I had a few people ask me about my experiences while scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, so I’m finally writing up some thoughts. This trip was part of my mega trip to Australia and New Zealand on Virgin Australia, which I booked with Delta Skymiles.
Final approach to LZR, the landing strip on Lizard Island, Queensland, Australia.
Scuba diving is one of my favorite leisure activities, so many warm weather vacations that I take are to locations where we can go diving. We had visited Australia a few years back and part of our trip included scuba diving from Cairns. I knew that if I was returning to that part of the world, I would do my best to get back in the water there.
There is some decent diving that can be had from day trips off the Australian mainland, but some of the best diving is done via live-aboard, which is a fully equipped dive boat with sleeping cabins for extended stays. My first trip a few years back was a 3 day/night journey. This trip I wanted to be a little bit more adventurous, so I went for a 4 day adventure. There are several options for dive boats from Cairns. For this trip I went with the Spirit of Freedom.
Spirit of Freedom moored off of Lizard Island, where I first went onboard.
I chose a 4 day Coral Sea trip, with the ultimate destination of Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. My journey began early in the morning in Cairns. There was a van pickup at my hotel to go to the airport.
Tape on the landing gear!?!
The flight was aboard a Cessna Caravan operated by Hinterland Aviation. The hour-long scenic flight was along the north Queensland coast to Lizard Island.
beautiful scenery along the way
Lizard Island is a national park, with some very exclusive accommodations, as well as a connection point for live-aboard trips. While a group of new divers got on board with me, some others were leaving to fly back to Cairns. A few guests and most of the crew had stayed on the boat, as they were doing a full 7 day trip.
One empty seat on the plane, but unfortunately, I couldn’t sit there.
Once on board, the some introductions were made, then a quick tour of the boat before people were shown to their cabins. I booked a twin share room, as I was traveling alone and didn’t need to splurge for a larger or private room. (Note: My wife joined me for this trip after I returned to Sydney). My room was 9 square meters, including the bathroom. Obviously on a boat space is at a premium. There are more spacious and luxurious options available, but this was perfectly comfortable for me.
Twin share room
bathroom view. Showering in rough seas is an interesting experience
During the 4 days onboard, there were opportunities to dive up to 5 times per day. That’s the beauty of a live-aboard, the focus is diving. The schedule basically included eating, diving, eating, diving, and some sleeping. Often times dive sites were not too far apart, but getting to and from Osprey reef required a long period of the boat moving to cover the necessary distance, but this was primarily done overnight. The waters were smooth most of the time, although it was rough on occasion. Thankfully, I can sleep through most anything.
I’m still working on my underwater photography skills, but I’ll include a few of my photos. Needless to say, the diving was wonderful.
fish schooling above me
Friendly Potato Cod nearby, this guy is probably at least 5 feet long
Some friendly sharks. These are reef sharks, and are not aggressive.
One of the dives on Osprey reef included a shark feed. That was quite an experience to see so many sharks up close. Osprey is outside the GBR management area, which is why this sort of thing is allowed.
This video is from the other main live-aboard, but gives a good example of what the shark feed is like.
I have been fortunate to take part in 2 diving trips to the GBR, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. My trip on Spirit of Freedom was a great time. The boat itself was comfortable, and the crew was good as well. Food was excellent, and freshly prepared throughout the trip. A trip on a live-aboard is not cheap, but I can’t imagine a better way to experience the incredible sites. If you are looking for a dive operator for a trip on the Great Barrier Reef, I highly recommend Spirit of Freedom.