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Ocean Quest vs Reef Encounter vs Pro-Dive Cairns which is the best Cairns Liveaboard?

Ocean Quest vs Reef Encounter vs Pro-Dive Cairns which is the best Cairns Liveaboard? It is hard trying to choose between the top 3 liveaboards in Cairns, is it Ocean Quest or Reef Encounter or Pro-Dive Cairns?

By the end of this article, you will be equipped with enough information to help you determine which is the best Cairns liveaboard dive boat for your next dive holiday on the Great Barrier Reef.

We explain the distinguishing features on offer from all three liveaboards.

Liveaboard Dive Boat Ocean Quest Cairns

Ocean Quest Liveaboard Cairns.

Liveaboard dive boat Reef Encounter

Reef Encounter the liveaboard Cairns.

Liveaboard dive boat Pro-Dive Cairns.

Pro-Dive Cairns.


We show you the positive and negative characteristics of each boat e.g. how they handle in the water especially interesting for those that get a little sea sick. We also show you what the main differences are in each trip itinerary and what marine life you can expect to see at each dive location!

All three liveaboards offer something different, they all have their own unique characteristics that cater for each person’s scuba diving abilities, budget, and accommodation requirements. Read on to find out what these are.

Ok, let’s get into it!

Ocean Quest vs Reef Encounter vs Pro-Dive Cairns which is the best Cairns Liveaboard?

INTRODUCING THE 3 CONTESTERS:

Below is a quick rundown of the main distinguishing features of each boat. We will then get into the nitty gritty to define the positive and negative differences.

Ocean Quest Introduction:

Ocean Quest is owned and operated by local dive company Deep Sea Divers Den. Operating in Cairns for over 40 years, they are a PADI certified dive training company. Deep Sea Divers Den operate 4 dive vessels including; Ocean Quest – Cairns Liveaboard, Reef Quest – Cairns day boat, Sea Quest – Cairns day boat that services the liveaboard Ocean Quest and Aqua Quest – Port Douglas day boat. (Aqua Quest is the newest addition to the Deep Sea Divers Den fleet of boats, it is their newest dive and snorkel operation departing from Port Douglas).

Ocean Quest Specifics:

Hull Type:           Twin Hull
Length:                36 metres / 119 feet
Beam:                  13 metres / 43 feet
Cruise:                 14 knots
Divers:                 48
Nitrox:                 Yes
Day Areas:          Large Sun Deck, Large Saloon

Ocean Quest Cairns Boat Conclusion:

A large stable vessel, very good handling in most weather conditions. Easy access for divers to get in and out of the water. Clean comfortable rooms. Good Meals.

Reef Encounter Introduction:

Reef Encounter is also owned and operated by a passionate local Cairns family. Reef Encounter operates a large twin hull liveaboard. They also operate a day boat called Reef Experience. Reef Experience transfers passengers from the mainland to the liveaboard daily. This enables passengers to board and depart the liveaboard daily. They also operate another day boat called compass cruises. Reef Encounter is an SSI certified dive training company.

Reef Encounter Specifics:

Hull Type:           Twin Hull
Length:                34.92 metres / 114.56 feet
Beam:                  13.28 metres / 43.56 feet
Cruise:                 12 knots
Divers:                 42
Nitrox:                 Yes
Day Areas            Large Sun Deck, Large Saloon, Heated Jacuzzi

Reef Encounter Cairns Boat Conclusion:

Reef Encounter is also a large stable twin hull vessel that offers a comfortable on board experience in most weather conditions. Large dive deck with easy access to the water for divers and snorkelers. Great meals all prepared by the onboard chef.

Pro-Dive Cairns Introduction:

Owned and operated by the Quicksilver group of companies. Pro-dive Cairns have 3 purpose built liveaboard dive boats that depart and return to Cairns every 3 days. Pro-Dive liveaboards depart every day of the week, except on Tuesdays. Pro-Dive Cairns are a PADI Certified Diver training facility. Pro-Dive Cairns have a fantastic reputation for being one of the best dive training companies in Cairns.

Pro-Dive Cairns Specifics:

Hull Type:           Single Hull
Length:                25 metres / 83 feet
Beam:                  7 metres / 25 feet
Cruise:                 10 knots
Divers:                 32
Nitrox:                 Yes
Day Areas            Small Sun Deck, Medium Saloon.

Pro-Dive Cairns Boat Conclusion:

Single hull vessels do allow more movement in the ocean than twin hull vessels. The idea of a single hull vessel is they can handle a harsher environment when it comes to extremely high wind and rough seas. The single hull design allows the boat to slice thru waves and swell. The downside of the single hull design is once the boat is moored the boat does bob around from side to side allot more than a twin hull vessel. All Pro-Dive Cairns boats are single hull vessels.

DIVE LOCATIONS AND MARINE LIFE FOUND WITH EACH LIVEABOARD:

Read on to see where each liveaboard goes, and what you can expect to see diving at each location.

WHICH DIVE SITES DO OCEAN QUEST CAIRNS VISIT:

Ocean Quest is permanently moored between Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs. The skipper will move the boat twice each day for maximum exploration of these dive sites. Travel to Ocean Quest is on day boat Sea Quest. Travel time takes 1 hour 15 minutes from Cairns.

WHAT CAN YOU SEE DIVING WITH OCEAN QUEST CAIRNS?

Giant Green Maori Wrasse

Giant Green Maori Wrasse

Diving with Ocean Quest is at Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs, you can expect to find large shallow coral gardens and deep outer reef walls. Bright colorful soft and hard coral colonies can be found in 6 to 12 meters of water on top of the reefs. Many cleaning stations with smaller cleaner wrasse can be found in the shallows, these attract larger predatory species like giant trevally, mauri wrasse and coral trout. The deeper outer reef walls are home to white tip and black tip reef sharks (usually sleeping in the sand during the day). Outer reef walls extend to a depth of 22 meters in most areas. Bright colorful anemones housing the Great Barrier Reefs most famous fish the clownfish (Nemo) can be found in around 8 meters of water. You can also find swim through’s or coral caves for a unique diving experience.

WHICH DIVE SITES DO REEF ENCOUNTER CAIRNS VISIT:

Reef Encounter Cairns have reef permits for Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs. They move the boat twice per day to give maximum time diving on fresh dive sites. Travel time from Cairns is with day boat Reef Experience and takes 1 hour 15 minutes to arrive at the Reef Encounter Liveaboard.

WHAT CAN YOU SEE DIVING WITH REEF ENCOUNTER CAIRNS?

Green Humphead Parrot Fish on the Great Barrier Reef.

Green Humphead Parrot Fish.

Diving with Reef Encounter at Norman, Saxon and Hastings Reefs you can expect time find large bright colorful coral gardens located in around 6 to 8 meters of water on top of the reefs. The outer reef walls you can find a depth of around 22 meters.

Common sighting of giant Green Humphead Parrot Fish in large schools of 6 or 8 animals (Usually very early morning). Giant clams, cleaner wrasse, many cleaning stations, sting rays, octopus and the odd sighting of transient Manta Rays that pass by from time to time.

WHICH DIVE SITES DO PRO-DIVE CAIRNS VISIT:

Pro-Dive Cairns have reef permits on Flynn, Milne and Pellowe Reefs. These dives sites are located 65 km East from Cairns. Travel time with Pro-Dive Cairns to this part of the reef is 2.5 hours. Pro-Dive Cairns choose 2 dives sites every day.

WHAT CAN YOU SEE DIVING WITH PRO-DIVE CAIRNS?

White Tip reef shark on the Great Barrier Reef.

White Tip Reef Shark

Diving with Pro-Dive Cairns at Flynn Milne and Pellow reefs you can expect to find nice shallow coral gardens, bright colorful soft and hard coral colonies. Diving at dives sites names “Gordons, Tracy’s, Three Sisters and Little Tracy’s”. On the outer reef walls, a maximum depth of around 25 meters can be found in the deepest sections. Expect to find large schools of juvenile barracuda (seasonal), beautiful white and yellow sweetlips, giant mauri wrasse, schools of humphead parrot fish and many species or sea turtle including the rare and endangered hawksbill sea turtle. White tip and black tip reef sharks are also common sightings at these reef sites.

HOW TO CHOOSE BETWEEN OCEAN QUEST VS REEF ENCOUNTER VS PRO-DIVE CAIRNS?

To really help you choose it pays to start out asking yourself a few questions. This will help you to decide which is the best liveaboard dive boat for you. Furthermore, we are assuming you are already a certified scuba diver and you are looking for the best dive vs comfort experience available on a Cairns liveaboard.

If you do not have your dive license, like the PADI open water or similar then you should check out the section on the best learn to dive courses from Cairns. This article is written for the already certified diver.

OK let’s keep going!

ASK YOURSELF WHAT SORT OF DIVER ARE YOU?

To help clarify a few things you should ask yourself a few questions. This will help you work out which is the best liveaboard for you.

IS PRO-DIVE CAIRNS FOR YOU?

  • Are you a highly experienced diver?
  • How many dives have you logged, more than 50? both you and your buddy?
  • Are you solely interested in diving and do not really care too much about creature comforts?

If you answer yes to any or all the above, then you should choose Pro-Dive Cairns. Why? Pro-Dive Cairns are a single hull design vessel. Purpose built for carving thru rough seas, and getting to the destination intact. Pro-Dive Cairns are the only boat that runs a true start to finish liveaboard departing and returning to Cairns every three days. (There are no departures on Tuesdays)

The rooms are small, they only have shared bathroom options, the meals work but you couldn’t call them anything fancy. The main purpose of this boat is diving. Pro-Dive Cairns are the largest learn to dive training company in Cairns, they do have a great reputation for this. The boat usually holds around 60-75% newly certified students completing their certification and first fun dives. So this is something to think about if you are looking at this option.

If you are already a certified diver, then why choose Pro-Dive Cairns? That’s easy it is the reef sites they visit. Pro-Dive Cairns spend all their time at Flynn, Milne and Pellowe Reefs (located 65 km East of Cairns). All the diving is unguided (So this is where it pays to be an experienced diver) you will need to buddy up with a friend or if you are alone they will buddy you up with someone of similar experience. (There is no option to do guided diving on this boat). You then go off and explore the reefs by yourself in your own buddy pairs. This option might not be so good for people with less dive experience or if you prefer a dive guide.

Pro-Dive Cairns is great for photographers that want their freedom, great for divers who do not want a dive guide. The dive deck is a little cramped and there is not much room to put your cameras but the dive site locations offer great diving.

MINI PRO-DIVE CAIRNS CONCLUSION:

Positives – Great for experienced divers that do not want a dive guide and want to dive by themselves. Good dive sites, great dive briefings, good fun crew. Includes Cairns Hotel bus pickups.

Negatives – Smaller rooms, all shared cabins, no private en-suite bathrooms, meals are simple, no dive guides, not allot of room on the dive deck. Not much room for photographers cameras.

IS OCEAN QUEST FOR YOU?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you highly experienced or maybe haven’t dived in a while?
  • Do you have a few dives under your belt but maybe not so recent? both you and your buddy?
  • Are you interested in beautiful diving but you do care about creature comforts?
  • Maybe you and your wife are traveling together, you would like nice diving and a nice hot meal and comfy room to lay your head at the end of the day. You may also like the creature comforts of a private ensuite bathroom?

Ocean Quest is comfortable. With two room types, you can choose from TWIN share (2 x beds in one room) or double (1 x double bed in one room). Both room types have private ensuite bathrooms. If you are traveling by yourself choose the twin share you would share with another person.

Ocean Quest is much larger than Pro-Dive, it is a TWIN Hull vessel so allot more stable in the water. Better for people who tend to get sea sick. Ocean Quest have reef permits on Norman, Saxxon and Hastings Reefs.

All dives are unguided, so still good for those that want their freedom like underwater photographers and experienced divers. But you can still get a dive guide for just $15 per dive. Ocean Quest include all snorkel and dive gear including wetsuit. They also include local Cairns Hotel Bus Transfers.

MINI OCEAN QUEST CONCLUSION:

Positives – Great for both experienced and the not so experienced diver. Dive guides are available at extra cost. Good dive sites, great dive briefings, nice spacious rooms with private ensuites, good fun crew with yummy meals, include Cairns Hotel Bus Pick Ups.

Negatives – Sometimes you can have small children on board, this is not a negative but some people might not like this. Day boat transfers you to the mothership so people boarding and disembarking daily, also not a really a negative as it actually allows you to book this boat 7 days a week. Dive guides cost extra.

IS REEF ENCOUNTER FOR YOU?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you highly experienced or maybe haven’t dived in a while?
  • Do you have a few dives under your belt but maybe not so recent? both you and your buddy?
  • Are you interested in beautiful diving but you do care allot about creature comforts? Maybe you and your wife are traveling together, you would like nice diving and a nice hot meal and comfy room to lay your head at the end of the day.
  • You may also like the creature comforts of a private ensuite bathroom and maybe the option to go Top Deck with a private concierge, private meals and all private guided dives?

Welcome to Reef Encounter. This TWIN Hull vessel is roughly the same size as Ocean Quest, it has 2 room types, the Multishare room (3 x single beds in one room) and the spacious TWIN/DOUBLE Staterooms (TWIN room has two single beds or the DOUBLE room has one double bed) All rooms have private ensuite bathrooms.

So, if you are on a budget you can book the Multishare room (3 x people in one room) please note all passengers must be over 18 years to go in the Multishare rooms. These offer great value for money and are good for a group of friends traveling together and wanting to dive the Great Barrier Reef on a budget.

The private Staterooms are either in TWIN bed or Double bed format are perfect for friends or couple. You can also bring an infant or young child in the stateroom with the parents. Reef Encounter have a roll away bed / cot for small children. This is an extra charge.

A service that neither Ocean Quest or Pro-Dive Cairns offer is the TOP DECK service. This includes valet service, champagne on arrival, breakfast served in your room, sunset cocktails, turn down service, romantic dinner under the stars (weather permitting), personal snorkel / dive guide available at all times. (Now that’s service!)

Reef Encounter take it that one step further for creature comforts with the TOP DECK service. It does cost more, but if you are looking for a more unique experience on the Great Barrier Reef choose Reef Encounter.

Reef Encounter have reef permits on Norman, Saxxon and Hastings Reefs.

All dives are unguided, so this trip is still good for those that want their freedom like underwater photographers and experienced divers. But you can still get a dive guide for just $15 per dive. Reef Encounter includes all snorkel and dive gear but do charge $5 per day for wetsuit hire. They also charge extra for Cairns Hotel Bus Transfers.

The crew are friendly and the chef is known for whipping up a storm in the kitchen.

MINI REEF ENCOUNTER CONCLUSION:

Positives – Great for both experienced and the not so experienced diver. Dive guides are available at extra cost. Good dive sites, great dive briefings, nice spacious rooms with private ensuites, good fun crew with yummy meals. Heated Jacuzzi and the option to upgrade to TOP DECK.

Negatives – Sometimes you can have small children on board, this is not a negative but some people might not like this. Day boat transfers you to the mothership so people boarding and disembarking daily, also not a really a negative as it actually allows you to book this boat 7 days a week. Dive guides cost extra. Wetsuits cost extra, Cairns Hotel Bus Transfers cost extra.

CONCLUSION:

This is a long article but if you made it here you should now have a much better understanding of what the main points of difference are between each liveaboard dive boat.

You should understand what the bedding arrangements on offer are. What the meal options are and most importantly what the dive sites offer in what you can expect to see diving with these 3 liveaboard dive boats.

Any questions? Or still confused? Send us an email with your questions and or requirements and we will do our absolute best to point you in the right direction. Please call PH: +61 7 40411 638 or Email: reservations@cairnsdiveadventures.com

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Selected Tours

Pro Dive – Liveaboard

Watch the sun set and wake up on the Great Barrier Reef on this 3 day / 2 night trip from Cairns. Suitable for divers and snorkellers. Twin share and double cabins. Includes meals and accommodation.
$775
Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard scuba dive vessel - ScubaPro


Ribbon Reef Explorer – CANCELLED

Please note that Ribbon Reef Explorer ceased operations as of 25 December 2015. Ribbon Reef trips can still be booked on Spirit of Freedom and Mike Ball Dive Expeditions. Contact us for more info.
$


Coral Sea Dreaming

Low number, overnight sailing adventures from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef for divers and snorkelers. Max 12 guests. 3 Crew.
$460


Deep Sea Divers Den – Liveaboard

Liveaboard dive / snorkel trips that depart Cairns daily. Can be booked in 2-3-4 day options. Maximum of 30 overnight guests. Includes all meals and accommodation.
$465


Reef Encounter – Liveaboard Trips

Reef Encounter offers 2-3-4 day trips from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. Suitable for snorkelers and divers: options for all budgets and itineraries.
$525


Cairns Dive Centre – Liveaboard Trips

Stay at sea. Can be booked as 2-3-4 day Great Barrier Reef trips, including transfers, accommodation, linen, meals and dive / snorkel equipment. Daily departures.
$555
CDC_KangarooExplorer


Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.

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