Welcome to tropical Queensland where sunny skies and warm waters beckon. There literally is no bad time to visit the Great Barrier Reef and experience some fantastic dives. Cairns, at the northern end of the reef, is the ideal destination for diving all-year round, but if you're looking at the best Great Barrier Reef scuba diving season with excellent conditions, August through to January is the way to go!
The Minke whales season runs from June to August, while the Humpback whales migrate between June and November. Coral spawning, on the other hand, usually occurs in October and November; so if you have any of these on your must-see list, then make sure you plan your dives for those seasons.
If you're not a hot-shot diver but you still want to experience everything the Great Barrier Reef has to offer, then Cairns is just the place for you. With its proximity to fantastic dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef and the mushrooming of authorised dive centres in every nook and corner, Cairns has the highest number of beginner divers getting their Padi Open Water certification.
A word of caution though – not all dive centres provide the same quality and service. So, it would be best if you surveyed the market, see what various dive centres offer, compare costs and inclusions and make an informed decision about the operator you choose to dive with. You will also need to get a medical certificate before commencing scuba diving lessons. But, even if you've arrived in Cairns unprepared, you could just as easily get a local doctor to run a physical that will certify you to go ahead with dive lessons.
These courses are not just about finding your sea legs… to get the Padi Open Water certification, you need a minimum of four days, so that's something you'll have to be prepared for. Most of these dive courses get you comfortable in a swimming pool before you head out to the reef for three days of diving. And, that's when you'll really find your sea legs!
The water temperature on the Great Barrier Reef ranges between 25°C to 30°C at local dive sites with a gentle current and visibility between 5 and 20 metres. Most of these dive sites are suitable for beginner divers and don't go below a depth of 20 metres.
However, more experienced divers find it more challenging to head out the Ribbon or the Osprey Reefs where the current is fiercer, walls are deeper and visibility is almost up to 40 metres, sending your thrill-o-metre to an all-time high!
There's nothing like an unadulterated Cairns Great Barrier Reef cruises and dive experiences with a liveaboard dive trip. Offering two to three days of sheer diving fun, these liveaboard dive vessels take you to some of the reef's most remote and exotic dive sites. Depending on your budget and passion for scuba diving, you could choose between luxury dive boats, to research vessels to smaller personalised vessels… the variety is simply there for the taking!
Or, you could choose to stay at any of the Great Barrier Reef island resorts that offer superb diving opportunities, some right off the beach. Green Island, Heron Island and Lady Elliot Islands are beautiful coral cays that are ideal for Great Barrier Reef snorkelling and diving for novice and experienced divers. You could also make day trips out to the reef and enjoy two or more dives in different locations.
So, what're you waiting for? Great Barrier Reef tours definitely top the list of things to do in Cairns; so go for it and experience the adventure of a lifetime!