Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s most coveted locations and the opportunity to see wondrous sights is exceedingly high. More than 30 species of whale regularly pass through the area including humpbacks and minkes. Dolphins, turtles, sea snakes, sharks, rays and whale sharks are also common.
Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef is admittedly on virtually any diver's bucket list - and rightfully so. When it comes to scuba diving, like most things, we never wish to sacrifice quality over quantity, and in the Great Barrier Reef, you will never have to. While the Great Barrier Reef is indeed the largest reef system in the world it is also one of the healthiest making for the diving of a lifetime.
While scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is a must, its vastness can make it a bit overwhelming when planning the logistics of a dive trip here. The Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2300 kilometres along the coast of Queensland, Australia where you'll find the likes of Cairns and many breathtaking islands like the famous Whitsunday islands that will instantly put you in a blissful state at the sight of the thousands of shades of blue.
As divers, we must appreciate that corals thrive in the climates and conditions we love most: turquoise waters, warm temperatures year round, and fantastic visibility. The Great Barrier Reef isn't only highly desirable for divers but animals too. Scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef will allow you to enjoy many endemic species and much more visiting life, including many marine mammals and six out of the seven existent species of sea turtles.
Marine Life in the Great Barrier Reef
Diving in the Great Barrier Reef will allow you to enjoy the waters of a highly biodiverse reef system. The animals you see will depend on the time of year you choose to visit and the dive spots you choose. Plenty of marine mammals frequent this reef system, including more than 30 species of whales. You'll likely be diving in the company of the frequently seen bottlenose dolphins, humpbacks, and dwarf minkes depending on the time of year you visit. The reef system is also incredibly important for a large population of dugongs. Six of the seven sea turtle species can be seen in this reef system alone and over half have incredibly important breeding grounds here. 14 species of sea snakes can be found in the Great Barrier Reef, though none are endemic. Other noteworthy guests include the whale sharks which can be seen during certain months of the year and many other sharks and rays that call this reef system home year round. And, of course, you'll be diving with plenty of incredibly beautiful fish here including the famed clownfish, among many others.
Best Dive Sites in the Great Barrier Reef
While it's hardly fair to call any dive sites the best when it comes to the Great Barrier Reef there are those of honourable mention, though any dive spot you visit will not disappoint.
Ribbon Reefs is a chain of reefs stretching 80 kilometres contains 10 individual reefs. This chain is located in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef, making it remote and more removed from the tourism but still equipped with plenty of accessibility. Scuba diving in the Ribbon Reefs is famed, particularly for the world famous dive site Cod Hole where you'll be greeted by the eponymous friendly giants: the potato cod as well as the Maori wrasse. Among the reefs in Ribbon Reefs, right by the northern most island in the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island, you can find pinnacles, walls, and flat reefs as well as plenty of beautiful pelagic diving. The famed dive sites here are Challenger Bay, Clam Gardens, Cod Hole, Pixie' Caves, Pixie Gardens, Pixie Pinnacle, Steve's Bommie, and the Temple of Doom. If diving in the summer months, you'll likely be able to enjoy the company of many dwarf minke whales!
Osprey Reef is the most northern reef in the Coral Sea, Osprey Reef will continuously expose you to awe-worthy, large animals as it is a feeding hotspot for many pelagic animals. This is not the reef for little finds but your odds of encountering eagle rays, mantas, green turtles, and loggerhead turtles are very good. North Horn, a dive site within Osprey Reef, is famous for its shark feeding site where you'll be able to catch silky and grey reef sharks in their element with the occasional visit from a hammerhead or Silvertip. Large schools of pelagic fish are common and the reef commonly hosts whale sharks, beaked whales, sperm whales, and bottlenose dolphins. This dive spot is only accessible via a liveaboard as it is rather remote. Notable dive sites in Osprey Reef include North Horn, False Entrance, Around the Bend, Coral Canyons, and Admiralty.
Milln Reef is beloved for its fun swim throughs, ease for beginners, and endless views of corals Milln Reef is a fun relaxing dive. Located in the outer area of the Great Barrier Reef it is only accessible via liveaboards. Many smaller fish can be spotted while scuba diving Milln Reef. In addition to smaller fish, resting whitetips are also common sites while diving here. Diving spots here include Swimming Pool I and II, Petaj Mooring, Whale Bommie, and the Three Sisters. With largely shallow dives Millns Reef makes for a great night diving spot to see activity unbeknownst to the light of day.
Scuba diving on the outer Great Barrier Reef isn't limited to Milln Reef, you'll also likely find yourself traversing Flynn Reef. With many swim throughs and overhangs, there are many crevices where reef fish love to call home in Flynn Reef. While scuba diving the dive site Tracy's, if you keep a careful eye you may be able to catch a peak of giant moray eels and wobbegongs. Whitetip sharks love to laze around Tracy's and while diving you're likely to find your very own Nemo among the anemones. The other beloved dive spot at Flynn reef is Boulders. Boulders has both a wall and shallows, all deserving of more than one dive to do justice to the dive site. Small reef fish and giant clams fill this reef and if you keep checking the blue off the wall you're likely to catch a peak of larger pelagic life.
Best Time to Dive the Great Barrier Reef
While the temperature and permanent marine residents of the Great Barrier Reef make for great dive trips year round, the time to dive with humpback whales will be from June to November. The season for diving with the migratory dwarf minke whales is in the winter months of June and July. The high season for scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef are the drier winter months when the whales are around while the low season hosts far less visitors and is warmer, wetter, and higher in humidity.
Experience Level for Diving
Diving in the Great Barrier Reef is perfectly suited for all dive levels, from beginners to advanced. Learning to dive in the Great Barrier Reef is a one of a kind experience and has many sites perfect for beginners completing dive courses without sacrificing diversity. Milln's and Flynn's is perfect for beginners but beautiful enough to draw in the advanced divers as well. Dive sites at Osprey Reef are more compatible with intermediate divers and Ribbon Reef is for the more advanced diver.
How do I get to the Great Barrier Reef?
The international airport in Cairns is the most common means of reaching the continent as it offers a wide array of flights. Once in Cairns, you can do day trips or if you wish to see some of the most beautiful and less frequented reefs then liveaboards are a great option for diving the Great Barrier Reef. While day dives will still allow you to experience the underwater world, an Australian liveaboard will allow you to explore dive sites that a land based dive trip cannot accommodate.