View Full Version : Reef Encounter Liveaboard - Australia

12-03-2008, 06:43 PM
Some friends of mine just returned from Australia and posted the following report on Trip Advisor. They gave me the OK to share it here also.

Apparently this is just the tip of the iceberg, they would not consider repeating this trip.:mad:

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Just returned from 5 day, 4 night booking on the Reef Encounter Liveaboard Snorkel/Dive out of Cairns. This is a large boat, appears to be listing substantially to the stern that stays out on the reef and a shuttle boat brings day guests in and out each day.

This is written from the perspective of an experienced diver of 28 years, bringing own dive gear with a comparison to similar-priced 5 - 7 night liveaboards in the South Pacific.

First, start with the positives: large rooms, spacious bath. Food, although no buffets & no choices, the meals were satisfactory and served at 3 specific times daily. Desserts around 8:30pm each evening.

Experienced divers will most likely feel confined, disappointed and extremely structured. Boat is set up at best for daily snorkelers and training for resort or open water courses. Small dive deck which is cluttered which also serves as the deck for snorkelers and as well a smoking deck for all smokers all hours of the day. Smoking however was permitted on all outside areas so anywhere you went on the decks was always full of smokers at least the days we were there. While 6 "water sessions" are offered, divers may only choose 4 to participate. Bottom times, even for divers with computers are limited to max 40 mins and that includes safety stops. Depths on the Great Barrier Reef average 20 - 40 feet making 40 mins extremely conservative. Your personal gear is sandwiched in between the rental gear and conditions are extremely crowded with ALL activities taking place from snorkeling gear up, dive gear up, dive/snorkel instruction sessions, smoking, etc. all in a very small space. There is no rinse bucket for cameras. There is no rinse off area. There are no towels available when exiting the water. There is no briefing prior to dives. The boat stays in one place for a full day or more meaning that your dives are on the same location, diving from the main boat for up to 4 or more dives in a row. On 2 occasions we were taken by small boat for a drop-off dive to drift back to the main boat. No one checked the current and on both locations there was a strong current going away from the boat, not toward. No one checks. Our group of 3 sent up a safety sausage attached to a reel while we were on a safety stop and clearly not making it back to the boat; on one of these boat drop off dives and when surfaced were scolded that these were not allowed to be used except in emergency. Stay down 39 mins and do a 3 min safety stop and you are scolded when you announce a 41 min BT.

You are told to store all wetsuits, fins, booties rolled up in small cubby buckets, 2 persons to a bucket. When I asked if wetsuits could be rinsed out and hung up somewhere I was told no, they use the buckets only. We solved this by taking the 2 total hangers in our room closet out to the buckets and hanging them up on the outside edge. There is no rinse area on deck. I found a garden hose that was used to fill up the mask/snorkel rental bucket and used it to quickly rinse off however even though I was told it was not standard to do this.

When asked if someone could give us a dive briefing of the new site we just arrived, we were told it would be an extra charge of $10 for a private guide. We did not want or need a private guide. All we wanted was to know the name of the site and a description of the u/w terrain. Once you drop off the back, you are on your own to make the dive and plan a way back to the boat. While that all in all is fine, the courtesy of a quick briefing on the site would have been nice. We did find after the first 2 days marker boards behind a storage locker that did outline the bottom terrain and were able to use these to plan our dive headings and returns.

On day 3, I asked if there was any maid service in the rooms and could we at least get fresh towels. There are no towels provided after diving. You are expected to use the same towels after each 4 dives in your room for bathing day after day. I was asked why I needed more than the 2 towels provided on the first day and could I not just hang them up and reuse. I had to explain that after diving 4 dives a day and using for bathing at least once a day, the towels were to the point of smelling badly and were not drying out in a closed room situation. 3 hours later I was given 2 towels which were to last the remaining days on the boat. NO cleaning of the rooms was done during the week.

There is a 6:30am water session offered. One one morning I put a piece of toast in the toaster and poured a cup of coffee prior to this dive. I was told by the chef and one of the crew that this was not appropriate and that breakfast would be served at 7:45am and I could not use the toaster. I put down my toast, walked outside on the deck to drink my coffee and look at the water and was again called back for bringing out a cup of coffee on the deck, which was not allowed.

There was a tremendous # of staff persons on the boat. In fact so many of them mingling, hanging out that it became noticeable and conjested between the large daily guests coming on board and the crew hanging out and visiting with each other. If the crew is in line to get a glass of water, you wait for the crew to finish what they want first,then you can move on thru the line. If you ask a question, it is likely, that person will refer you to someone else which may be difficult to find or determine who is in charge of what.

For short, 1 or 2 night snorkeling trips or for those wanting to stay just a couple of nights, take a resort course, even get certified I think this is an option worth considering. For the money charged divers this is a highly overpriced operation with few services and low quality of dive options and sites.

12-03-2008, 09:57 PM
If this was just the tip of the iceberg - i'd hate to think what else they went through!!

Having not been on a liveaboard before, I don't know what the conditions would be like. But from having too many staff, different activities, no dive leadership, not even being able to have coffee and toast before breakfast....that doesn't sound good at all.

02-07-2009, 12:43 PM
Sorry to ask but am going to Qld soon without slander can I ask which company ?

The Publisher
02-07-2009, 08:59 PM
I think it was Reef Encounter Liveaboards

08-17-2009, 09:53 AM
Guys, sorry to hear about your problems with Reef Encounter. You arenít the first I am afraid.
I live and work as an instructor and there are some fantastic trips out there.

I also run a small booking site that offers discounts to fellow divers from thee forims.

I solidly recommend Ocean Quest for a 3 day or 2 day trip out of Cairns.
If you can go a little bit more upmarket and have the time - Spirit of Freedom, Taka and Mike Ball are the best 3 that run to the Ribbon Reefs (best of the Barrier Reef and includes the Cod Hole) and Coral Sea.

Info on these trips can be found here and please feel free to contact me if anyone needs any unbiased advice.

Discount dive travel to the Barrier Reef and Coral Sea - live aboard and day trips.