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Cairns Night Diving

Cairns Night Diving

Cairns night diving is an opportunity for divers to see the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef come alive within torch light, as creatures that are normally hidden away during the day, come out to play.

To do a Great Barrier Reef night dive from Cairns, you will need to book a liveaboard trip*. These can be booked as overnight tours or anywhere up to seven nights. Liveaboard trips can be booked on the Outer Great Barrier Reef, off Cairns, or taken as expeditions to the northern Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea.

* There is an exception to this, which is the night diving trips scheduled specifically to allow divers to witness the annual, natural phenomena of Coral Spawning. The dates and details for Cairns Coral Spawning Trips change every year, pending the predicted timing for the spawning event, but are usually in either October, November or December.

On all Cairns night dives you have the opportunity to dive the site during the day, allowing you to orientate yourself to the site. For those certified divers who have never completed a night dive before, you will be required to go guided for your first dive. Please note: this may be an additional cost, pending which tour you book: contact us for more information.

What will I see night diving from Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef?

Seeing the Great Barrier Reef by torchlight offers a totally different experience to viewing it during the day. Descending into the inky blackness, your torch beam will illuminate small sections of the reef, revealing the luminescent eyes of crabs, shrimps and crustaceans. Some of the stranger crustaceans you may see include the slipper lobster or the small disguised decorator crabs.

As your torch beam reveals the presence of several species of small Great Barrier Reef fish, you’ll notice that you attract some keen ‘followers’, such as red bass, fusiliers and snapper, all eager to take advantage of your light to help find their dinner. Reef sharks are also more active at night and are often attracted to the lights of the boat.

Looking under corals and into crevices you may find some sleeping creatures including turtles (make sure you don’t shine the torchlight into their eyes, as it can wake them) and parrotfish, enclosed in their protective, mucus-filled sacs. This is also a great time to see nudibranchs active in their mating ritual.

Where’s the best place to do a night dive from Cairns?

As mentioned above, you will need to book a liveaboard trip to do any night diving from Cairns. As such, some advance planning and booking is highly recommended, to ensure you don’t miss out on this amazing experience.

Options for Cairns night diving destinations vary. Choose between a trip to Cairns’ Outer Great Barrier Reef sites, such as Norman and Flynn Reefs, or take a journey to the Ribbon Reefs or Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. There is no ‘correct’ answer to the ‘where’s the best place to do a night dive’ question, as all Cairns liveaboard trips offer excellent night diving!

The number of night dives you can do varies, pending trip duration and type of trip. Cairns Outer Reef Liveaboard Trips offer one night dive, per night spent on the Great Barrier Reef. Whereas the Cod Hole and Northern Ribbon Reefs Trips allow you the chance to complete 1 -2 night dives. The Osprey Reef and Coral Sea Trip only allows for one night dive: this is due to the distances travelled on these remote dive trips (the boat is moving during the night, hence no time for diving).
At different times of the year, a twilight dive may be offered on some of the remote far northern trips rather than a night dive. This is due to the different length of daylight hours, in the different Cairns seasons.
Some Cairns Night Diving Liveaboard Trips include all equipment, while others offer torches for hire onboard (at extra cost).

Night diving: guided vs unguided

Night diving is a very different experience to day diving. Apart from the obvious navigational differences (you can’t see anything, except for what is illuminated by your torch light), night diving is a different sensory experience which for the unfamiliar, is best completed with a dive guide.
Dive guides know the site well and can take you through the dark underwater world, showing you the different critters, allowing you to enjoy the dive, rather than be focusing on diving in the dark.

Please note: Dive guides are compulsory for all divers who have not completed a night dive before, regardless of day time diving experience. Depending on the liveaboard trip you have chosen, the guided night dive may be included in the tour price, or charged as an additional cost. Ask us for more information on this. NB: Night dive guides are generally charged at a rate of $11 to $15 per person, per dive.

Unguided night diving is only recommended for the more experienced diver who is confident with navigation and familiar with night diving. Those divers will enjoy seeking out rarely seen critters, which emerge at night to forage for food.

Please note: If you are completing your Cairns Learn to Dive Course onboard a liveaboard trip, that is at least 3 days and 2 nights, you will have the opportunity to complete one night dive as a certified diver.

Introductory night dives

Introductory night dives are only available on board one of the Cairns Outer Reef Liveaboard Trips. They are not available on the Ribbon Reef or Coral Sea trips: this is due to the strict limitations that are applied to introductory night dives.

Please note: You must have already completed at least one Introductory Dive during the day, to participate in an Introductory Night Dive.

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Selected Tours

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.

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.
Pro Dive Cairns liveaboard scuba dive vessel - ScubaPro

Spirit of Freedom – Cod Hole Trip

The Cod Hole is a ‘must see’ for any certified diver! Spirit of Freedom offers outstanding customer service on these 4 day / 3 night trips. Departs Monday. Up to 11 dives. Cairns-Lizard Island flight.
Spirit of Freedom at the Cod Hole on the Great Barrier Reef

Mike Ball – Spoilsport: Cod Hole

Visit the world famous Cod Hole, on the Great Barrier Reef's Ribbon Reefs with Mike Ball. 4 day / 3 night trip. Departs Monday. Up to 12 dives. Includes scenic flight Cairns - Lizard Island.

Ocean Quest – Minke Whale Dive Expeditions

Limited Season – Dwarf Minke Whale Trips – June and July 2019. Departs Cairns on a Friday and returns Tuesday. Up to 16 dives on Outer Great Barrier Reef and Ribbon Reefs.
Cairns Minke Whale Dive Trips

Spirit of Freedom – Coral Sea Trip

If you want adventure diving with 1,000m wall drop offs, amazing visibility & more reef sharks than you can poke a stick at, this is the trip for you! 4 day / 4 night. Departs Thursdays. Up to 15 dives.
Cairns best scuba diving trip to the Cold Hole and Ribbon Reefs

Mike Ball – Spoilsport: Coral Sea Dive Expedition

The Coral Sea is a shark lovers paradise! Advanced divers will enjoy 1,000m wall drop offs and amazing visibility on this 4 day / 4 night trip. Departs Thursday. Up to 14 dives. Incl Cairns - Lizard Island flight.
Sharks on the Coral Sea, near the Great Barrier Reef

Mike Ball – Spoilsport: Cod Hole & Coral Sea Trip (7-Nights)

A scuba divers paradise! 7 day / 7 night trip exploring Great Barrier Reef's Ribbon Reefs & Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea. Departs Thursday. Up to 26 dives. Advanced certification required.
Grey Whaler Reef Shark

Spirit of Freedom – Cod Hole & Coral Sea Trip

The ultimate liveaboard dive trip from Cairns! 7 day / 7 night adventure includes Great Barrier Reef's Ribbon Reefs (Cod Hole) and Coral Sea (shark diving). Departs Mondays. Up to 26 certified dives.
Scuba Diving with Grey Whaler Sharks in the Coral Sea

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.

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.

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.

Spirit Of Freedom – Far Northern Scuba Diving Expeditions

Spirit of Freedom offer Far Northern Scuba Diving Expeditions into the remote Northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef. 7-Day Liveaboards depart Cairns on Mondays Return on Mondays!
Large ref seafans.

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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