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Great Barrier Reef by Liveaboard – Guide to the Best Liveaboards

by Max
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Great Barrier Reef by Liveaboard – Guide to the Best Liveaboards

If you’re a diver, regardless of your experience and preferred dive destinations, you’ll know right from the get-go that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is considered the Holy Grail of diving spots for many keen divers. The Great Barrier Reef is home to some of the planet’s most diverse and beautiful marine life, which is why the best liveaboards at the Great Barrier Reef are in high demand. Finding the best liveaboard diving vessels at the Great Barrier Reef is essential for enjoying this stunning part of the world, but it sure isn’t easy.

The Great Barrier Reef is as vast as it is beautiful, and with so many keen divers flocking here throughout the year, you certainly aren’t short of options when it comes to liveaboards. The problem is that not all of them are up to scratch, which is where we enter the fold.

To ensure you enjoy the best itineraries for Great Barrier Reef liveaboard diving, along with the best accommodation, the best service, and the best experience, here is your guide to the best Great Barrier Reef liveaboard diving boats.

What is the Great Barrier Reef?

Before we can look at the best liveaboard vessels for your Australian diving adventure in the Great Barrier Reef, we’re first going to look at exactly what the Great Barrier Reef is.

If you’ve ever seen the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) before, you’ll already know exactly why it’s considered to be one Earth’s natural wonders.

Visible from space, and the largest living organism on the planet, the GBR is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of natural beauty and wonder. As mentioned, many divers consider it the pinnacle of diving spots, and it’s very easy to see exactly why that is.

Situated on the north-east coast of Australia, it is home to over 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 different types of molluscs, and over 400 different types of coral. In fact, it is home to the largest collection of coral reefs on the planet.

Not only is the Great Barrier Reef home to such a diverse array or marine life, it is also home to a number of protected and endangered species, including the Large Green Turtle.

Needless to say, diving the GBR is on many-a diver’s bucket list, which is why finding the best itineraries for Great Barrier Reef diving is so vital.

Tips for Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Don’t worry, we’ll look at the best liveaboards at the Great Barrier Reef a little further on in this guide. First, though, we’re going to provide some tips on diving the Reef and getting the most from your experience.

From the best time of year for Great Barrier Reef diving to looking after the Reef itself, here are some handy tips on diving the GBR.

Go Slow and Steady

When diving the Great Barrier Reef, or when diving in general for that matter, one of the best pieces of advice we can give is to go slow and steady.

When diving, safety is paramount, which means you should be extra careful. By slowing down you give yourself more time to think and anticipate possible problems. Not only that, but slowing down also means you get to enjoy more of the natural beauty of the reef itself.

Ensure you pay attention to your surroundings, don’t venture out of site of your boat, and remain close to your instructor and other members of your dive party.

Decide on a Budget

Before you can even think about booking a diving experience in the Great Barrier Reef, you first need to decide on a budget.

Decide on how much you can realistically afford to spend on your trip, your liveaboard, and various other luxuries etc, and then go ahead and see where that leaves you regarding your trip. Only spend what you can realistically afford.

The good news is that you can find liveaboards that suit all budgets.

Decide Where to Explore

It’s easy to say you’re off to explore the GBR, but considering the reef itself is so vast, that’s a very vague statement.

The GBR covers 348,000 square feet, so choosing the best itineraries for Great Barrier Reef liveaboard diving is very much a necessity.

Before you book a liveaboard diving boat in the Great Barrier Reef area, you must first decide which parts of the reef you would like to explore. Are there certain species of fish or sea creature you wish to see that only reside in certain parts of the reef? Is there a specific type of coral you want to discover? Make sure you do your research and take these types of thing into account when booking a GBR liveaboard.

Ensure You Have the Right Gear

Another tip when booking the best liveaboards on the Great Barrier Reef is to ensure you have the right gear.

As well as your diving gear, dive bag, underwater camera etc, you’ll also want to think about things such as sun protection for times when you’re above water and are exposed to the Australian sun’s powerful rays.

Before you book, go ahead and draw up a checklist of all diving and safety essentials and tick them off one at a time after packing them.

Choose the Best Time of Year for Great Barrier Reef Diving

Like any vacation, when booking you’re going to want to book when the weather is most likely to be favourable and on your side.

Of course, you can’t predict the weather several months, or even years in advance, and we all know how unpredictable Mother Nature can be. What you can do however, is choose the best time of year for Great Barrier Reef diving.

According to experts the prime time to visit the GBR and go diving is between the months of May and October. This is because there is less rainfall, the water temperatures are enjoyable for diving, the ocean is likely to be calmer, and there is better visibility so you’re likely to see more.

Of course, when it comes to the best time of year for Great Barrier Reef diving, we can’t guarantee warm sunshine, blue skies, and calm waters, but booking between May and October will certainly increase your chances considerably.

Be Respectful of the Reef and Marine Life

Finally, before we look at the best liveaboard diving Great Barrier Reef boats, we’re going to talk about the importance of being respectful of the coral reefs and the marine life you’re going to encounter.

When under the water, don’t touch the coral, or any other marine life you encounter for that matter. By all means look, but don’t touch. Remember that, even though it doesn’t look like it, coral is a living organism and you should therefore not touch it, no matter how gentle you may be.

Touching the coral can damage it, or even kill it, and as sensible divers, none of you will want that. The same goes for any fish, marine life, or other sea creatures you may encounter. Look, but do not touch.

The Best Liveaboards for Great Barrier Reef Diving

Okay, so now that you’re hopefully a little more prepared for your Great Barrier Reef adventure, we’re going to talk liveaboards.

Choosing the right liveaboard for a diving experience may be tricky, yet if you do it correctly you’ll find your whole diving experience becomes more enjoyable than ever.

To ensure you have a Great Barrier Reef diving experience you’ll never forget, here are a few of the best liveaboards offering the best itineraries for Great Barrier Reef liveaboard diving.

Pro-Dive Cairns

The first liveaboard that we have for you today is the stunning Pro Dive Cairns.

If you’ve ever wanted to dive, or simply snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, Pro Dive Cairns is the vessel for you.

Providing fantastic value for money for anybody looking to dive the outer Great Barrier Reef, this fully equipped liveaboard is designed specifically for diving, in a wide range of different conditions in the unlikely event of the weather not being on your side.

Here you’ll find a saloon and dining room on the main deck of the boat, along with air conditioned cabins, free internet, a leisure deck, shaded diving area, Nitrox available, DIN adaptors, and much more besides.

For times when you’re hungry after working up an appetite diving all day, there is delicious buffet style local food and western food available, along with a full-board option, and snacks served all day. Delicious!


  • Full board option
  • Nitrox available
  • DIN adaptors
  • Air conditioned saloon
  • Air conditioned dining room
  • Air conditioned cabins
  • Custom designed boat for diving
  • Library
  • Sun deck
  • Dedicated international and local crew
  • Leisure deck
  • Charging stations
  • 8 bathrooms
  • 16 cabins (14 twin and 2 double)
  • Free WIFI

What we Liked

  • This may not be the largest liveaboard, but if you are a keen diver you’ll love it. The boat has been designed specifically for diving and will help create a diving experience you’ll never forget.
  • Free WIFI throughout is a nice touch, as not all liveaboards offer this.

What we Disliked

  • Though to be expected of a smaller vessel, the fact that there are 8 bathrooms and 16 cabins may bother some people.

Coral Discoverer

Up next, we have the aptly named Coral Discoverer.

As you might have guessed, with a name like Coral Discoverer, this is widely regarded as one of the best liveaboard diving Great Barrier Reef vessels.

Coral Discoverer recently underwent a refurb in 2016, and you can see the quality throughout. This is very much a luxury vessel, as you can see from the five different types of cabin that she offers, with each one providing guests with a private En-suite bathroom.

Each cabin is fully furnished, offers air con, docking stations, and a port hole or window so you never have to worry about feeling claustrophobic, or missing out on those stunning ocean views.

Guests can enjoy daily housekeeping, a laundry service, warm water showers, a leisure deck, snorkelling equipment, western and local food, free wine with dinner, a BBQ area, a beach BBQ, and a whole lot more besides.


  • BBQ area
  • Beach BBQ
  • Entertainment facilities
  • WI-FI available
  • Laundry service
  • Daily housekeeping
  • Air conditioned cabins
  • Indoor air con saloon
  • Naturalist Guides
  • Rooms with balconies
  • All cabins with windows or port holes
  • Free soft drinks
  • Kayaks on board
  • Glass bottom boat excursion

What we Liked

  • The daily housekeeping and laundry service really help to create a luxurious environment and give you that luxury hotel experience.
  • The 36 cabins and 36 bathrooms is a very nice touch.

What we Disliked

  • Even though it is not aimed specifically at divers, we would have liked to see a few more diver-friendly facilities on board, though the snorkelling facilities are first rate.


Here we have something extra special for you, as we have the custom-built Odyssey.

If you’re looking to experience what it’s like to enjoy the best liveaboards in the Great Barrier Reef area, but are looking to ease your way into coral diving, Odyssey is perfect.

Offering a number of diving trips to Rowley Shoals, you get to beat the crowds and experience what coral reef diving is all about, all while staying aboard a truly special vessel.

Odyssey can sleep up to 20 guests, with 6 deluxe double cabins and 4 twin-share cabins, each offering air con, bar fridges, and plenty of storage options. There is also a laundry service, leisure deck, daily housekeeping, air con saloon, and much more on top.

It is this boat’s diving facilities however, that really make it special. Odyssey is a vessel designed specifically for diving, and boy, she does not disappoint. On board you will find an observation deck, photography station, warm water showers, rinse for UW cameras, shaded dive deck, tenders for diving, and other diver-friendly features.


  • Dive deck
  • Air con cabins
  • Snacks served all day
  • Leisure deck
  • Daily housekeeping
  • Sun deck
  • Observation deck
  • Photography station
  • Camera room
  • Outdoor dining
  • Air con saloon
  • Audio and video entertainment
  • Rinse for U/W cameras

What we Liked

  • In a clever play on words, Odyssey also features ‘Homer’ which is 12 metre exploration vessel designed to take divers safely to their dive locations.
  • Even though this is a boat designed for diving, it is extremely lavish and upmarket and is furnished to the highest of standards.

What we Disliked

  • We would have liked to see the option of Nitrox on board, especially as this is a dive vessel.

Rum Rummer

If you’re looking to explore the Great Barrier Reef in more intimate surroundings, Rum Runner is the perfect vessel for you.

Rum Rummer is a wonderful, budget-friendly way to explore the GBR and has everything you’d ever want from a diving vessel. With a max number of just 16 guests, Rum Runner is ideal for large parties or families looking to explore the GBR is all its glory.

Complete with a dive deck, DIN adaptors, charging stations, a camera station, and rinse for U/W camera, you couldn’t really ask for more from a liveaboard, and it is easy to see why she’s considered one of the best liveaboards Great Barrier Reef vessels for those on a budget.


  • Din adaptors
  • Charging stations
  • Air conditioned cabins
  • Family cabins
  • Warm water shows
  • Budget vessel
  • Sundeck
  • Outdoor dining
  • Separate U/W camera rinse
  • Full board options
  • Local and western food

What we Liked

  • Rum Rummer is fantastic value for money and is one of the best budget liveaboards for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, that you could wish for.
  • The food and drink on board is truly exceptional, and with snacks served all day, it too is great value for money.

What we Disliked

  • As you might expect, for a smaller, budget-friendly vessel, facilities are lacking and we would have liked to maybe see another bathroom or two on board.

Final Thoughts

And that brings our look at the best itineraries for Great Barrier Reef liveaboard diving to a close.

The GBR is one of the most stunning locations in the world, and if you’ve never been before we implore you to go as it is something that everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes. To fully appreciate all that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, it’s essential that you choose the best liveaboards. Hopefully we’ve helped you to do precisely that with the 4 amazing vessels we’ve listed for you today.

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