What's the difference between Stateroom and Top Deck Club?

As we pride ourselves on providing our guests with the best possible Great Barrier Reef experience, we offer different packages to cater to individual needs. We offer standard trip packages and we offer Top Deck Club packages. All packages can be booked as snorkel trips, certified diver trips, resort diver trips, or you may choose to book a scuba diver course.

Stateroom Liveaboard

Our standard package includes air conditioned hotel style accommodation – all cabins have their own ensuite and ocean view, quality chef prepared meals, unlimited snorkeling, snorkel and dive equipment (wetsuit hire is a small additional cost), access to outdoor freshwater hot-tub, TV & games lounge and large sundeck, free glass bottom boat tours upon request and the best crew on the Great Barrier Reef!

Top Deck Club Liveaboard

The ‘Top Deck Club’ VIP tour is ideal for couples looking for a luxury getaway vacation, groups who enjoy a bit of VIP treatment or anyone who desires personalised in-water care. Much like first class with an airline, Top Deck comes with many additional luxuries including (but not limited to) a personal crew member for private scuba/snorkel guided tours, late check-out times, the best rooms on the boat, champagne upon arrival, evening turn down cabin service, luxury three course evening meal served under the stars, evening cocktails… and more!

Can guests participating in different activities travel together?

Yes! Reef Encounter caters to everyone. It is common for divers and snorkelers to travel together on the same trip. We usually have a mixture of people doing different activities; such as diving, snorkelling, scuba courses and those who just wish to stay on a floating hotel on the Great Barrier Reef!

Luggage Requirements & What to Bring

  • Please bring with you only a small to medium overnight bag with personal items – casual clothes, personal toiletries, sun hat, swimming clothes, sunscreen, sunglasses, medication if needed etc. As the air-conditioning is a set temperature for the heat during the day it can become quite cool in the evenings – even just being on the Great Barrier Reef can be cooler at night.  We therefore recommend bringing something warm to wear for the evenings (jumper/pullover/cardigan)
  • For large luggage pieces that are not required at the reef, we offer a free luggage storage facility at our offices in the city – 100 Abbott Street, Cairns, Qld 4870. It is about a 15-minute walk to the Cairns Marina from our offices. Office opening times are from 7am – 9pm, 7 days a week. If you have selected a bus pick-up option on the morning of your tour, you may leave any large items with the bus driver who will deliver them to our office storage facility
  • For safety reasons Reef Encounter has a ‘no shoe’ policy. There is no need to bring extra pairs of shoes – socks are great
  • Personal dive/snorkel equipment if you would prefer to use your own. While equipment hire is included in your booking, you are welcome to bring any personal dive/snorkel items if you wish to. (Optional extras for hire are wetsuits and prescription lens masks)
  • Cash or credit card for purchases of snacks & drinks from the bar / souvenirs for sale on-board / underwater camera hire / professional photos / additional scuba activities etc.
  • Proof of certification if you are a Certified Scuba Diver (must be equivalent of Open Water Level or above) – this will be checked by the Dive Supervisor at the start of your trip
  • Dive medical if you are intending to Scuba Dive and require one to comply with Australian Dive Regulations – See our SCUBA Divers Important Information page to avoid disappointment on your trip. IMPORTANT – dive medicals will only be accepted if they are conducted using the Australian Medical Examination Form AS4005.1 and clearly state this on the medical Certificate that you provide the Dive Supervisor onboard Reef Encounter

Can I travel alone?

Yes! Reef Encounter caters for and encourages individuals to travel with us. Many other guests are also travelling alone. If you are travelling alone please inform us if you are a male or female, if this is not already clear from your first name, as we strive to allocate cabins with another person of the same sex when possible. Alternatively if you wish for some privacy, you can choose to book a ‘Sole Occupancy’ cabin, meaning that a solo traveller will not share a room with another guest.

If you are a certified scuba diver (qualified diver), we will arrange for a dive buddy for you for each dive or you may choose to take a guided dive with a crew member.

What's the difference between Certified and Resort Scuba Diving?

Certified Diving is for Qualified Scuba Divers Certified diving is for already qualified scuba divers who hold a minimum licence of ‘Open Water Diver’ level or higher. The Dive Supervisor will check your certification card or dive license at the start of your Reef Encounter tour.

Resort Scuba Diving – no experience necessary Resort Scuba Diving requires no prior scuba dive experience. Whether it is your very first time trying scuba diving or you have been scuba diving before, Resort Scuba is for people who do not have a scuba licence (not completed a training course and received the licence) – but would like to do fun scuba dives on the Great Barrier Reef. All dives are guided tours with an experienced Dive Instructor, with a maximum number of four guests to one Scuba Instructor.

Become a qualified Certified Diver with our ‘Learn to Dive’ Course If you would like to become a Certified Diver on the Great Barrier Reef, you can enroll on a Learn to Dive course where you will become a licenced Open Water Scuba Diver.

IMPORTANT: Please ensure that if you are considering participating in any scuba diving activities, you have read and understand the SCUBA Divers Important Information page 

How many scuba dives are included in the different packages?

The number of included scuba dives depends on the duration of your stay and whether you are a qualified ‘Certified Diver’ or beginner ‘Resort Diver’, or are enrolled on a ‘Learn to Dive’ course

Certified Dive Packages:

Applies to qualified divers on both certified dive tours and guided certified dive tours, for Stateroom and Top Deck accommodation

Duration of Stay Number of Scuba Dives Included
2 days, 1 night 6:   Up to 5 daytime scuba dives and 1 night dive
3 days, 2 nights 10: Up to 8 daytime scuba dives and 2 night dives
4 days, 3 nights 14: Up to 11 daytime scuba dives and 3 night dives
Each additional night 4:   Up to 4 additional scuba dives; 3 day and 1 night

Resort Dive Packages:

For Stateroom and Top Deck accommodation

Duration of Stay Number of Scuba Dives Included
2 days, 1 night 5:   Up to 5 daytime scuba dives
3 days, 2 nights 8:   Up to 8 daytime scuba dives
4 days, 3 nights 11: Up to 11 daytime scuba dives
Each additional night 3:   Up to 3 additional daytime scuba dives

(Resort night scuba diving can be booked onboard the boat, at an additional cost)

Learn to Dive Packages:

Applies to Open Water Dive courses. For all advanced dive courses, number of included dives are the same as other certified dive packages

Duration of Stay Number of Scuba Dives Included
3 days, 2 nights 8:   Up to 8 daytime scuba dives
4 days, 3 nights (Stateroom only) 12: Up to 11 daytime scuba dives; plus 1 night dive after certification
4 days, 3 nights (Top Deck only) 12: Up to 12 daytime scuba dives
Each additional night 4:   Up to 4 additional scuba dives; 3 day and 1 night

Are meals included?

Yes, all meals are included in your trip and prepared fresh daily, by our onboard chef: Breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Fruit, tea and coffee are also included and available throughout the day. Snacks such as chocolate, chips, cookies, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages* are available for purchase from the bar. All dietary requirements will be met – please advise our friendly staff upon booking *No alcohol may be consumed prior to in-water activities.

Do I need to bring my own equipment?

Snorkelling and scuba diving equipment is included in the trip cost (Stinger suits are included during the stinger season). Optional extras are wetsuit hire if you require one, and prescription lens masks are also available for hire. While equipment hire is included in your booking, you are welcome to bring any personal dive/snorkel items if you wish to.

Are the prices on the website in Australian Dollars - and do they include taxes?

Yes, all prices are in Australian Dollars (AUD)

Prices are inclusive of taxes and national park fees so there are no hidden costs! While these fees must be paid by all passengers travelling on tourist boats to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, many boats do not include the price upfront in their trip rates. Reef tax is a combination of government charges for visiting the National Park, a port charge, fuel levy and tax administration fee. All taxes are included on this website.

What activities are available?

Reef Encounter has a range of activities to cater to everyone’s taste. Some people come purely to experience sleeping in a floating hotel on the Great Barrier Reef, while others come for snorkelling, scuba diving or amazing photography opportunities. Included activities are; unlimited snorkelling at a variety of Great Barrier Reef locations during your stay, outdoor fresh water hot-tub for you to enjoy a relaxing day/night dip, free glass bottom boat tours upon request, access to our TV lounge and games area, access to our large sun-deck with sun loungers.

  • Snorkelling – free of charge and suitable for all ages
  • Certified Diving Package for qualified Scuba Divers – Certified diving is for already qualified scuba divers who hold a minimum licence of ‘Open Water Diver’ level or higher. Certified divers will be paired to dive together as buddies, following a site briefing of each dive site
  • Certified Diving with a Guided Dive Package – where every dive is guided by a crew member and you will be diving with other certified divers who also choose to go with the Guide. Scuba diving with an experienced crew member means you get to see all the prime spots and don’t need to think about navigation – your guide will point out the breathtaking creatures that otherwise may be missed and can enhance your underwater experience Not sure whether to take the guided tour option? No need to decide in advance – you can simply book a certified diving package and decide to book onboard as many or as little dives as you like with the Guide
  • If scuba divers require private scuba tours, they must book their trip with the ‘Top Deck Club’ – which includes a personal crew member solely assigned to your booking party for the duration of your stay
  • Resort Scuba Diving – no experience necessary – this package is for people who do not have a scuba licence (are not already certified) but would like to do a package of fun dives on the Great Barrier Reef. All dives are guided tours with an experienced Dive Instructor, with a maximum number of four guests to one Scuba Instructor. If divers require private scuba tours, they must book their trip with the ‘Top Deck Club’ – which includes a personal crew member solely assigned to your booking party for the duration of your stay. If you’re not sure whether you would like to go scuba diving during your stay with Reef Encounter, please book one of our snorkel packages and then try our free scuba dive demonstration onboard and see if you are comfortable underwater.* If you are, you can upgrade to one of our resort dive packages
  • Scuba Dive Courses Reef Encounter offers a range of scuba dive courses from Learn to Dive courses to become a certified diver, Advanced Courses and Diver Rescue Courses for already certified persons wishing to further their scuba qualifications and Refresher Courses for certified divers who wish to brush up their scuba skills
* Please note that if you intend on participating in ANY Scuba Diving activities, you must read the SCUBA Divers Important Information page

What accommodation is available?

Stateroom Cabins Reef Encounter has 21 spacious stateroom cabins which are either a double (one double bed) or twin (two single beds), at the same cost. When making your online reservation please select your room preference (double, twin or sole occupancy). To book a double bed cabin two persons travelling together are required, unless solo travelers choose to book a sole occupancy cabin. The twin share room is a great choice if you are travelling with a friend or if you are travelling alone and you are happy to share a room with another traveler of the same gender. If you wish for some privacy, you can choose to book a ‘Sole Occupancy’ cabin, meaning that a solo traveler will not share a room with another guest. Double or twin share rooming preferences are allocated on a first come, first served basis. All cabins have en-suite toilet and shower facilities and an ocean view. Towels and toiletries (soap & shampoo) are provided.

Top Deck Cabins The ‘Top Deck Club’ tour – much like first class with an airline –  comes with many additional luxuries including (but not limited to) a personal crew member for private scuba/snorkel guided tours, the best rooms on the boat, late check-out times, champagne upon arrival, evening turn down cabin service, luxury 3 course evening meal served under the stars… and more. Reef Encounter top deck club cabins are either a double (one double bed) or twin (two single beds), which can be selected at the same cost. When making your online reservation please select your room preference (double, twin or sole occupancy).  View Top Deck Club tours

Children & Babies Cot hire and children’s beds are available add-ons that may be selected during your online booking. Cot hire is available for babies age 0-2 years. Small rollaway beds are available for children 2-11 years, and will go in the room with the parents. Children age 12 years and above must have a standard bed.

See ‘Accommodation, Dining and Facilities‘ for more information

What is the age range of guests?

Reef Encounter caters to guests of all ages and normally has a wide variety of age groups on any given trip. From glass boat tours, sightseeing & photography from the outer decks, snorkeling to the most advanced scuba activities – there’s something for everyone.

Our crew are the best on the reef and will accommodate everyone from the very old to the very young! Please inform our friendly team upon booking if anyone in your group has any special requirements, such as mobility issues. We are a family friendly and disability friendly trip. While children are welcome, all child minding and supervision remains solely the responsibility of parents/guardians – Reef Encounter offers no child minding facilities.

Reef Encounter has a fully licenced bar which serves alcohol, however it is not a ‘party boat’. Many of our guests are awake to do the sunrise scuba dive / snorkel  – the best one of the day in our opinion!

I am a qualified diver but I don’t have my certification card, can I still dive?

Yes, as long as evidence of your certification level can be provided. Your scuba qualification must be ‘Open Water Level’ or higher, for you to go diving as a Certified Diver. This will be checked by the Dive Supervisor at the start of your trip. Proof of qualification can be in the form of a certification card or dive license, a signed and stamped divers logbook with details of your training, or verification from your training agency.

You can contact your training agency for your certification details prior to your trip, if you have lost your licence and do not have a record of your training in your divers log-book. If you cannot find proof of your dive qualification, please contact our helpful team prior to your liveaboard tour. For most major dive agencies, we can often assist you to find proof of your qualification via the training agency if we are given enough time in advance of your trip. If unable to verify your certification level, we reserve the right to refuse a person scuba diving as a certified diver.

Please ensure that as a Certified Diver, you have read and understand the SCUBA Divers Important Information page

If you hold a lower scuba qualification than ‘Open Water Diver’ level, then you may go scuba diving as a ‘Resort Diver’ subject to the medical conditions, or enroll on one of our Learn to Dive Courses to become a fully qualified, Certified Diver.

Can I make group bookings?

Yes, for parties of six or more people travelling to Reef Encounter, please contact our friendly reservations team – see Contact Us

Can anyone try scuba diving?

Most people can try scuba diving while on Reef Encounter*. Resort diving is for people who would like to try scuba diving but do not already have a scuba licence that is open water level or higher. Scuba diving is a safe and fun activity to try on the Great Barrier Reef! (Resort diving is also known as introductory diving).

Age, medical and health restrictions apply for resort scuba diving in Australia – and are stricter than in many other countries. Many medical conditions, health issues and/or medications (both past and present) may prevent you from participating in scuba activities unless a dive medical certificate to Australian Standards AS4005.1 can be provided to the dive supervisor onboard. These include, but are not limited to; asthma, wheezing or use of an inhaler (for medication or sport), brain spinal cord or nervous disorder, chronic bronchitis or persistent chest complaint, most chest surgery, chest illness or condition (past or present), chronic sinuses, collapsed lung, diabetes, epilepsy, seizures, heart disease of any kind, some diseases, recurrent ear problems when flying, tuberculosis or other long-term lung disease, high or low blood pressure or anything that may cause fits, faints or blackouts

Some prescription and non prescription medications may also prevent you from diving (including some malaria prevention tablets) or require you to bring a medical certificate to Australian Standards AS4005.1 with you on your reef trip

*If you are thinking about trying a scuba dive, please read the SCUBA Divers Important Information page to ensure that you are fit to dive according to Australia’s regulations for diving

Can I decide later if I would like to try scuba diving?

Yes.* If you’re not sure whether you would like to go scuba diving during your stay with Reef Encounter, please book one of our snorkel packages and then try our free scuba dive demonstration on-board and see if you are comfortable underwater.* If you are, you can upgrade to one of our resort dive packages. Finding the best way to for you to experience Great Barrier Reef is what we’re all about!

*Please note that age, health and medical restrictions apply for scuba diving in Australia – if you are considering trying scuba diving, please ensure you have read the SCUBA Divers Important Information page

Will I need travel insurance or dive insurance?

All passengers are strongly advised to purchase comprehensive travel insurance that includes trip cancellation insurance, evacuation and medical cover for all intended activities. Please read the wording of your insurance policy carefully and ensure it covers you for all potential activities. In a medical emergency, any evacuation, vessel relocation, medical or other expenses are the financial responsibility of that passenger. Please be aware that scuba diving and other in-water activities are not covered by all travel insurance companies.

We strongly recommend the purchase of travel insurance and scuba dive insurance.

What if I have special requirements?

If you have any special requirements it is important to inform the Reef Encounter team prior to travel. You can do this by writing your special requirements in the ‘Booking Message’ section when completing your online reservation, or by contacting our friendly office – see Contact Us

Reef Encounter is able to cater to most people’s needs. We are a family friendly and disability friendly trip. Please inform us if you require cots for babies, have any dietary requirements, allergies, mobility issues or have a disability that we should be aware of

What is the water temperature and visibility at the reef locations?

Water temperatures on the Great Barrier Reef range from around 18°C (64°F) in the winter and 30°C (86°F) in the summer. The reef is a vast ecosystem and visibility at any given location changes with tides, weather, currents, winds and the seasons. Visibility ranges from around 12 metres (40 feet) to 40 metres (130 feet).

Are there sharks on the Great Barrier Reef?

Yes, sharks inhabit in every ocean – but no need to worry! The ones that we see most are harmless white and black tip reef sharks that are beautiful and graceful creatures to behold and pose no threat to divers or snorkelers. They are shy and timid creatures, and the best chance you have of seeing a shark is to participate in a night dive.

What is the cancellation policy?

Reef Encounter requires 48 hours advance to make any changes or cancel a booking. The cancellation fees are as follows:

  • 20% cancellation fee 30 days or more prior to departure
  • 50% cancellation fee if within 30 days prior to departure
  • 100% cancellation fee within 14 days prior to departure
Schedules are subject to change.

How many guests does Reef Encounter hold?

Reef Encounter can comfortably accommodate 42 guests

Why should I choose Reef Encounter to learn to dive?

Reef Encounter is a Diamond Dive Centre – the highest rating of SSI Dive Training Facilities. Our experienced Instructors guarantee you receive the very best dive education.

Reef Encounter prides itself on its high training and safety standards. Group numbers for a Learn to Dive Course are capped at a maximum of 4 students to 1 Instructor at all times – to ensure quality control and personal training. This is much smaller than many other training vessels! We strongly recommend considering class size when enrolling on any scuba diving course.

All training is done while onboard Reef Encounter, cutting out the need to travel to classroom and pool facilities. We believe that by completing all scuba training in the ocean – in calm confined water – the end result is qualified divers with more confidence, comfort and experience, than courses where the majority of time is spent in a swimming pool. Plus, there is more time to spot the wonderful wildlife when every part of your water training is conducted in the ocean!

The course can be completed as an intensive 3 day course (2 nights) – or in a more relaxed pace 4 day course (3 nights), which leaves more time for general relaxation and reef holiday fun. Reef Encounter also offers a Private Learn to Dive Course with our Top Deck Club – where your booking party will learn to dive with a Scuba Instructor all to yourselves (minimum four day course (3 nights) for the Top Deck Club Learn to Dive).

For more information, see our Learn to Dive page. Please note that if you intend on participating in ANY Scuba Diving activities, you must read the SCUBA Divers Important Information page.

Do I need to worry about jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef?

No, if you take the appropriate precautions, we don’t believe it is necessary to worry about jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef. While we do not force any of our guests to wear protection, we advise all guests to wear appropriate stinger protection – particularly during jellyfish season in the tropics. In the months of stinger season, full body coverage stinger suits are provided free of charge to guests. (Stinger suits are not the same as wetsuits – wetsuits provide buoyancy and warmth)

Reef Encounter operates in the heart of nature and therefore we cannot guarantee that jellyfish will not be present at any time of year – of course – however, it is unusual for jellyfish to be around outside of jellyfish season. The months of November – April are tentatively jellyfish season for the Outer Great Barrier Reefs, however times fluctuate every year depending on the earths weather events. Because you are in the wild, it is always best to take caution and wear protection.

The most common jellyfish that we see at the reef during the season are moon jellyfish – which are incredibly beautiful to behold and the favourite food of many reef turtles! Moon jellies won’t normally cause any stinging sensation upon human contact

What dive sites are visited and how deep are they?

Reef Encounter has the option of visiting many different dive and snorkel sites across five of the best outer Great Barrier Reefs: Norman Reef, Saxon Reef, Hastings Reef, Breaking Patches and Michaelmas Reef

Dive depths vary at each location, but on average are between 6 and 20 metres. Deep dives up to 30 metres (100 feet) are available for those who hold the appropriate advanced certification, or guests may choose to complete the Advanced Certification while onboard. Certified Divers (qualified) with an Open Water licence may dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres (60 feet) and Resort Divers (non-licenced) may dive to a maximum of 12 metres (40 feet).

For more information on reef locations, click here

What's the difference between SSI and PADI?

At a recreational level there is not a great deal of difference between the training offered by SSI and the training offered by PADI. Both schools are widely recognised, reputable Scuba Training Institutions – and it is the same qualification (scuba licence) that you will receive after completing your training through either school. A course you complete with SSI is recognised worldwide and can be used wherever you wish to scuba dive across the globe.

Can I complete further scuba courses with different agencies?

Yes! Because the qualifications you receive are equally recognised worldwide no matter which training agency delivered the course, you can choose to do different levels of training with different agencies. For example – if you have an Open Water Dive Licence with PADI you can choose to do your Advanced Diver licence with SSI, etc. in much the same way as you may choose do a degree with one university and a masters at another. They are equally recognised and accepted worldwide.

Please note that if you have started an Open Water Course with PADI, you are unable to do the referral portion of that Open Water Course with another agency (if you’re half way through a PADI course, the rest of that course must be completed with PADI)  – once finished you can do future courses with whoever you choose!

When can I fly after scuba diving?

You should not travel to a high altitude (fly or drive above 8000 feet) within 18 hours of completing a single scuba dive or 24 hours after multiple dives OR after any ‘deep’ dive. (A deep dive is any dive over 18 meters/60 feet).

We recommended leaving a minimum of 24 hours after your last scuba dive before flying. You can fly and then dive the same day – but not dive and then fly. On the last day of your liveaboard scuba tour, your final dive will be finished by around 12 noon.

Please consider this when arranging ongoing travel plans which include flying or driving to altitude. Flying any time after 12 noon the following day is recommended.

If you have booked a helicopter transfer back to Cairns as part of your Great Barrier Reef liveaboard tour – lucky you! It’s a fabulous way to end a Great Barrier Reef adventure. Our helicopter tours are low flying scenic excursions over the coral reef that are designed to be a safe activity after scuba diving. You may book a helicopter transfer back to Cairns on the final day of your stay with us, even if you have scuba dived that day.

For more information about scuba diving regulations, see our Scuba Divers Important Information page.