Cairns diving day tours depart the city every day, transporting guests to various destinations across the Great Barrier Reef. You can choose from outer reef trips, reef pontoon tours, island dive tours and sand cay tours. Some Cairns diving day tours combine a few different destinations, so you really are spoilt for choice and in fact, this is where it can be confusing. Which Cairns diving day tour is best for you? Well that all depends on your expectations and who you are travelling with. Are you a solo certified diver, or a diver travelling with non-diving companions, or someone who wants to try diving for the first time? The answer to each of these questions, impacts which boat and Cairns diving day tour will be best for you. We’ll give you a quick run down below and please note, we’re adding new information to this site all the time, so bear with us as we grow our content and advice.
About these products, we are not a direct booking agent but have a partnership with Viator to allow us to make a small commision from any bookings you make from our site, this keeps the engine going and fuels our drive to create the best independant diving and snorkeling advice.
Firstly, let me say there are no ‘bad’ Great Barrier Reef sites, it’s not called ‘great’ for nothing. However, your choice of tour and destination can really impact your experience and engagement. For certified divers travelling solo, or with other certified divers or divers with non-diving, but confident swimming family members and/or companions, we recommend an outer reef tour. Water entry is generally giant stride from the back deck, with stairs providing access between boat and sea. The outer reef tour sites are generally chosen to be suitable for divers and snorkelers. Diving depth is usually a maximum of around 15-18m, with reef walls rising to within a few meters of the surface for the snorkellers. Boats will usually visit between 2 to 3 sites on each day tour, but to enjoy these trips you (and your companions) must be comfortable swimming in open ocean with currents and swell. Reef pontoon tours give you that outer reef location / destination, but with the addition of the pontoon, glass bottom boat tours, semi-submersible tours and underwater observatory. Water entry is usually via stairs, from the pontoon into the ocean. Pontoon tours are perfect for certified divers travelling with family members and/or friends who may not be comfortable in the ‘open’ water and wanting those optional water activities.
The majority of Cairns sand cay tours usually involve an outer reef destination too, but not always. Sand cay tours provide swimmers and snorkellers with the benefit of shallower water and the protection of the cay itself, so these tours are good for scuba divers who want to dive and snorkel. Also great for people wanting to try introductory diving (no experience necessary) for the first time. The Cairns diving day tours to islands generally do not include outer reef destinations. So you get to dive, snorkel and enjoy exploring the island, making them perfect for divers travelling with non-diving companions and even non-swimming companions.
Choosing the right Cairns diving day tour destination and operator to suit your group, can mean the difference between everyone having a great day and not. If this is your bucket list moment, you want to ensure everyone goes home with happy hearts and memories of their time on the wonderful, Great Barrier Reef.
For us, this is living our best life, getting to explore the Great Barrier Reef and share it with our son and online visitors.
Yes! Cairns offers world class diving on the Great Barrier Reef. You can choose day trips or liveaboard trips, with an array of reef sites and destinations at your fingertips.
No, if you are over 12 years of age you can book an introductory dive, to dive the reef in Cairns. These dives would be guided, with a Dive Master literally holding your hand or arm throughout the dive. Also, introductory dives are not deep dives. You will go no deeper than 12m. If you are a certified scuba diver you can dive to your limitations (of your certification) and while most of these dives will be guided, you will have the independence to take photos and control your own buoyancy and movement.
It all depends which boat and tour you are on, and what reef destination you are travelling too. Generally speaking, the travel time is no less than 45 minutes and no more than 2 hours.
No, Port Douglas and Cairns both provide world class diving on the Great Barrier Reef. If you are staying in Cairns, then book a Cairns dive trip as the reef sites are excellent and you save yourself the travel time between Cairns and Port Douglas. The same goes if you are staying in Port Douglas, book the tour to depart from whichever town you are staying in.
Whenever you visit is the best time to dive in Cairns. While there are some seasonal variations, mainly regarding water temperatures, there is no one time that is any better than another.
No, you do not need to worry about sharks when diving from Cairns. You will (if you are lucky) maybe see a reef shark, usually black or white tipped, but sometimes grey reef sharks. These sharks are usually quite timid and will swim away from you.
Generally speaking, the answer is no. We have done over 400 certified dives on Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef, at all months of the year, and we have never had a bad encounter with jellyfish.
You need to be 10 years old to enrol in a PADI Junior Open Water Course. You need to be 12 years old to book and participate in an introductory scuba dive on Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef.
We genuinely want you to have the best reef experience because to see it, explore it and engage with it, is the way you’ll love it and want to protect it too.
The Cairns reef tour operators all have a high commitment to ecotourism and sustainability, in protecting the reef during your visit and for future generations. They have access to different moorings and destinations, be they outer reef, pontoon or island. The ‘standard’ day tour price is for the reef tour with snorkelling and lunch included. Diving will always be an extra cost to the tour price and you can usually book anywhere from 1 up to 3 dives, with all equipment included in that cost. For most Cairns diving day tours, the dives are guided by Dive Masters or Dive Instructors. They are big days and you’ll come home with salty hair, happy faces and memories to last a lifetime.
© Cairns Dive Guide 2023