Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific


Scuba diving on the Barrier Reef
North Queensland Tourist Board

What you need to know about learning to dive on the Great Barrier Reef

Posted 27 November 2015
Few can argue that Australia is the best place in the world for scuba diving. With the Great Barrier Reef flanking the Northern Queensland coast, there’s fascinating marine life thriving beneath the surface, and diving is the best way to see it.

Many people think they need to be an experienced diver in order to plunge the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, but this is far from the truth. Quicksilver Outer Barrier Reef tours, for example, run introductory dives and longer, PADI-certified tours.

As you might expect, we’re huge advocates of exploring the reef, so before you head off on your first dive have a look at our brief guide so you know what to expect.


Scuba diver on reef

There’s no better place to learn to dive than Australia, but if you get into it properly it can be an expensive hobby. So choosing your first dive is important. You don’t need a PADI qualification to sample diving, but in the Great Barrier Reef you can try either a course or introductory dives.

Safety, is of course of the most importance when learning to dive. As such, you need to be in decent general health. This doesn’t mean you have to look like Mr. Motivator, but you must be comfortable under water and not have any potentially serious medical conditions. 

Equipment required

Humans weren’t meant to survive underwater, so in order to make that a possibility a lot of equipment and apparatus is required, aside from simply masks, fins and wetsuits. You can snorkel with those, but there are some vital pieces of equipment needed if you’re to head deeper into the sea.

Understandably, first comes breathing equipment. Most types of apparatus adjust pressure as you dive deeper and come as a half-mask with a mouthpiece connected to a breather. The breather uses compressed gas attached to a cylinder on your back.

Bouyancy control is also crucial. Specialised suits, weights and buoyancy compensators are used to make sure that you don’t descend or ascend too quickly or slowly, which can cause health problems.

Types of dive

Divers with a whale shark

Wreck diving

It’s a natural human urge to explore shipwrecks, and with scuba diving you can do this. There are many sunken ships around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef and they’re great if you want to explore something other than coral.

Night diving

Coral reefs are different animals by day and night. As if the underwater world wasn’t already shrouded in enough mystery, diving at night brings out the nocturnal marine life and animals that are attracted to the lights your guide will use.

Cave diving

One probably for a second or third dive, this is something to look forward to as you gain experience. On a cave dive you’ll explore waterways and submerged caves and all the surprises this adventure offers.

Dos and don’ts


Equalise your sinuses. It’s recommended that as you slowly descend you pinch your nose and blow through it every few feet. This will ease the pressure in your sinuses and lungs.

Ascend slowly (slower than your bubbles). The oxygen in your blood and lungs expands as you rise to the surface, so to avoid any problems from this just do what your instructor or guide says and ascend very slowly.


Fly within 24 hours after diving. Flying after diving, increases this risk of decompression sickness because of the decreasing atmospheric pressure as we ascend. Best to stay on the ground for a day or so after.

Hold your breath. It might feel unnatural at first, but the equipment really does let you breathe underwater, so breathe just as you would on the surface.

Dive alone. Even experienced divers always descend with a partner and it is probably the most important of all rules they live by.

Diving on the Great Barrier Reef will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable experiences of your life and after you learn, you may find yourself coming back time and again.

Start planning your dream trip to the Great Barrier Reef today.