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Everything You Need to Know About a Great Barrier Reef Liveaboard

See the reef in full colour.

If you are going to set sail to Queensland to experience the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), why not call it home. Liveaboard divers are spoilt with brightly-hued reefs and unsurpassed marine diversity when visiting the reef’s most remote dive sites, and all in creature comfort.

There are only two liveaboard vessels that venture to the outer areas of the reef and the world famous Cod Hole, including award-winning Spirit of Freedom.

Australia’s top liveaboard offers a range of 3,4, 7-day dive cruises to the Ribbon Reefs, Coral Sea and the world famous Cod Hole, a dive site where you can swim with some gentle giants of the sea – Potato Cod.

Here we list why it is worth to dive deep into your pockets to have a priceless GBR experience.

Spirit of Freedom

Visit the Ribbon Reefs

For the avid diver, an exploration along the underwater rainbow that is the Ribbon Reefs is a must.

The remote Ribbon Reefs is made up of a chain of 10 vibrant individual reefs spanning across 200km of the GBR and fringing the edge of the continental shelf. 

These remarkable reefs are home to great biodiversity of marine life (over 1500 fish species) including 30 species of marine mammals, reef tip sharks, cuttlefish, barracuda, groupers, sea turtles, sea snakes and more.

Its marine life thrives in unison amid impressive reef formations, pinnacles, canyons and caves. Its larger-than-life walls of coral, coral beds and gardens feature many of the GBR’s one-third of the world’s soft corals and 411 types of hard coral. A must-see along these remote reefs is the ocean’s real-life treasure box; deep-purple, gold-speckled giant calms decorating the colourful reef.

Spirit of Freedom

Dive up to 5 times a day

Say bon voyage to visiting the reef’s most frequented dive sites.

Hoping onboard a dive cruise gives you more options to see the reef in its array of vivid colour, with both corals and marine life flourishing. Spirit of Freedom allows you to take advantage of your time out in the reef with giving you the chance to dive as much as you can, with dives starting from 6 am until after 4 pm. It is up to your discretion to strap on a tank and dive in or to soak up the scene onboard.

Dive sites visited include diver favourites such as Steve’s Bommie, Challenger Bay, Calm Gardens, Goggle Gardens, Snake Pit, Pixie Pinnacle and more.

Most often than not, the boat will be the only boat stationed at the site allowing divers to feel relaxed on their fun dive without the interference of eyeing other dive boats. The dives do not necessarily follow strict rules (e.g. follow the instructor), other than to be out of the water at a specific time.

Spirit of Freedom

Photoshoot at Cod Hole

As if the GBR didn’t treat you enough with spectacular viewing, it gives you the remarkable Cod Hole. The world-renowned dive site is home to a family of resident Potato Cod fish scouting their next meal.

Not only do the cod make for a remarkable sight but they are easily approachable and unassuming.

It is one of only a few spots in the GBR where feeding is permitted, allowing divers to pose for photos while a dive instructor is feeding these gentle giants. If you are lucky enough, you may even have a chance to swim alongside these slow-moving cod as they glide their way around the dive site.

Spirit of Freedom

More bang for your buck – Plane ride to/from Lizard Island

As if seeing the splendour of the reef wasn’t enough, some of Spirit of Freedom’s dive cruises allows you to see it all from above.

As part of the cruises one-way itineraries, Spirit of Freedom includes one-hour low-level charter flights from Lizard Island, the reef’s most northern resort island back to Cairns (trip also can be completed in reverse).

Divers can enjoy a few hours on Lizard Island and enjoy its untapped scenery and crystal clear coastline at Watson’s Beach before seeing the world’s only two World Heritage Listed attractions located next to each other GBR (world’s largest reef) and Wet Tropics of Queensland (the world’s oldest rainforest) from above. Truly a wondrous sight!

Spirit of Freedom

Being treated to gastropub meals

With diving the reef up to five dives a day, you will be burning much energy. Luckily the onboard chef has your back as each meal time is served banquet style with quality dishes that could be easily rival what you could expect from a gastropub. Think crispy salmon steaks, creamy chicken bakes, hearty pasta dishes to name a few. Better yet, you can cheer to a top day of deep sea discovery with a glass of locally sourced wine or beer included with dinner.

Another food highlight is the ship’s top deck event, its picturesque sunset BBQ in Watson’s Bay (off Lizard Island). It takes liveaboard dining to a whole new level with plates of kangaroo in a red wine jus, garlic prawns, marinated chicken kebabs, homemade rissoles, hearty beef steaks amongst a sea of gourmet salads all prepared within the ship’s small kitchen.

A comfortable boat

Forget being in discomfort (as these beds were made for sleeping). Spirit of Freedom offers avid divers a variety of simple rooms to cater to different budgets including quad share, ocean view standard/deluxe, stateroom, double and twin rooms and all equipped with a private bathroom (except quad share).

Spirit of Freedom

Pampered diving exists with ‘Finderellas’

With a tank on your back, it can sometimes be a tricky scenario to put your fins on before hitting the water. The self-proclaimed ‘Finderellas’ prove that first class diving truly exists with crew ready to assist with putting your flippers on at the back of the boat before taking the big jump out into the reef. This small touch in service goes a long way (and saves you from enduring more back pain!).

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Image source: Taku and Lorenzo Ballarin from Spirit of Freedom

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Julia D'Oraziohttp://theroamingflamingo.com/
Julia D’Orazio is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer and dance floor enthusiast. Guilty pleasures in life include Eurovision, sequined jumpsuits, late night cheeseburgers and Disney moments of turning conversations into musicals. Catch her latest improv song and dance numbers on Instagram: @theroamingflamingo.