Snorkellers Fitzroy Reef Lagoon

Scuba diving vs snorkelling: which one’s for you?

Let’s be honest, you can’t really lose having your face underwater in Queensland, can you? It’s home to the world’s largest reef – the Great Barrier Reef – you’ve got warm water along the ENTIRE coastline, and no place on Earth offers the variety of marine life. 

Right, so if there’s nowhere better on the planet to put your head under the sea what’s the best way then to do it?

Diving allows you to completely immerse yourself within this crazy marine environment – and totally become a part of the marine community down below. So you’re more likely to see a lot of things surface dwellers – ie. snorkellers – might miss. And boy, do they love to gloat about that.

But then, snorkelling is dead easy. All it takes is a mask and snorkel and a pair of fins; meaning pretty much EVERYBODY can do it… immediately… with no training, for as long as you want without chancing serious health issues if you do it wrong. And if you’ve got a fair set of lungs, you can hold your breath and still get metres under the surface. So it’s easy to do, and it’s really safe.

But ask any diver and they’ll tell you a snorkeller is only experiencing a fraction of what’s on offer under the ocean. Ask an avid snorkeller and they’ll tell you there’s more freedom when you’re completely in charge of where you go, without instructors and kilos of heavy equipment.

We’ve weighed up the pros and cons of diving against snorkelling in Queensland so you can work out what’s best for you.


Diving the Great Barrier Reef

Photos by @islandgems


You’re a part of the lives of the creatures down below, so you belong. If you see a tiger shark on the surface of the ocean, there’s a fair chance you’d rather not. However, below the surface while you’re diving you’re just a part of the close-knit underwater community and sharks will barely pay you notice. That’s a bonus, right?


You’ve got 360 degrees of pure freedom down there – there’s water on every side of you – and you’ll feel that heady sense of weightlessness that you might otherwise have to get in a rocket and fly to space for. So you’ll save millions. Maybe someone should tell Richard Branson.


Cod HoleThere’s no better experience in the sea than to dive in it at night. By night the predators come out, but seeing as though you’re part of their underwater community (see above), well, you’re just one of them. So you’ll see sharks on the prowl, and gigantic fish like giant trevally. Whereas when you’re on the surface you’re missing most of the show.


If you’re diving you really shouldn’t consume alcohol, so if you’re hanging out around divers, don’t go expecting to P-A-R-T-Y. Most dive operators won’t allow a person to dive if they’ve had even just one beer. And let’s face it, a beer on a boat in the sunshine is a pretty hard thing to give up, especially in Queensland (whose biggest beer, XXXX Gold, promote their beverage with the slogan… ‘We love it up here’). Well, divers can’t.


Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive

You’ll feel as heavy as a rock. You try travelling the world with dive gear – there’s buoyancy control devices, air tanks, air gauges, wetsuits and the list goes on. Although most operators in Queensland offer gear rental when they take you diving, just getting into the water can require core muscles you wish you had! Snorkelling gear weighs a kilogram, dripping wet, but divers have to wear over 50kg around their waist and on their back.


Lady Elliot Island


Nothing shouts FREEDOM quite as loudly as snorkelling. It’s just you with a mask, snorkel and fins peering into the underwater world – and you don’t have to use an instructor, or stop at regular intervals to make sure you don’t suffer from decompression sickness. You’re free, free, free!


It’s cheap. Diving costs more because you need all the equipment – and staff – to ensure you don’t sink to the bottom of the ocean whereas anyone can snorkel – for the cost of hiring snorkel gear (or buying your own). Try any reef expedition and snorkelling never carries an extra charge, whereas diving always incurs an extra fee.

Lady Elliot Island


Divers escape the sun’s harmful rays so they can dive even at noon and not have to worry about sunburn. But snorkellers bob about on the surface – meaning your entire back is exposed (if you’re not wearing a wetshirt or t-shirt), and bald blokes can scorch their scones in a way divers could only imagine.


If you’re travelling with divers you’ll feel like the poor kid left behind as they plummet to the depths in large groups (like I did on a two-night liveaboard dive vessel on the Great Barrier Reef recently), before coming back to tell you about all the creatures you didn’t see (this is even worse for night dives/ snorkels). That black tip reef shark? Didn’t see it. See the manta ray? Missed it. Catch the wobbegong? Divers really LOVE to rub in what snorkellers miss.

Where are the best places to try either snorkelling or diving?

Great Barrier Reef

There are snorkelling and diving options all over Queensland – however, the largest number of operators are based in Cairns – where you can choose between day snorkelling and dive tours to the Great Barrier Reef, or multiple day trips on live-aboard vessels.

You’ll also find a large number of snorkelling and diving options in the Whitsundays (based out of Airlie Beach), Magnetic Island and Townsville, and Port Douglas. Also consider Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island, which offer some of the country’s best snorkelling and diving conditions. 

But hey, you don’t even have to decide between the two!

Green Island

Seawalker on Green Island (27kms off Cairns) allows you to walk along the sea floor surrounded by fish wearing a specifically made suit and helmet – you don’t even have to get your hair wet.

What’s your preference: snorkelling or diving? Tell us why in the comments below.