The many islands of the Cumberland Group with their fringing coral reefs offer a wide range of easily accessible sites for diving and snorkelling. It is possible to find somewhere that is protected in almost any weather, so that snorkelling and diving can be enjoyed virtually 365 days a year, even when Reef excursions elsewhere along the coast are being cancelled because of wind. For this reason the area has become a popular destination for both the novice and experienced diver. It is also a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, which lies about 34 nautical miles to the north-east of the Whitsunday mainland, about two hours or so by fast dive boat (or slightly longer in a motorised catamaran, which makes a few stops at island resorts on the way to and from the Reef). The fleet of charter boats that depart daily for the islands and the Reef offer a number of ways for snorkelling enthusiasts and divers to explore the underwater world. These include:
- general day trips to the Great Barrier Reef aboard fast catamarans each capable of carrying over a hundred tourists and sightseers. These vessels tie up at a large pontoon permanently moored at the Reef, and guests are free to go snorkelling on their own or on guided tours; dive instructors on board organise scuba diving for both beginners and certified divers;
- day trips to the islands aboard charter sailboats catering for general sightseers, with a bit of swimming, sunbaking, island exploring, snorkelling and, if arrangements are made in advance, diving for certified divers;
- day trips to the islands aboard boats catering exclusively for divers and snorkellers, both experienced and inexperienced – a leisurely day with up to two dives at a fringing reef and plenty of snorkelling time;
- day dive trips to the Great Barrier Reef aboard purpose-oriented dive boats; the program includes two dives – an ideal trip for the diver or keen snorkeller who wants top diving but has limited time;
- dive trips of 1-5 nights duration to the Great Barrier Reef, with virtually unlimited diving, including night diving; these trips offer the best value for keen divers;
- overnight trips to the islands for both diving and snorkelling as well as island exploration.
Certified divers should remember that it’s essential to carry your certification card with you or you will not be able to dive (other than as a beginner, with an instructor). It’s necessary to carry your log book as well.