Why spend one day on the Great Barrier Reef when you can stay overnight? More is more when it comes to Far North Queensland’s wondrous underwater world.

Perhaps one of the Great Barrier Reef’s greatest claims to fame is that it can be seen from outer space – it’s just that huge and that magnificent. No arguments here, although if you hold high hopes of finding Nemo, you might want to drop anchor about 100 kilometres closer.

The captain shouts “pool’s open”, and the great expanse of calm, scintillating blue becomes yours for the exploring.

One excellent place to do so is from Cairns, Far North Queensland’s gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in all its kaleidoscopic glory. It’s from this lively city that Rum Runner, a 20-metre motor sailer, operates small-group overnight dive and snorkel trips. Although its amenities and bunk-style accommodation are basic (read: floating backpacker hostel), as far as SCUBA and snorkel enthusiasts are concerned, the laid back little company has its first priority spot on – maximum face time with the fishes.

Your offshore adventure starts at 7:30 am with up to 16 fellow seafarers, your skipper at the helm and a friendly crew of four. Much of the three-hour journey to the outer reef is spent being briefed on the need-to-knows (seasickness etiquette, ice burg protocol, how to signal ‘shark’ underwater), but at some point between snacking on toasties, gearing up and practicing your best Jack and Rose at the bow, the captain shouts “pool’s open”, and the great expanse of calm, scintillating blue becomes yours for the exploring.

Over the next 24 hours, Rum Runner will moor at up to five different sites within Thetford Reef or Moore Reef, chosen to suit the tide, wind and weather conditions. Divers can partake in up to six dives including one atmospheric night dive, while snorkelers have until dusk to marvel at the fascinating activity unfolding less than a metre from their masks.

If you’re not a certified diver but are looking to dip your fins a little deeper, introductory dives are available with fully qualified instructors. And it’s a definite recommend. Under the instructor’s cool and confident guidance, you’ll sink into the blue, glide weightlessly amongst sea life darting in every direction, and surface 30 minutes later feeling nothing short of utterly superhuman.

Having spent all day diving drifts and drop offs, circling bommies or simply splashing merrily in sunlit shallows, hungry swimmers will be happy to know that meals come thick and fast – a casual self-serve affair comprising tasty home-style food, prepared freshly on board, and devoured above deck while knocking knees to the rhythm of the rolling sea. Then as a late sun dips below the horizon, there’s nothing for it but to drift to sleep, legs tired, tummies full and the Coral Sea lapping gently at the hull.

The best thing about day two is that you get to do it all again, right before heading back to Cairns mid-afternoon, now with magical memories, a tropical glow and a bunch of like-minded friends.

This liveaboard adventure may not boast all the creature comforts you’ll find on land, but with flourishing coral gardens and abundant sea life dancing only centimetres from your bed, few hotels offer a sense of location that rivals that of Rum Runner.


By Suzanne Chellingworth


Rum Runner Liveaboard Dive Trips
t: 0429 638 744
a: E Finger #3 Marlin Marina Cairns


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