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Cairns Helmet Diving

What Is Helmet Diving?

Cairns Helmet Diving is an option available for people who visit Green Island or one of Cairns’ three Great Barrier Reef pontoons. What is helmet diving? Helmet diving could best be described as underwater helmet walking.

The helmet looks a little like the pearl diver helmets of old, and kind of works in a similar way. The helmet (newer and much lighter than the old fashioned ones!) sits on the person’s shoulders, encasing their entire head. Connected to the surface with an air-hose, the helmet provides a constant supply of fresh air to the helmet wearer, when they are under the water.

Cairns Helmet Diving

Cairns Helmet Diving

The Helmet

Wally and Diving


This experience is open to most people, and even non-swimmers can enjoy walking under the water with the fish.

You do not need any previous scuba or cairns helmet diving experience to try this for the first time. As previously mentioned, you do not even need to know how to swim, as when helmet diving, you are actually ‘walking’ along under the sea, not swimming around.

Helmet Diving Video

Thanks to Cairns Underwater Video Filming – Calypso Productions

Helmet Diving Prices

  Base Tour Cost* 1st dive 2nd dive
Reef Magic 190.00 120.00 70.00
Sunlover 190.00 140.00 n/a
Seawalker Green Island 84.00 160.00 n/a

What does Cairns helmet diving involve?

Spending time under the water, exploring corals and having a fish-eye view of the reef and marine creatures. It’s not like scuba diving, as you are connected to the surface at all times (by the air hose) and you are walking, not swimming. But it does give non-divers (and non-swimmers!) the chance to explore the underwater world, giving a totally new and different experience to snorkeling or swimming.

All helmet diving equipment, safety and instruction briefings are provided by the operator. The helmet diving activity is completed in small groups, for maximum participant comfort and safety. Helmet divers are accompanied by a certified scuba diver, the entire time they are under the water.

Getting Ready

Ready to Dive

Ready to Dive

Under the Water

Under the Water


It involves gearing up, walking down and along a submerged platform in the water and seeing the fish and marine life. It usually involves a fish feed, conducted by the certified scuba diver in front of the helmet, giving you a front row seat to the action, and some underwater photos being taken of you.

A helmet dive generally takes between 20-25 minutes and can be completed in conjunction with other day tour activities, including snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours etc.

Who can do helmet diving in Cairns?

Helmet diving is open to most people. There are age restrictions, as you need to be large enough for the helmet to fit properly: you must be over 12 years of age. You also need to be of reasonable health and not suffer from conditions such as asthma, epilepsy and/or heart conditions. These reasons are for your own health and safety in the water, so it’s important you are honest when completing the on-board, pre-helmet diving medical questionnaire. Cairns helmet diving is not suitable for pregnant women. Non-swimmers can helmet dive, providing a unique way to see the Great Barrier Reef!

What happens on your Cairns Helmet Dive?

Helmet diving is an easy activity to incorporate into your Great Barrier Reef day tour. Once you have booked it, you are invited to attend an equipment and safety briefing on board the boat. This is usually completed on the trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. During this briefing you are shown all of the equipment and the helmet dive process and procedure is explained to you.

They also show you some basic underwater hand signals that divers use to communicate with each other under the water. These are very important, as of course, you can’t talk with your dive guide when you are under the water. During the briefings, you are divided into groups and told what time your helmet dive will take place.

At the pontoon or island, the time is your own to enjoy and explore, until the allocated helmet dive time. Meeting with the helmet dive instructor, a quick refresh on procedures is provided, as are lycra suits / wetsuits for your in-water comfort. Then, it’s down the stairs, into the water and on with the helmet.

Wave for a photo

Wave for a photo

Cairns Helmet Dive

Cairns Helmet Dive

Having a great time

Having a great time


Once you confirm you are OK, you slowly walk deeper into the water and on to the pathway, until you are fully submerged. The helmet sits comfortably on your shoulders and you can hear the air being pumped into it. The scuba diver checks you are OK and once everyone is comfortable, you walk along the pathway, following the instructions of the diver.

It is important to equalize your ears throughout the experience. Although helmet dives are not deep (you do not go any deeper than 4m under the water) the pressure still builds in your ears. Equalising is easy and explained to you on the boat.

Each helmet dive is different, but always includes a fish feed. The scuba diver will feed the fish right in front of your helmet, an amazing experience and way to see the Great Barrier Reef fish, up close and personal. The scuba diver will also hand you things to touch during the helmet dive, such as shells and sea cucumbers, and point out soft corals.

The helmet dive lasts around 20 – 25 minutes and is completed by walking back up to the pontoon and having your helmet removed.

What’s the difference between a helmet dive and an introductory scuba dive?

There are quite a few differences between helmet diving and introductory scuba diving. The main difference is the swimming component. To do an introductory scuba dive, you do need to know how to swim. Although you are guided by a dive instructor, who holds your hand / links arms with you, you are still swimming around the reef. Helmet diving is actually walking around under the water: you do not need to know how to swim to participate in this, but you should be comfortable in the water. So, you do get to see more of the reef when you try an introductory scuba dive, just because you have the freedom to swim around the reef. Helmet divers are restricted to seeing what is alongside (swims alongside) the submerged pathway.

Cairns Introductory Diving

Cairns Introductory Diving

Introductory Diving Fun

Introductory Diving Fun

Wally Introductory Diving

Wally Introductory Diving


Depth is another difference. Introductory scuba diving goes down to 10m, helmet diving only takes you down to 4m. The equipment is, of course, totally different as well. Introductory scuba diving uses scuba diving equipment (mask, air tank and BCD): helmet diving just uses a helmet, which is always connected to the surface with an air-supply hose. You can helmet dive and go under the water, without even getting your hair wet!

What’s the similarities between a helmet dive and an introductory scuba dive?

No previous experience is needed for either. All of the equipment and briefings are included in the price. A qualified scuba diving instructor accompanies you under the water at all times, on both activities. There are certain health conditions which will preclude you from participating in both of these in-water activities (including asthma). Both allow non-divers to spend time under the water, meeting the fish and exploring the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, giving you an entirely new perspective!

For more information, and to read a first hand account of helmet diving, check out our Cairns Helmet Diving Review.

Cairns Helmet Diving FAQ

Can certified scuba divers helmet dive?

The answer to this question is yes you can: whether or not you would want to, is a completely different question. In my opinion, be free and dive around the reef to see as much as you can. Certified divers will not like being constrained to a pathway or the feeling of needing to constantly equalize throughout the entire helmet dive.

What’s better, an introductory scuba dive or a helmet dive?

This is a tricky question, to which there is no right or wrong answer. Basically, it all depends on the individual. Some people will prefer the comfort of walking under the water on a pathway (helmet diving), while others will prefer the freedom of swimming around the reef with a certified scuba diving instructor. NB: You do get to see more of the reef on an introductory scuba dive, as you are moving around and can go looking for things. For non-divers, both are a great way to explore the reef under the water.

Can I do a helmet dive and an introductory scuba dive?

Yes you can. Both of these activities can be booked together and done separately.

What will I see during a helmet dive from Cairns?

It all depends! We can never make promises with exactly what you will see, but, you will definitely see fish and some corals. If you are lucky, you may even see a turtle or more.

How long does a helmet dive take on the Great Barrier Reef

They usually last around 20-25 minutes and can easily be incorporated with other reef day tour activities, including snorkeling and glass bottom boat tours.

Do you need to know how to swim to helmet dive in Cairns?

No. You do not actually swim when helmet diving, you walk along a submerged pathway. However, your entire body is under the water, so you do need to be comfortable under and in the water to participate in this activity.

How deep can you go on a helmet dive?

Helmet diving only goes to approximately 4m under the water. You are connected to the surface at all times with an air-supply hose. You walk along a submerged pathway.

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