How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

My favourite place on Earth is actually not on Earth at all, it’s under the waves. I have been scuba diving for over 20 years and I have yet to find a more peaceful pastime and environment. Like most kids when I was growing up I wanted to be an astronaut (or Jedi to be more precise). Sadly that dream didn’t quite get there, but I have found scuba diving is the next best thing. It does feel like you are entering another world with weird inhabitants. I have been lucky enough to dive in quite a few countries around the world but like most divers, I wanted the big one: The Great Barrier Reef.

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

The view from our cabin

Imagine my surprise (and horror) when I read of dive sites at the reef with over 100 divers! That does not sound peaceful at all. With all the negative articles we were reading we were seriously considering giving the reef a miss. That would have been a big mistake. After a bit more digging we discovered how to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds.

Option 1 – A liveaboard

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

Image by ProDiveCairns

This was the option we took. A liveaboard dive boat is exactly as it sounds, you get to live on the boat for a few days. There are various dive operators that offer this but make sure you book with one that has exclusive access to the outer reefs. What that means is your boat will be the only boat allowed to dive on that reef.

We went with ProDiveCairns and they were the best dive company we have used anywhere in the world. Each dive briefing was detailed and very thorough. The dive boat was a divers dream as it was designed for divers in mind. We even had wifi out on the reef which we used constantly to upload photos to make our friends jealous! We also had a Japanese chef on board who would conjure up amazing feasts after every dive. Can you see why we chose this option?

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

Empty dive site = Zen moment!

The fact that it was only our boat on each dive site made all the difference. The dives were a joy, some lasting almost an hour as most sites are shallow. We got to see lots of life on each dive (we did 11 in total) which I am sure we wouldn’t have seen on a busier site. We even dived with a Bull Shark! She was a beauty at around 6ft long but sadly it was on a night dive and we didn’t have our camera.

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

White Tipped Reef Shark

Option 2 – Stay in smaller towns

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

Townsville

Cairns is by far the busiest area when it comes to diving the great barrier reef. Even though we loved the town with its Asian vibe and warm tropical nights, if you are looking for a less crowded experience on the reef then we suggest you book some dives from smaller towns.

Places like Port Douglas, Mission Beach, and town of 1770 all have dive operators that can take you out on the reef but these areas have a lot fewer people giving you the chance to enjoy the reef in a more tranquil way.

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

Option 3 – Stay on an Island

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

An island in The Whitsundays

Just like the small towns, Islands are a lot less busier than Cairns and they have the added bonus of being surrounded by pristine waters. Places like Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Orpheus Island all have wonderful diving opportunities and again with a lot fewer people in the area.

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

If you are in Queensland then diving the Great Barrier Reef is a must. Just choose one of the above options if you want to do it in a more serene manner.

How to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef and avoid the crowds

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Paul Farrugia

Paul Farrugia is a an avid traveller and blogger. When he is not travelling he likes to spend his free time reading, going to festivals and sitting down enjoying a nice glass of red! If you would like to reach him send him an e-mail to [email protected]

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Comments

  1. says

    Agreed. The Great Barrier Reef is best seen on a liveaboard. It is one of my favourite places in the world. Great photos! For an alternative destination, also with uncrowded dive sites, I would recommend Raja Ampat in Indonesia, which is quite tricky to get to (hence the uncrowded diving)

  2. says

    Wow!!! Great post..Actually me and my whole family planning to go for scuba diving..I love adventurous trips and my kids too..:) and I think the things you covered through the post are quiet impressive, good job and great efforts. I found it very interesting and enjoyed reading all of it…keep it up, lovely job..

  3. says

    Wow, great article! Thank you so much for sharing. I am going to Australia in November and am most looking forward to diving the Great Barrier Reef! This article is so helpful.

    I was looking into the ProDive Cairns liveaboards and saw there were a few options. Did you do the outer reefs one, or the more expensive ones to Cod Hole or the Coral Sea? Why did you choose the one you did? (I want to go with the outer reefs one because of the huge price difference…. But I’m afraid I’ll miss out on something! Haha)

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