats.
Believe it or not, the tiny steering wheel in the top left actually belongs to the bigger boat, which is pictured below. Don’t miss the chance to steer ConQuest with your feet! I was assured it was completely safe…!
OceanQuest has a large deck and tends to attract sun worshipers in between dives.
Inside, OceanQuest is surprisingly spacious. There’s a large dining room and a bar upstairs with comfy sofas. Most rooms are shared between two people and if you travel alone, you’ll be paired up with someone of the same sex unless you request single occupancy. All rooms have an en suite bathroom and although they’re basic, they’re comfortable.
There are two great advantages to doing the Great Barrier Reef liveaboard between June and August. The first is that the venomous box jellyfish have moved to warmer waters. The second is that it’s peak season to spot humpback and minke whales.
We’d barely been on board the ConQuest for 30 minutes before a humpback started breaching and showing off in the water nearby. It then swam within two metres of the boat and chaperoned us for a while.
GREAT BARRIER REEF LIVEABOARD DIVE BUDDIES
Deep Sea Divers Den are happy for qualified divers to buddy up and do each dive unguided. In fact, there’s an additional charge per person per dive if you do choose to take a guide.
This is a little disconcerting for someone with only ten dives under their belt and no navigation skills. For this reason, it’s best to try to find a buddy or group of divers with experience to hang out with.
Having said that, they provide a detailed briefing with information on each dive site before you enter the water. This is a great opportunity to test your independence if you’re up to the challenge.
Whether or not you choose to take a guide, stay close to the group on the first dive. This will mean you’re more likely to stay in the vicinity of Tom – the official photographer.
It’s the only dive he accompanies you on and his photos of people with the marine life are simply amazing. Later, you’ll have the chance to purchase your favourites.
Another option is to rent an underwater camera from the crew, but the quality won’t be anywhere close to Tom’s photos.
You will likely do two dives in the morning from the ConQuest boat, followed by one from OceanQuest after you’ve transferred and another (night dive) after dinner the same day. If you’re just staying one night, you’ll do three dives before 12 pm the next day and then have lunch before being picked up at 2 pm and transferred back to Cairns.
FISH WITH PERSONALITY
Some of the best views you’ll get of reef fish are actually close to the hull of the boat as you’re descending, so don’t be too eager to reach the bottom. Look out for the overly friendly ‘Wally’, as well as this cheeky fish who’s an expert at photobombing.
OTHER MARINE LIFE
There’s an incredible variety of marine life on the Great Barrier Reef, including reef fish, giant clams, giant tritons, sea turtles, sting rays and starfish.
Remember the popular diver’s mantra ‘Take only photos and leave only bubbles’. Try to stabilise your buoyancy before swimming over coral and take care not to kick it with your fins.
WHY A LIVEABOARD?
There are a number of advantages to choosing a liveaboard over a single-day diving tour. First, you travel further away from the mainland to Norman Reef, which is more remote and has a greater variety of marine life. Since pretty much everyone who signs up for a liveaboard is certified or doing their Open Water, the focus is on finding the very best dive sites – not compromising on areas where snorkellers and glass bottom boat tourists will also be able to see the bottom.
Deep Sea Divers Den run PADI Open Water, Advanced and Refresher courses, as well as Rescue, Nitrox and a variety of Divemaster and Instructor courses. This means that you’ll be accompanied by guides with a wealth of experience.
Spending the night on board OceanQuest also allows you to experience a night dive, and Deep Sea Divers Den is the only company that offers fluoro diving as an option.
Finally, it gives you much more time to get to know your fellow divers, meaning you’ll be able to reminisce about your experiences as you continue to socialise back in Cairns.
I was a guest of Deep Sea Divers Den. Any opinions expressed in this post are a genuine reflection of how I felt about my experience. For more information on Deep Sea Divers Den, visit their Facebook page. You can learn more about the different dive packages available at divethereef.com.