Cairns holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I met my boyfriend Roscoe four years ago. Despite us both being from the UK and living half an hour away from each other back home, we met on Australia’s ocean out on one of the many Barrier Reef trips that explore the world’s largest and best reef in the world.
He was on a year working holiday visa training as a Dive Master. I was a newly traveling solo on my first Round The World Trip after separating from my friends in Thailand. I had recently found out that as an asthmatic I was not allowed to scuba dive. My dreams of gaining my scuba qualification were shot. That didn’t mean I was going to miss out on seeing the reef though. Booking onto a Barrier Reef trip was the first thing I planned on doing. Looking back now, I’m thankful that of all the dive companies, I chose Reef Encounter and met my tall drink of water.
Barrier Reef Trips – Reef Encounter on a budget
I chose Reef Encounter as they offered a hostey programme where you pay for one nights stay on the live-aboard boat and then if you’re happy and willing to pull your sleeves up, you can stay an extra few days for free if you lend a hand. As a 23 year old on a budget trip, this was perfect for me! I arrived bright and early for the transfer boat out to Reef Encounter which stays moored around some of the best dive sites on the reef.
As we approached the boat, I could barely contain my excitement. Not only was I going to get to see the underwater world and have my very own Little Mermaid moment, I was going to sleep over the reef at night. This was going to be an experience I would never forget. I had no idea at the time that this trip would completely change my life.
The next few days are a blur of pure joy. Guests who live aboard this boat, have the choice of going diving or snorkelling five times a day. My day as a guest was filled with jumps into the wonderfully warm water, snorkelling with the most vibrant beautiful fish and coral I have ever seen, scoffing a gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner, drinking beers in the jacuzzi and an evening getting to know the divers. It was so much fun.
The next day my role changed and as a hostey the fun didn’t stop. I had to help set the tables for the meals and bring out the food, make the beds and do a bit of laundry. It honestly didn’t feel like work with the beautiful view on every side of the boat, jumping into the water every few hours and being fed phenomenal meals. If only all jobs were like this!
From the moment Roscoe and I met we were best friends. Something clicked and we pretty much spent every moment together for the rest of our trip. I became the Chief Hostey, helping the pursor to run the boat whilst Roscoe took guests out diving. From what was supposed to be a three day trip, I ended up living on the Great Barrier Reef for over a month.
On my second Round The World Trip, we had every intention of going back on the boat, seeing our old friends and maybe trying a night as a ‘top decker’ but sadly timing wasn’t on our side and the boat had been pulled out of the water for renovations. We never got to go back but one day we will.
Luxury Barrier Reef Trips
‘Top Deckers’ are the people who spend a little more on their trip out to the reef. They do all the same diving and snorkelling but there are a few differences. Rather than take the boat out to Reef Encounter, the trip can be taken by Helicopter. Reef Encounter has a helipad on the top deck where guests can arrive in style.
I can only imagine how fabulous it must be to see the turqoise outline of the reef from the air…
Top deckers get a huge room with a king size bed and the best view from the boat. Meals are served fine dining style on the top deck with a romantic and secluded table decked out in white linen and candlelight. Even though the meals for ordinary customers are superb with fresh produce brought from land daily, top deckers get a cut above. The chefs aboard the boat always come from esteemed restaurants around Australia and the meals are decadent and hearty. More than enough to sustain you after a long day swimming, diving and snorkelling. A bottle of bubbly is included with the evening meal too.
Scuba Diving Qualification
All guests can gain a qualification whilst living on the dive boat. Reef Encounter is an SSI company rather than PADI and I couldn’t think of a better location to learn to scuba dive. Roscoe got to train here and with well over 300 dives under his belt, the reef will always mean a lot to him.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the 7 Great Wonders of the Natural World and it’s on almost everyones bucket list. I feel privileged to have spent so long living above it and I even got to fall in love too.