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.
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
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?
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.
Option 2 – Stay in smaller towns
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.
Option 3 – Stay on an Island
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.
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.
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