What To Expect On Your First Liveaboard Dive Trip
As part of my Epic Trip to Australia I wanted to cross another item off my adventure list – SCUBA Diving in the Great Barrier Reef. I got SCUBA Certified especially for this trip, and booked a 3-day liveaboard cruise with Pro Dive Cairns. If you’re considering doing something like this on your next trip, here’s what you can expect. As this was my first liveaboard cruise, I had no idea what it would be like, what to expect, how to prepare and how this novice diver with only 4 dives (post-training) under my belt would fare.
The Day Before
The day before you depart, divers arrive at Pro Dive Cairns, located in downtown Cairns. It’s easy to find on the corner. Here you’ll take care of your paperwork and get fitted for your gear. Get a good night’s rest because tomorrow you’ll rise and shine early as Pro Dive will personally pick you up and bring you to the shop (and later), the boat. There’s a closet in the back of the shop to store whatever gear you’ll want to leave behind.
Pro Dive provided all the gear you’d need for your trip. It’s kept in a tub, labeled with your name on deck. Be sure you ALWAYS place the cap over the nozzle on your tank. Otherwise your gear may end up like this (not my gear, a fellow diver). [For you non-divers, if water gets in your tank's nozzle, it's a costly repair. Your air supply needs to stay dry.]
Cabin space is tight, as expected. The good news, you won’t be in here for much of your trip. Beds aren’t luxurious, but they do the job. It’s easy for your gear to get sprawled out all over the place, so bring only what you need. Rules of the dive boat include no footwear inside. So you’ll be walking barefoot for the next 3 days!
The bathrooms are shared amongst the fellow divers (we had about 20ish) on your trip. You’ll notice the shower head on the wall. The entire room also functions as a shower. With fresh water at a minimum, showers are done at night and are quick. Just enough to rinse off the saltwater. So be prepared to “rough it” slightly during your trip.
The Common Area
On the main deck you’ll find the dining tables and kitchen. The area is large enough to accommodate all the passengers. You’ll be spending a lot of time here. The kitchen is tight, but is generally reserved for the crew. Drinks are available on board for purchase. Use the clip boards on the fridge to keep track of what you grab, since you’ll be paying for them once you return.
Complimentary water bottles are provided for you to grab fresh water from the water fountain outside.
Your Trip to the Great Barrier Reef
It will take about two hours or so for the boat to reach the first dive location. During your trip out to the reef, you’ll attend a safety briefing, start your prep if you’re taking any certification classes (I went for my Advanced SCUBA certification while I was there) and relax on deck. On the upper level you can get some sun.
Your Dive Trips
This is a dive trip of course, so expect to do a lot of it. How much? Pretty much, if you’re not eating or sleeping, you are diving. Before every dive, you’ll gather on the top deck to review your dive plan. The dive master will draw out the reef you’ll be exploring on the dry erase board. Everything is explained very simply, so if you’re not an expert diver, don’t you worry.
Among other things, you’ll be told:
- Where to find certain species of fish
- How deep you may dive
- What direction to dive
- Which way the boat is oriented
After this brief, five-minute chat, it’s time to gear up. Everything is all lined up, waiting for you. Safety is the utmost in importance so you’ll always dive with a buddy and you’ll be given a number to identify yourself. When you enter the water and when you exit you’ll be marked off of a list to ensure you don’t get left behind.
The water is warm, so wet suits aren’t needed (at least in the summer). But due to the presence of jellyfish, you’ll need to wear a stinger suit. And if you’re from the U.S., your dive gauge uses the metric system to measure you air supply. So if you’re used to working in PSI, you’ll need to learn millibars (easy).
What You’ll See
SCUBA Diving is magic. You’ll see all sorts of fish, turtles, rays and more. On your first dive, you have the option of going with an instructor. I’d highly recommend this as it was useful to re-familiarize yourself with underwater navigation techniques. Underwater cameras can be rented on board. If you have your own, do take note of it’s depth limits. My Olympus Stylus Tough is rated for 15 meters, but most of our trips were to 20-30 meters. The cameras you can rent, while costly, were capable of diving deeper. Nonetheless, I was able to capture some underwater video of SCUBA Diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Each dive is about 30-40 minutes.
You’ll also have the chance to dive at night. If you haven’t done that before, an instructor will take you on the first night, and at your discretion the second night. Just keep an eye out for sharks!
Dive trips are timed so that after you resurface, it’s just about time to eat. Meals are simple, but you do need to ration what you take as it is served family style. Passengers eat before crew, and then seconds are up for grabs after the crew has eaten. The best part, you don’t need to clean up after yourself!
Seas were unusually rough on the second night. Bring some seasickness pills just in case. I opted not to as motion sickness generally doesn’t bother me, but I could have benefited from them. Cloud cover during the day meant that the water wasn’t as bright as it could have been.
The make-up of the divers was a broad mix, with most being around their late 20′s/early 30′s. The experience level varied from very experienced to novice. It didn’t matter though. Regardless of your level, the trip was suitable for all. No need to feel intimidated.
I’ve raved before about how great it is to get SCUBA Certified. And a liveaboard dive trip is the way to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
What tips do you have for joining a liveaboard dive cruise? Share by commenting.
I’ll see you out there…!