Barrier Reef Australia Blog


What is The Best Liveaboard Dive Boat In Cairns

Romi Hood on July 13th, 2023

Everyone has a different idea of what makes a great dive trip and there are questions that need to be answered before selecting the best liveaboard dive trip for you from our boats in Cairns.

  • How much dive experience do you have?
  • Are you travelling with other divers and how experienced are they?
  • Are there snorkellers in your group?
  • What level of comfort and/or privacy are you looking for?
  • How much time do you want to spend diving vs relaxing on the boat?
  • How long do you want to spend on the Great Barrier Reef?
  • What is your budget?

Listed below, in no particular order, are some of the excellent liveaboard dive trips out of Cairns. Levels of comfort and privacy vary and some are more suited to snorkellers than others but all include dive equipment, food, fresh linen, experienced crew and access to some great reef locations.


This 2 Day/1 Night liveaboard dive tour on Rum Runner a 20-metre sailing schooner is very good value for budget minded adventurers.

With only 16 guests on board, there is one crew member for every four guests and accommodation is in hostel style twin bunk and 4 share bunk bed accommodation.

There are separate male and female toilets and shower cabinets with hot water on board.

Certified scuba divers can enjoy six day dives and one night dive. Thorough dive briefings are given at each site and divers are all allocated a buddy for each dive.

This Cairns dive trip is suited to any level of dive experience as divers can follow the dive guide on an underwater tour of each reef site or stick with their buddy and go it alone from the start.

This is also a great choice for snorkellers and all snorkelling equipment is provided, including wetsuits. Snorkellers who want to see what all the fuss is about can book in for an introductory scuba dive and, accompanied by an experienced reef guide every step of the way, can take their exploration of the reef to a new level.


Enjoy an authentic sailing experience and personalised service with a maximum of only 12 guests on this liveaboard dive and snorkel tour that visits a selection of 30 exclusive moorings on 9 different reefs.

All snorkelling and dive equipment is provided, including wetsuits and stinger suits, and a free 10 min “Try Dive” is offered to all first time scuba divers.

Accommodation aboard Coral Sea Dreaming consists of three private cabins with double beds, one shared cabin with two single bunks and one shared cabin with four single bunk beds.

All rooms have shared bathroom facilities with hot water showers and two toilets. Food is of course provided but they also have bar facilities so you can treat yourself after a hard day of relaxing on the Great Barrier Reef.

A variety of certified and introductory dive packages are available and this boat has only one of a few licenses in Australia for introductory night dives.

What’s more, this Cairns liveaboard dive boat is also available for private charter and offers a very special charter dive rate of only $100pp per day unlimited diving, including a night dive.


An air conditioned, ‘floating hotel’ style dive boat with ensuite cabins, Ocean Quest has an onboard bar, two large sundecks, a library and a dining room. This liveaboard dive boat is based out on the Great Barrier Reef so a transfer boat departs Cairns daily to take guests to and from the vessel.

Suitable for singles, couples and groups, there are a range of double, twin or quad share cabins, most with ocean views. All guests are well catered for by the onboard chef, and tea, coffee and water are available throughout the day.

Choose between 1 to 6 nights aboard, as well as snorkeller, intro diver or certified diver options, all of which have different inclusions, numbers of dives etc. Certified divers can also take part in a bio fluorescent dive, which is exclusively available with this operator. Using specialist torches and mask filters, divers will light up the reef at night and see an amazing range of fluorescent colours in the coral and sea life.

Additional options:

  • Learn to dive, advanced and nitrox diver courses
  • Nitrox fills
  • ‘Sharks in the Dark’ night dive
  • Bio fluorescent night dive
  • Swim with Dwarf Minke Whale tours (June – July only)


Offering bunk multi-share cabins as well as Stateroom and Captain’s Club accommodation to its 42 guests, this fully air conditioned ‘boatel’ caters to a range of budgets and in-water experience. There is a choice of 2 to 4 day liveaboard diving and snorkelling trips with transfer vessels running daily out of Cairns to the boat.

Reef Encounter moves to several different locations so guests can visit up to 5 reef sites depending on their length of stay and, while this liveaboard trip offers great opportunities for snorkelling and diving, with a lounge, sun-deck, hot tub and a dining room in which freshly cooked meals are served 3 times a day, all guests will be offered plenty of opportunities to enjoy their time out of the water as well.

Additional options:

  • A variety of dive courses including open water, advanced and rescue courses
  • Helicopter pad for scenic flights


For serious divers wanting a higher level of quality in a Cairns live aboard dive boat then read on. There is the opportunity to do 9 day dives and 2 night dives on a large number of quality dive sites. Snorkellers are also welcome on this 3 day/2 night liveaboard dive trip with multi award winning marine tourism operator, Pro Dive.

These dive trips depart every day except Tuesdays at 7am from the Cairns Marlin Marina and return on Day 3 at 3:30pm. With a maximum of 32 passengers onboard, all in twin or double accommodation, the friendly and helpful staff are able to ensure that everyone has a relaxing and enjoyable time out on the reef.

Additional options:

  • A variety of dive courses including open water, advanced and rescue courses.
  • Introductory scuba dives for snorkellers who want to make the most of their amazing location.


This luxury dive trip is best suited to certified adult scuba divers with some experience as, although there is a safety diver who will go on every dive to oversee the dive groups, this trip does not offer individual guided dives.

Physically fit snorkellers are welcome to join the tour as well but, as some of the Coral Sea locations are not suitable for snorkelling, they may not be able to get in the water at every site. While the others are scuba diving at these sites however, the snorkellers on board will be able to relax up on the comfortable top deck, or in the roomy lounge bar.

This tour caters to just 26 guests and a highly skilled crew of 10 service staff will look after their every comfort and need. Guests stay in spacious air-conditioned ensuite cabins with a daily housekeeping service. Gourmet meals are prepared throughout the day, with Australian wines served nightly with dinner.

The highlights of these liveaboard trips are usually the famous “dive with sharks” and the visit to the world famous Cod Hole but there is also the opportunity to see a huge variety of sea creatures at each of the spectacular reef sites.


This boat was ‘designed by divers for divers’ and is the most highly awarded liveaboard vessel in Australia. Guest cabins are air-conditioned and come in a variety of configurations from double with queen bed to twin share. The boat also offers its guests plenty of room to relax in the spacious lounge or on the sunbeds out on the sundeck, which come with fabulous views over the Coral Sea.

As these 3, 4 and 7 night expeditions take guests to some of the most spectacular sites on the northern Great Barrier Reef, there is the opportunity for encounters with a great diversity of marine animals, including some of the stars of the underwater world such as potato cod, giant bumphead parrotfish, sharks and even whales.

During the months of June and July, Mike Ball Dive Expeditions also operate dedicated Minke Whales Dive Expeditions for 3, 4 or 7 nights.

All divers from 12 years of age (inclusive) and non-divers from the age of 8 are accepted onboard these liveaboard trips and all trips, apart from the Fly Dive Coral Sea, are suitable for snorkellers. 

Additional options:

  • Nitrox diving (at extra cost). 
  • Rebreathers: For anyone wishing to dive with a rebreather they will be asked to fill in paperwork before the trip. Note: There is a ‘no solo’ policy for rebreathers and decompression diving so divers must dive with a qualified buddy.
  • Open water, nitrox, advanced and other dive courses available.

More info here on 3 Night Expedition and 4 Nights Expedition


So, back to the question of the which one is the best liveaboard dive boat in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef?.

With so many spectacular reef locations to visit and so much variety in terms of trip length, dive options and levels of luxury to choose from, is this a question that actually has an answer?

Well, yes. All this question needs is a little rephrasing……. Based on the information above, which is the best liveaboard dive boat in Cairns for you?

Romi Hood

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