Having got lucky with airmile flight availability, I've just booked a trip which'll see me in Cairns around the new year. I've done some scuba diving in Australia before, but never the Barrier Reef, so I figure this would be a great chance to try it!
When I've spoken to other divers in the past about the Barrier Reef, they all strongly suggest going for a liveaboard. Reasons for that included not spending most of the time just going there/back, getting to see the outer reef, having more choice of dive sites, and getting to do more dives. All makes sense to me, so I'm planning on doing a liveaboard trip.
One other thing people have said is that at quieter times, if you're a little flexible, you can get some good deals for liveaboards by just wandering between the offices of the companies that run them, and maybe the agencies too, haggling. I will have some flexibility on dates, so that could be an option, but I'm also an advanced diver so I'd prefer a boat with mostly advanced people rather than one that's primarily new open water divers.
Is New Years a popular time for people to go diving around Cairns? And if so, should I look to book onto a suitable boat well in advance? Or does it tend to be a quiet time, so I'd have some choice + potentially able to negotiate a cheaper price?