Australia liveaboard diving
Australia Liveaboards are to many divers what defines the ultimate dive vacation. The Great Barrier Reef and the lesser known but equally impressive Ningaloo Reef brings divers from around the world to enjoy the diving.
- The Great Barrier Reef runs from the northeast portion of Australia south along the coast for 2,300 kilometres (1,400 mi).
- The UNESCO World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park is where you’ll find the world’s largest fringing reef, the Ningaloo Reef – 300 kilometers of pristine reef reaching from Red Bluff to Exmouth. The reef is a short swim from the shore in many places.
Scuba Diving Liveaboard Destinations
Cairns / Great Barrier Reef
The city and port of Cairns are the center of the liveaboard industry in Australia. The majority of the liveaboard diving vessels in the country are ported here.
Cairns is also know for having the most certifications of anywhere in the world. Tens of thousands come each year to learn how to dive and join certified divers as they explore the Great Barrier Reef. Divers take day boats out to the outer reefs to enjoy the wonders found their. As great as those day dives can be, staying out for twilight dives or being in the water as the sun rises are thrills that the day boats can not provide.
The liveaboards also take divers beyond the range that the day boats can reach to remote dive spots. From Cairns, Liveaboards can reach the ribbon reefs on a three day sailing. It will require a one way low level flight to either get to the liveaboard or return to Cairns. Similarly a four day sailing can take you to some of the Ribbon Reef and to the Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. These trips are really a seven day round trip split into segments and are the most popular in the area.
Some of the Australian liveaboards, do even shorter sailings, offering a two night sailing. Some of the dive centers that offer Open Water diver certification, use these trips to complete the open water dives. Can you think of a better way to become certified?
The Far North Management Area is sparsely populated with no major population centers. It is very remote. There are a few trips each year to this area by Cairns based liveaboards.
The Whitsunday Islands have a reputation for world class sailing. It is often called the sailing capital of the world. The sheltered waters with great weather conditions and the scatter islands make this place a dream for sailing.
There are hundreds of boats available for charter both crewed and barefoot. There are a few liveaboards that sail in the area but many Scuba divers will go the charter route.
The diving becomes secondary to the sailing in many cases. Most of the charters do not have dive gear on-board nor compressors to refill tanks. Any scuba gear needed and dive cylinders are ordered when the boat is provisioned.
One interesting feature in the area are the dive service boats. These boats can bring filled dive cylinders to you where your boat is moored. Another possibility is a dive boat will meet with the divers at their boat, take them to a nearby dive site and return them to their boat after the dives.
Ningaloo Marine Park / Ningaloo Reef
The Ningaloo Marine Park is located on the north-west coast of Australia. The UNESCO World Heritage site is isolated and has both marine and land elements. The Ningaloo reef attracts many different species of pelagic and has a very health population of other marine life.
Each year the largest concentration of whale sharks are found in the waters of the reef. Whales also call the reef home for at least a major portion of each year.
Budget Australian Liveaboards
Overall the average per day cost of liveaboard diving in Australia is one of the lowest in the world. Also, the cost is comparable with diving from land base dive centers.
The liveaboard provides diving opportunities that can not be matched by the daily dive boats. You will find that the flexibility is better here then other locations. You will find options for 2 night, 3 night, 4 night and 7 night fix departure cruises as well as the ability to transfer to a liveaboard out at the outer reefs on the day of your choice.
Scuba Pro: There are three Scuba Pro liveaboards owned by Pro dive. Pro Dive reached a milestone in June 2016 of having reached the 150,000 certification level. It is only the second dive center to reach that milestone. The three identical 25 meter liveaboards each depart twice a week for a three day/ two night visits to the Outer Reefs.
Ocean Quest: The MV Ocean Quest liveaboard is owned and operated by Deep Sea Divers Den. Deep Sea Divers Den has been in operation for over 40 years.
The MV Ocean Quest stays out in the area around Hasting Reef one of the outer reefs. Divers can join the liveaboard any day and stay as many days as they wish. Guest depart from Cairns in the morning aboard Deep Sea Divers Den’s daily vessel Sea Quest. They will do two dives in the morning aboard the Sea Quest before being transferred to the Ocean Quest and can do two afternoon dives and a night dive.
Daily aboard the vessels divers can do 5 dives a day. On their last day, guest rejoin the Sea Quest in the afternoon for a trip back to the city.
Luxury Australian Liveaboards
Three liveaboards standout as being a cut above the rest. Two of these offer trips to the ribbon reefs and beyond, while the third offers unique trips to the western coast.
Spoil sport: When you talk about the development of the modern liveaboard, Scuba Diving Hall of Fame member Mike Ball will likely be mentioned. Many consider him the father of the modern liveaboard.
Mike Ball’s Spoil sport sails weekly from Cairns on a route that includes the famous Ribbon Reefs, Lizard Island and the off shore Osprey Reef. Divers are able to break the seven day trip into two segments.
A four day segment includes Ribbon Reef diving and a trip to dive Osprey reef in the Coral Sea. Divers taking this segment sail from Cairns and leave the ship at Lizard Island for a low level flight back to Cairns.
Scuba Divers doing a three day segment fly to Lizard Island and sail back to cairns diving the Ribbon Reefs dive sites along the way. The MV Spoil sport is a 30 meter catamaran custom built for diving and has 15 cabins holding 29 divers.
Spirit Of Freedom: The MV Spirit of Freedom is a 37 meter long liveaboard owned by Tusa dive center can take 26 divers on liveaboard trips from Cairns. The Spirit of Freedom has a similar route as the Spoilsport offering a 7 day trip that can be taken in segments. However, the spirit does the 4 day segments first.
MV Odyssey: The custom built 24m MV Odyssey Liveaboard offers limited diving trips to the Rowley Shoals, Australia. The Odyssey carries only 20 guest on each sailing.
While they do a few ten day trips, most of their trips are 14 days. These longer trips are done in areas where no other liveaboards travel and are beyond the range of land based dive centers. A very exclusive set of dive sites with an estimate of only 200 divers visiting in a year.
All diving is done from ‘Homer’, a 12m expedition vessel. This gives the MV Odyssey more space for the finer things in life and a more luxury feel. The dive compressors used to refill the dive cylinders are kept on the “Homer”. This liveaboard represents some of the most luxurious diving in the world.
Best Time to Dive
Diving is available year round so any time should be fine.
- The Great Barrier Reef water temperature around Cairns varies from 29 degrees in summer (December – February) to 22 degrees in winter (June – August).
- The marine life is plentiful with 134 species of sharks and rays, 30 species of marine mammals, more than 1,500 fish species, and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.
- June and July are the months the migratory Draft Minke Whales spend time in the lagoon of the Great Barrier Reef. August and September sees Humpback Whales playing in the waters.
Last Minute Trips & Special Offers
The liveaboards in Australia are not a part of the large international fleets. Also some of them are owned and operated by dive centers. This gives the operators more of a challenge to fill their sailing, especially in the off seasons.
Last minute discounts are seldom advertised on their websites but are made available to certain agents. You can check our last minute liveaboard pages to see if any are available.