SNUBA diving was only invented 20 years ago and is still pretty foreign to most people. The Great Barrier Reef, near Cairns, is the only place in Australia you can chuck a hose in your mouth, dive deep and kick it under water, whilst an air tank floats above supplying you with oxygen. Our Explorer Caitlin hit the reef to give it a try.
- Being immersed in the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef
- Way cheaper, safer and gives a greater sense of freedom than scuba diving
- You get to spend quality time with Wally, Nemo, Crush and all the gang
What The Heck Is SNUBA?
SNUBA. No, it’s not a typo. It’s kind of snorkelling, kind of scuba diving, kind of amazing. SNUBA is the latest dive technology to hit our shores and is a great introduction to the magical world of SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus).
In fact, it’s even better! It’s diving in the big blue with an immense sense of freedom. Ditch the heavy gear, high cost, learning dive tables and all the safety elements — always worrying about how deep you are and if you’re going to run out of oxygen.
Your air tank floats safely in a raft on the surface, leaving you free to cruise along like a merperson and gaze lovingly at all your new fishy friends (I’m talking about you, Wally the humphead wrasse). Their slogan is ‘Go beyond snorkelling’ and it definitely does that. I’m hooked (sorry, bad fish joke)!
Where Should I SNUBA?
SNUBA operates in over 30 countries, and in Australia there are only 2 places you can do it. They’re both conveniently located at my favourite place — the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns, Queensland — one on the outer reef and the other on Green Island.
These idyllic locations are very different from each other (one’s a platform in the middle of the ocean and one’s a tropo coral cay) and are just a jump, skip and a hop in a fancy boat at varying prices (or helicopter, if you’re cashed up to the eyeballs) from the tropical city of Cairns.
There’s actually no better place I can think of to SNUBA. Seriously, you must get to the Great Barrier Reef! Despite what the media say, it’s alive, seriously beautiful and captivating and definitely one to add to the bucket list.
How Do I Learn To SNUBA?
The SNUBA guides are super friendly and knowledgeable and they’ll meet you on the boat and explain everything before the dive. You’ll fill out a medical release form and get a short briefing both on the boat and in the water.
Check with your guide first, but basically the only limitations to SNUBA-ing are if you have a serious medical problem or have suffered recent asthma attacks. Fair enough, as you’ll be breathing compressed air whilst you’re 3m underwater.
You’ll learn all the safety basics like how to breathe through a regulator, how to recover if you lose it and how to blow water out of your mask as well as hand signals to communicate with your guide (who’s using SCUBA). You give these drills a few goes on the surface, then when you’re all schooled up the guide weights you so you effortlessly sink down and start the dive.
The air tank raft floats on the surface along with you and the attached air hose allows you to go down to 3m maximum, which is plenty deep enough to see heaps of coral and marine life on the Great Barrier Reef. You can have up to 4 people using one raft, so don’t forget to bring your besties along.
Why Would I SNUBA?
- It’s wayyy cheaper than getting a scuba diving ticket
- It’s really easy and almost anyone can do it (ages 6 years and up!)
- You don’t carry around bulky and heavy equipment
- There’s a guide with you the whole time to do all the worrying
- There’s more freedom to cruise for longer underwater compared to snorkelling or freediving (the whole session goes for about an hour, with half of that underwater)
- It’s safer than SCUBA (it’s very highly regulated and you can only do it with a guide)
- If you’re keen to learn SCUBA and get comfortable in the water but don’t know where to start, start here!
Hot (& Humid) Tip
The peak tourist season in Cairns is winter (June-September), when the temperatures are milder, there’s less rain and the stingers aren’t around. This is also when boats fill up super quickly, you spend your days dodging tourists and the prices are higher. If you are prepared for the lovely tropical-ness, wearing a stinger suit is a fashion choice and you love experiencing a bit of monsoonal rain, then go outside of these times (October-May).
While you’re there, and if you can bear to remove yourself from the reef playground, why don’t you tackle Queensland’s highest peak next door!
Boats go out from the Reef Fleet Terminal in Cairns city every day. Book ahead as boats can fill up quickly.
Beginner. You just need to pass a few safety drills with the guide. Even the kiddies can do it in a program called SNUBA Doo.
Gallery photos by SNUBA
Editor’s note: You can no longer SNUBA at Port Noarlunga as was previously recommended by WAE.