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Stepping Stones, Bait Reef
Explore Group
Diving the Great Barrier Reef
Fringing Reef
Heart Pontoon
Hump Headed Maori Wrasse

Scuba dive during your bareboat charter 9:36am, Mon 09 Oct 2017

It comes as no surprise that the Whitsunday Islands is home to some of the best dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef. What may surprise you is that you can go diving during your bareboat charter. With a little organising, you can arrange to meet day cruises on the way to their dive sites or have them meet you. Either way, by knowing a little local knowledge on how you can dive during your bareboat charter will see you and your crew ticking off sailing around the Whitsundays and diving the Great Barrier Reef from your bucket list.

Day Cruises

There are a number of day cruises that offer both introductory dives for those that haven't dived before, and certified dives for those that are qualified. You can choose to dive on the fringing reef around the islands, or if you're feeling up to it and don't mind the extra travelling time, you can also go to the outer reef, approximately 40 nautical miles offshore.

Outer Great Barrier Reef

Departing from Port of Airlie in Airlie Beach, Cruise Whitsundays makes a short stop at Daydream Island (currently closed for refurbishment and reopening mid 2018) and Hamilton Island to pick up guests before heading to their pontoon 'Heart Pontoon' at Hardy Reef. The 2-hour journey will take you on a scenic trip through the islands, cruising at high speed in air-conditioned comfort on board 'Seaflight' a 37-meter catamaran.

Once at the pontoon, there are a number of activities to enjoy, but for the keen divers, the specially built 'moon pool' underneath the pontoon is where you'll start your dive taking you out along the Hardy Reef wall; a vertical coral wall that drops to 60m beneath the pontoon. An abundance of sea life can be found along the coral wall including turtles, parrot fish, hump-headed Maori Wrasse and Giant Trevallies just to name a few. All meals and refreshments are included in the ticket price and you spend approximately 4 hours on the pontoon, with up to 370 other guests when busy.

Explore depart Hamilton Island visiting 2 dive locations at Bait Reef, the closest reef to the Whitsundays. While their dive-vessel can take up to 100 people, they cap numbers at 60 making for a more intimate outer reef dive experience.

Diving directly from the back of the vessel from the hydraulically lowered stairs and platform has you diving on the reef within minutes. The 'Stepping Stones' are a cluster of coral bommies that form a near straight pathway of reef which looks like a series of stepping stones, hence the name. The marine life around the stepping stones is out of this world, with humpback whales known to frequent the stepping stones during their annual migration. If you're lucky enough on your dive, you'll be able to hear them singing under the water. You spend a minimum of 3.5 hours at the dive site before heading back to Hamilton Island with all meals and refreshments included in the ticket price.

To jump on board these outer reef cruises, you can moor or anchor your bareboat near one of the island resorts that they depart from, leaving your bareboat for the day while you go to the outer reef.

Fringing Reef

If spending the day with a large group of people and travelling for a long time isn't your thing, you may prefer to dive the reef around the islands, known as fringing reef. There are more soft coral varieties found around the islands due to the protection that the islands offer with each dive site unique in its own way. You can arrange to meet Mantaray Charters or Whitsunday Bullet who visit certain dive sites depending on the prevailing wind and tide conditions. Most of the time they'll pick you up from your vessel in their tender/dinghy, or alternatively, you can take your tender to the dive boat less than 100m from yours. The beauty about meeting up with this type of charter is that you aren't leaving your bareboat for long periods of time and you're only paying for the actual dive, as opposed to paying for a full day cruise with all the trimmings included.

Dive rendezvous

Tornado Dive is a customised dive training boat with a dive platform. By making contact with them 24 hours before you want to dive, they will arrange to meet you at a dive site that will offer the best conditions for the weather and tides on that day. Pick up a mooring or drop anchor at the rendezvous point before making your way on board Tornado for your dive.

Depending on the time of year, you may find that you are the only bareboat they are meeting, which means a much more relaxed and intimate experience, getting that one on one time with the dive instructor.


If meeting up with other boats and diving with other groups of people isn't your thing, or if you're looking for a more laid-back experience and you're already a certified diver, you can hire your dive equipment from Aqua Dive at Abell Point Marina and take everything you need with you on your bareboat. Aqua Dive will provide a dive map with the equipment, showing you where you can find the best dive sites as well as locations of where you can refill your dive tanks at various locations around the islands, or from Tornado Dive. Depending on the size of your bareboat, a maximum of 4 tanks can be taken on board.

If diving BYO, be sure to raise your dive flag so other boaties know there are divers in the vicinity, and always scuba dive in buddy pairs.

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