One of the dive spots that’s been on our bucket list forever was the Great Barrier Reef. Which should come as no surprise, this is the world’s biggest reef after all. I mean, the reef can be seen from outer space!
The Great Barrier Reef is more than 2300 kilometers long and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Imagine our excitement that after years of dreaming we finally we went on a Great Barrier Reef dive trip with Tusa Dive.
Diving the Great Barrier Reef: day program
- 7.40: check-in at Tusa 6 boat
- 8.00: departure
- 8.15: briefing about boat safety and day program
- 9.00: dive briefing
- 10.00: dive 1
- 11.30: dive 2
- 12.15-13.00: lunch buffet
- 13.30: dive 3
- 14.30: return to Cairns
- 16.30: arrival at Cairns Marina
Diving with Tusa Dive: the Tusa 6 boat
This was by far the biggest dive boat I’ve been on! Up until our Great Barrier Reef diving adventure, we had only been diving in Southeast Asia. Wait, that’s not true, I also went diving in Cuba. Anyway, the point is all these dives were done from small speedboats.
Enter the Tusa 6, a beautiful and fast boat suitable for up to 120 people. Company policy is never to take more than 60 guests on board so there is plenty of space for everyone (there were only 35 guests during our trip).
There is a big deck at the back of the boat with all the dive gear. The low stairs with railing made it easy to get on and off the boat.
There are two indoor areas, one for the captain and the main one for the passengers. The main indoor area is a dry area, meaning you can’t walk in and out while wet. A good thing, because it means you can easily keep your precious belongings (like your camera or phone) dry.
There are no small speedboats operating the Great Barrier Reef. Keep in mind that the reef lies 50 kilometers from Cairns, a long way over the water. It took us 2 hours to reach the dive sites and 2 hours to go back.
Not only is a big boat much more comfortable, it’s faster too. And believe it or not, it can actually get cold, especially after your third dive. Much better to be inside, warm and dry…
The sea was pretty rough the day of our dive trip and several people on board got seasick. Seasickness pills are available on board and I strongly encourage you to take one if you are sensitive to seasickness. If would be such a shame to ruin your awesome day on the Great Barrier Reef!
Diving the Great Barrier Reef: dive sites
Dive 1 and 2: Norman Reef
We did our first and second dive at the Norman Reef. It’s not a very deep site (we only went about 20 meters deep) which means much of the beautiful color of the corals and fish are better preserved. After all, the deeper you dive, the more light and color you lose.During our first dive we saw a couple of white tipped reef sharks and one of them was hunting! I had never seen a shark that close before, a very cool experience.
We also saw several clownfish (hello Nemo), a beautiful Maori Wrasse and two nudibranchs.
After our surface time we hopped into the water once again and explored the other side of the Norman Reef. During this dive we saw several spotted lagoon stingrays, huge clams and the colorful (and funny) Christmas tree worms.
Dive 3: Saxon Reef
After a delicious lunch and the appropriate amount of surface time it was time for our third dive. The boat had been moved to a different location, a reef called Saxon.
This dive site wasn’t very deep either, a good thing because it was our third dive of the day. I only went 11 meters deep this dive. There was a lot of colorful coral at this dive site!
We saw more sharks, a black spot pufferfish and two big groupers. Unfortunately, it started to rain about halfway through the dive. Getting wet obviously isn’t the problem but the dark clouds decreased visibility in the water, so the second part of the dive was a bit darker and it was harder to spot cool fish. Nevertheless, it was a fun last dive!
Diving with Tuse Dive: dive gear and group size
The condition of dive gear is extremely important, imagine being 20 meters underwater and finding out your regulator isn’t working properly. Besides screwing up your buddy check, this means your dive gear obviously was not in a good condition.
At the Tusa 6 all the dive gear looked very new and was in mint condition. The tanks looked good, there was a dive computer attached to every regulator and boots and fins in all sizes.
The only slight downside for me, somebody who is always cold even if the water is 28 degrees: there were no full body wet-suits. Luckily the suits did have long sleeves and after squeezing onto the tightest one I could find (less room for cold water to come in) I was pretty comfortable. Perhaps it’s time to get my own suit… If only they didn’t take up so much space in my backpack.
Anyway, I digress. Another important point is group size. You see, in dive groups that are too big it’s easier to get lost or for problems to occur (because the dive master has to split his or her attention over more people.
During our dives with Tusa the dive groups were a maximum of 5 people per dive master. Buddies were assigned, also for the non-guided divers. Of course, Frank and I are always each other’s buddies, which means we constantly keep an eye out for each other under water. Safety first!
Diving with Tusa Dive: food and beverages on board
A delicious and extensive lunch was served inside the main indoor area and during the entire day there was free water, coffee and tea available.
After the 1st and 3rd dive fresh tropical fruits were served. Soft drinks, beer and snacks can be purchased on board.
Diving the Great Barrier Reef: dive prices
I’ll be honest: diving in Australia expensive compared to Asia. Expect to pay around $315 for 3 dives (including $10 Reef Levy) and an additional $10 per dive for a guided dive. Just bite the bullet, it’s worth it! Find all the price info here.
Alright, that’s all about our Great Barrier Reef diving experience with Tusa Dive. If you have any questions, leave a comment or send me an email.
You may also be interested in my other Australia posts:
Disclosure: I received a discount on the dive package from Tusa Dive. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.