from 4 reviews
14th December 2010 by phueck
Great liveaboard for backpackers
Visit Date: June 2010
I came to Cairns to experience the Great Barrier Reef and I spent a lot of time in and around Cairns, speaking to different dive shops and tour operators to find out which liveaboqard would best suit my needs.
I eventually decided on Reef Encounter, and Ive got to say It was a fantastic trip. The Reef Encounter itself is usually moored out on the reef so we boarded the companies day boat; reef experience for the voyage out to Encounter.
The boat is very large with plenty of space to lounge around in between meals and dives or snorkel sessions. Though at the time I was on board there were only 10 or so passengers each day and about 10-12 staff. (obviously passengers come and go and the staff are on an overlapping schedule with their counterpart on dry land)
If the boat was full with a complement of 40 passengers and 20 or so staff then i could imagine it getting a little bit crowded and hectic at dive times.
The equipment was all top notch for rental gear and every room has it own space to leave their wet gear on the middle deck. Every staff member was friendly and knowledgeable about the local area, wildlife and diving conditions and were always more than happy to have a chat.
I am already a certified diver and wasn't taking any courses myself but quite a few other passengers took the oppurtunity to do their advenced open water. Every single one of them seemed to enjoy the course and the time spent with their instructor. I must say from observing the classes in the lounge in the evenings the instructors did seem to spend a lot of time actually trying to teach the divers something which in my own experience is a rare thing on an advanced course.
Every day we all had the oppurtunity to do three dives or snorkel sessions as well as a night dive, obviously those of us that were qualified dived. Before every dive the divemasters gave us a brief and showed us a map of the site we were at. Then they let us go off with our buddies, generally there were no staff accompanying us on a dive (unless you wanted one to and were willing to pay for it, or you were doing a course)
To be honest this didnt bother me or the other people i dived with, though I could see it being an issue for some.
The sites we dived were all perfect for novice or inexperienced divers with plenty of interesting things to see and find without needing a guide. The boat moved daily between three mooring points, Hastings, Saxon and Norman reef. All good dive sites were I saw countless reef sharks, turtles and rays as well as inumerable reef fish. My personal highlight was a night dive on hastings reef. We dropped in and there were hundereds of Giant Travally's, and I literally mean hundreds. They were trying to use our lights to hunt and generally we were always swimming with at least two or three each in close attendance. Having a GT suddenly zipp by your face as you turn around was startlingly but amazing to see.
The food on board was exceptional with the chef always working hard to produce something different every single meal.
I have recommended this to friends and would go back myself.
4th March 2010 by monster213
Great Dive Experience
Visit Date: February 2010
I traveled to Cairns from the US specifically to go out to the Great Barrier reef and stayed for two days/one night on the Reef Encounter. I had never been scuba diving before and so I can't compare the experience to other companies or locations but I can tell you that it was absolutely, hands down one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. There were 10 guests on the boat and 15 crew members which meant that we got lots of individual attention. In addition, the crew was very friendly and enjoyable - they really seemed to be in love with what they were doing. I went on an introductory dive with Joel who was extremely patient and very good at teaching me everything I needed to know for a beginner. It was only a couple of minutes into the dive that I felt like I had been swimming underwater my whole life and allowed me to relax enough to really enjoy it.
One of the really nice things about this boat is that we always felt like we were the only ones in the ocean. We went to several different locations (unfortunately, I don't know the names of the places, but they are listed on the website). We saw sharks, giant turtles, cobalt blue sea stars as big as a child, and thousands of fish, coral, and other sea life.
Reef encounter is the only boat licensed to offer an introductory night dive and I went on that as well and it nearly convinced me to give up my job and move to Cairns to spend the rest of my life scuba diving. The boat was charming, the rooms comfortable, the food was not gourmet dining but certainly plentiful and decent. I even got my first taste of vegemite. There was plenty of water to drink and the view of the stars is incredible.
I'm not sufficiently expert to seriously evaluate the equipment that we had, but it certainly felt easy to use and did exactly what it was supposed to. There were plenty of people on the boat who were able to help me suit up and who were not only scuba experts but certified as search and rescue divers. Every time I got out of the water, they wanted to know what I had seen and really seemed to share in my excitement even though I am sure that they had seen all of that and much more.
In other words, I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend the Reef Encounter.
25th June 2009 by LivinInCDM
The best 3 days of our 17 day trip !!!
Visit Date: May 2009
When you book with Reef Encounter you can rest assured that the time you spend aboard will be exactly like the reviews posted here. We book based on the reviews and sure enough it was exactly like the others, an A+ perfect experience.
One thing that is not mentioned and should be is the diligence the crew takes in making sure that all of your dives are safe. They will log your dives, sign you in and out, and keep watch from the upper deck of the boat. I have been out with some sketchy dive companies rest assured this is not one of them!
Equipment is well maintained and in good order, diving is scheduled and well organized, food is chef prepared and excellent, rooms are well kept and very functional. I can tell you our parting thought was we would have paid double for the experience we had. (but please don't raise you prices :) )
26th March 2009 by sucherb
Visit Date: December 2008
We paid for the Top Deck experience as part of our honeymoon. We went to 5 locations as part of our honeymoon (South Australia, North and South Islands of New Zealand, and Fiji), and this was my favorite. The room was very nice and exceeded our expectations! The food was outstanding and included a nice variety. The staff put on an awesome New Year's Party for us. The boat is very well staffed and their dive guides are well trained and knowledgeable. It was very easy to get in and out of the water for our dives. We would love to stay with them again!