What to expect on a liveaboard

There’s no doubt that the best way to experience the Great Barrier Reef is on a liveaboard trip. If you haven’t tried an overnight dive or snorkel experience before, you’re probably wondering what to expect on a liveaboard trip. What actually goes on out there on the open ocean? What should you pack? Here’s the lowdown on liveaboard life!  

Do I have to be a diver to go on a liveaboard trip? 

Not at all! Snorkellers are welcome to join us on board our liveaboard vessel OceanQuest and enjoy the best snorkel sites the outer reef has to offer. They can even join in our exclusive Sharks in the Dark activity. While the divers head off into the deep on a night dive, snorkellers can watch from on deck or lie on the dive platform for an up close view of the sharks!  

If you’ve never been scuba diving but would like to give it a go, you can book an intro dive package along with your liveaboard trip and try a series of short dives. We guarantee you’ll be hooked!  

We also offer a liveaboard option for students on our Open Water courses – what better way to celebrate becoming a PADI certified scuba diver than by sleeping overnight on the world famous Great Barrier Reef?  

Once you’re a certified diver, the learning doesn’t stop – we offer a range of courses on board our liveaboard trips, including the Advanced Open Water certification, the Enriched Air (Nitrox) specialty and others.  

So there’s no minimum level of diving experience required to join a liveaboard trip. Whatever your skill level, our PADI professional instructors and divemasters will make sure you have a fun and safe liveaboard experience. 

Great Barrier Reef Overnight Snorkel Trip from Cairns

What happens on a liveaboard? 

Scuba addicts love to say ‘Dive, eat, sleep, repeat’ – and that’s pretty much the plan! On a typical liveaboard you’ll be diving (or snorkelling) from morning til night, with breaks in between to fuel up with hearty meals.  

Here’s our typical liveaboard itinerary for a full day on board OceanQuest: 

8:30amFirst dive/snorkel session 
10:30amSecond dive/snorkel session
3.30pmThird dive/snorkel session
6.30pmNight dive/Sharks in the Dark/Fluoro Diving
10pmBar closes

How many dives per day on a liveaboard? 

If you’re a certified diver, you can enjoy up to four dives per day on our Great Barrier Reef liveaboard trips. This includes two morning dives, an afternoon dive and a night dive. (If you don’t have previous night dive experience you’ll need to book a dive guide at extra cost. Alternatively, you can choose to enjoy our Sharks in the Dark activity as a snorkeller instead.)  

Do I have to do every dive? 

No, participating in every dive is not compulsory! If you feel like you need a break, feel free to stay on deck – or grab a snorkel and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef from the surface. You know what is best for you. 

What can I do when I’m not in the water? 

While you’re not in the water there are a host of other activities available. Lounge on the sundeck, watch TV or play board games in the saloon, check the library for help identifying the critters you saw on your last dive, chill in your air-conditioned cabin or have a drink at the bar.  

What is the food like on a liveaboard?  

Trust us, you won’t be going hungry! Four times a day (for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert – which is a meal in itself) you’ll sit down to hearty meals freshly prepared by our onboard chef. There’s fresh fruit available to snack on throughout the day, as well as complimentary tea, coffee and chilled drinking water. You can also purchase snacks from the bar if you need a little extra to keep you going in between dives. 

If you have special dietary requirements, no problem! We just need to know about them when you make your booking. 

We consistently get fantastic feedback about the quality of the food on board OceanQuest – here’s just a sample: 

  • “Let’s mention the food…AMAZING! Every meal was delicious & serving sizes were huge.” – Jasmin Q, TripAdvisor 
  • “The chef cooked some great food and made all the desserts gluten free. As a coeliac I was in safe hands and had some great options.” – Tracey, TripAdvisor 
  • “Food was great, yummy and filling with 2nds if wanting more in the belly…” – Tor, TripAdvisor 
  • “The food was great with loads of fresh and healthy options. The Chef made every effort to accommodate dietary requirements and ensure everyone was satisfied.” – Chris W, TripAdvisor 

What will my liveaboard accommodation be like?  

If you’re imagining a poky little cabin crammed with bunk beds, think again! OceanQuest has 18 twin cabins and four double cabins, plus one quad share room. All our cabins are air-conditioned with private en suite bathrooms. Most have expansive windows, so you can enjoy views over the Great Barrier Reef from your cabin. Although to be honest, you’ll probably be spending as much time either underwater or out on deck as you can!  

Divers Den Cairns OceanQuest Liveaboard Double Cabin with Ensuite

What facilities does a liveaboard vessel have? 

OceanQuest is kitted out with everything a liveaboard dive vessel needs to ensure you have a great diving experience, as well as a comfortable stay. 

Onboard facilities 

On board you’ll find covered and open sundecks, a spacious bar, lounge and dining area and comfortable cabins. All interior spaces are air-conditioned to keep you cool in the Tropical North Queensland weather. Entertainment facilities include a library, TV and board games. 

Dive deck facilities 

Our purpose-built dive deck has a spot for every guest, so there’s no need to worry about missing out on a seat. Your gear will be safely stowed here between dives. There are fresh hot water showers and toilets at the dive deck, and anti-fog to use as you enter the water. Camera rinse buckets are also available for your photographic gear. 

We have Nitrox available on board ($10 per tank per fill).  The vessel has drop lines underwater on either side for use while ascending, descending or making safety stops, and swim lines at the surface to pull yourself along. A drop tank is available for emergencies. 

What do I bring on a liveaboard trip? 

Pack light when preparing for your liveaboard trip – there won’t be room for a gigantic suitcase in your cabin!  

The best thing to bring is an overnight bag with the basics for your stay: 

  • Swimsuit and towel 
  • Sun hat, sunscreen and sunglasses 
  • Enough changes of clothing for your stay, including warm clothes and socks for the evening  
  • Toiletries and any personal medication 
  • Reusable water bottle 

We’ll supply bedding and a bath towel for your room.  

If you have extra luggage that needs storing while you’re on board, you can bring it to our dive centre at 319 Draper Street when you check in. We’ll store it securely for you while you’re out exploring the reef. 

Choosing your liveaboard destination 

You can enjoy liveaboard diving in many locations around the world, but the Great Barrier Reef offers some of the best liveaboard diving out there!  

Divers Den visits a range of exclusive outer reef dive sites. The outer reef tends to have clearer water, better visibility and more abundant marine life than areas of the reef closer to the mainland. On a liveaboard you can explore more of these sites, stay overnight and do it all again in the morning!  

What time of year is best for a liveaboard trip? 

The Great Barrier Reef is great for diving year-round, with warm waters and an abundance of marine life including turtles, sharks, rays, tropical and pelagic fish, hard and soft corals. So there’s not really a ‘bad’ time of year to take a liveaboard! It all depends on your personal preferences and your availability. Here’s what you’re likely to encounter on the Great Barrier Reef in different seasons: 

  • Spring (September – November):  Temperatures are starting to warm up during spring. November marks the beginning of ‘stinger season’, so you’ll need to wear a lycra suit for protection from box jellyfish between now and March. Towards the end of November coral spawning events take place. This only occurs at night, so a liveaboard is the perfect place to see this unforgettable phenomenon! 
  • Summer (December – February): The waters are warm. Coral spawning events may continue into early December.  
  • Autumn (March – May): Water temperatures are still warm but there’s less wind. At this time of year you may see many juvenile fish on the reef. 
  • Winter (June – August): Temperatures may be slightly lower in winter, but they’re still higher than summer in many parts of the world! This is also the dry season. Manta rays and migratory whales are more often seen during this season, and our annual minke whale expeditions take place. 

Find out more about weather on the Great Barrier Reef

Liveaboard intro dive from Cairns

How much does a liveaboard dive trip cost? 

Pricing for liveaboard dive vessels varies around the world. You can view our current pricing for OceanQuest overnight trips here. When you consider that the price includes accommodation, all meals, transfers from your Cairns CBD accommodation, all your equipment, and up to four dives per day, you can see it’s pretty great value!  

Liveaboard dive trip safety 

When you join Divers Den for a liveaboard dive trip, we have three aims: to show you the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, to make sure you have a fantastic experience, and to keep you safe at all times. 

We have a range of measures in place to ensure your safety, including: 

  • Safety information in your cabin and throughout the vessel 
  • Briefings before every dive or snorkel session 
  • Supervisors and lookouts in the water and on deck during every dive or snorkel session 
  • A range of safety equipment on board 
  • All staff are first aid trained 

The best thing you can do to help us keep you safe is to let our crew know of anything that could affect your own safety. This means filling out forms honestly and disclosing any pertinent medical information, or telling us if you’re not a great swimmer. Check out our Can I Dive page for more info.

Will I get seasick on a liveaboard?  

Some people know they suffer from seasickness, while others might think they’ll be fine… until they’re out at sea and it happens! OceanQuest is a large, stable catamaran and our crew do their best to choose moorings that will minimise movement, but wind and swells can occur on the Great Barrier Reef. If you know you’re prone to seasickness, we recommend bringing prevention with you and taking it before you start to feel ill.  

We have natural ginger tablets on board which we recommend as a preventative for seasickness. There are also several chemists in Cairns who can recommend other options before your trip. 

What alternatives are there to a liveaboard trip? 

As much fun as it is to stay overnight on the Great Barrier Reef, we know liveaboard life isn’t for everyone. If time, budget or personal preferences mean you won’t be able to enjoy a multi-night stay out on the reef, opt for a Great Barrier Reef day trip from Cairns instead. You’ll still get to experience two outer reef locations, have a tasty lunch, and be back in Cairns at the end of the day.