Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

There is good reason why the Great Barrier Reef is called great; it is the largest living thing on the planet stretching 1300 mile along the tropical Australian coast. The reef is made up of nearly 3,000 individual reefs and over 900 islands are spread along its length. Many of the islands offer resorts with luxury accommodations, fine dining and an abundance of water activities and eco-tours. The reef is home to more than 1,500 species of fish from the minute dwarf goby to the gentle giant whale shark, there are 6 species of sea turtles that breed on the reef, 400 species of hard and soft coral and seventeen species of Indo-Pacific sea snakes can be found. Over 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises ply the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and over 200 species of birds nest or roost on the islands.

For world traveling scuba divers, the Great Barrier Reef signifies the epitome of diving and there are endless opportunities to dive its many attractions. A great many diving excursions depart out of Cairns and Townsville and there are reefs as close as twenty miles offshore. Day trips are conducted to the inner reefs and there are liveaboards for extended trips to the outer reefs and into the Coral Sea. Although the scuba diving is fabulous the year around on the Great Barrier Reef, the summer months tend to be hot and humid and winter months provide excellent weather but the sea can be a bit choppy. There is absolutely no end to the dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef, but there are those that are the favorites of dive operators and globe-trotting divers alike.

Cod Hole

Perhaps the most famous dive site on the reef in known as Cod Hole. Cod Hole is relatively remote lying 60 miles north of Cairns and the area is made up of a string of long, narrow ribbon reefs. The biggest attraction at Cod Hole is the Potato cod, a huge sea bass that can reach a length of over six feet and weigh in at nearly 300 pounds. These huge fish have come to view visiting divers as playmates and over the years they have been feed by dive masters offering close interaction and great photographic opportunities with these amazing fish. The cod are not the only attraction of this area that also offers coral pinnacles, sheer walls and cruising pelagics.

Osprey Reef

Traveling outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and into the Coral Sea will take you into some of the greatest diving on the planet. The area is made up of mountains rising from the ocean floor with coral covered pinnacles. Osprey Reef hosts sheer drop-offs plunging 3000 feet to the ocean floor and is blessed with miraculous visibility that can easily exceed 200 feet. This remote location is pristine and is known for its population of sharks. Whitetip reef sharks are numerous and scuba divers will also observe silvertips, hammerheads and gray reef sharks. Tuna, barracuda, manta rays and green turtles inhabit the reef and large pelagic ocean travelers can be seen.

Yongala Wreck

Many dive boats departing from Townsville set a course for the wreck of the SS Yongala; Australia’s best known shipwreck and one of the premier wreck dives in the world. The vessel was sent to its watery grave in 1911 succumbing to a cyclone and taking 121 passengers and crew to the bottom. The wreck sits upright in 100 feet of water with the top at 50 feet. It is decorated with a kaleidoscope of coral and is home to a plethora of marine life including moray eels, barracuda, sharks, rays and thousands of neon colored reef fish. The ship can’t be penetrated, but the excellent visibility allows divers to observe large portions of the ship.

Steve’s Bommie

The word bommie, comes from an aboriginal word meaning a pinnacle and this bommie is a true oasis rising from 100 feet of water to just 15 feet below the surface. The greatest attraction of the seamount is the incredible amount of life that it hosts. The hard and soft coral growth is outstanding making Steve’s a virtual fairyland of color. Macro life is numerous with a multitude of colorful nudibranchs and small pipe fish of many species are everywhere. There is no shortage of neon hued reef fish and divers can observe the strange the wobbegong sharks lying camouflaged on the bottom. Looking out to the blue, divers will see reef sharks, barracuda and in season minke whales.

It is many a scuba diver’s dream to visit the Great Barrier Reef; diving opportunities abound and for the non diver there is excellent snorkeling at many of the dive sites. Whether on a day trip to the nearby reefs or an extended liveaboard expedition to the far reaches, diving the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most memorable of all dive trips.


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