I hold a special place in my heart for Cairns. I met my boyfriend there four years ago. Although we are both from the UK and live half an hour apart back home, we met on one of the many Barrier Reef trips that explore the world’s largest and best Reef in Australia.
He was on a year-long working holiday visa training to become a divemaster. On my first Round World Trip, I was traveling alone after separating from my friends in Thailand. As an asthmatic, I was not permitted to scuba dive, and thus, I was unable to obtain my scuba certification. Despite that, I wasn’t going to miss seeing the Reef. The first thing I planned on doing was booking a Barrier Reef trip. In retrospect, I’m glad I chose Reef out of all the dive companies.
Barrier Reef Tours
Reef offered a hostel program, where you pay for a night’s stay on the live-aboard boat, and then, if you’re willing to do your part, you can stay for free for an additional few days if you lend a hand. This was the perfect trip for a 23-year-old on a budget! Early in the morning, I was picked up by the transfer boat to Reef, which stays moored around some of the best dive sites on the Reef.
I could barely contain my excitement as we approached the boat. I would have my very own Little Mermaid moment and sleep over the coral reef at night. It would be an experience I would never forget. At the time, I had no idea that this trip would completely transform my life.
In a blur of pure joy, the next few days unfold. Five times a day, guests who live aboard this boat can go diving or snorkeling. It was a wonderful day filled with jumps into the warm water, snorkeling with the most vibrant and beautiful fish and coral, eating gourmet breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, drinking drinks in the jacuzzi, and getting to know the divers. I had a blast.
As a hostess, my role changed the next day, and the fun didn’t stop. I helped set the tables, bring out the meals, make the beds, and do a little laundry. The beautiful views from every side of the boat, hopping into the water every few hours, and fantastic meals made it not feel like work at all. I wish every job were like this!
My boyfriend and I were best friends from the moment we met. During the rest of our trip, we pretty much spent every moment together. In my role as Chief Hostey, I helped the captain run the boat while my boyfriend took guests diving. My trip to the Great Barrier Reef was meant to be a three-day trip, but I ended up living there for over a month.
I had every intention of returning to the boat on my second Round The World Trip, seeing our old friends, and perhaps enjoying a night as a ‘top decker’, but timing wasn’t on our side, and the boat had been pulled out of water for renovations. We didn’t get to go back, but one day we will.
Luxury Barrier Reef Tours
The so-called ‘Top Deckers’ are those who spend a little more on their trip out to the Reef. Divers and snorkelers do the same activities, but there are a few differences. Helicopters can be used to reach Reef rather than taking the boat. The top deck of Reef has a helipad where guests can arrive in style.
Imagine how spectacular it must be to see the turquoise outline of the Reef from above…
On the top deck, you get a massive room with a king-size bed and the best view. The fine-dining style meals are served on the top deck at a romantic and secluded table decked out in white linen and candlelight. Although the food for regular customers is excellent, with fresh produce brought in daily from the land, the top deckers get the best. Chefs aboard the boat come from renowned restaurants all over Australia, and the food is always delicious and hearty. After swimming, diving, and snorkeling for a while, you will have more than enough energy. The evening meal includes a bottle of bubbly.
Scuba Diving Certification
Guests can earn a diving qualification while living on the dive boat. The Reef is run by SSI rather than PADI, and I can’t think of a better place to learn to scuba dive. With over 300 dives under his belt, my boyfriend will always cherish this Reef.
One of the 7 Great Wonders of the Natural World, the Great Barrier Reef, is on almost everyone’s bucket list. In addition to living above it for so long, I even fell in love.