Great Barrier Reef
When people say they want to dive Australia, what they usually mean is that they want to scuba dive Queensland's Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living structure on earth that can be seen from outer space. Made up of nearly 2900 individual reefs, 600 continental islands and 300 coral cays, it’s the world’s largest single structure comprised of living organisms. Every day divers from around the world visit the reef either on liveaboards or day charters. Divers revere the reef for its biodiversity and the local aboriginal peoples hold it as a sacred component of their spirituality. It's fitting reverence for a truly magical place.
Queensland takes up almost a quarter of Australia and offers more diving adventures beyond just the Great Barrier Reef. The Sunshine Coast, southern Queensland, has purpose-sunk wrecks, sandstone formations covered with corals, ledges, caverns and pinnacles to explore. Topside, Queensland offers kangaroo-filled bush, lush green tropical rainforest, stunning white sand beaches, urban experiences and just about everything in between.
- Ribbon Reefs, Northern Great Barrier Reef – This area is known for a variety of pristine dive experiences. In late June and July, you have the chance to see dwarf Minke whales. At Cod Hole, you’ll see how the site got its name as giant potato cod surround you. Pixie Pinnacle is a wonderful example of a coral bommie that rises from a depth of 40 metres/130 feet. Also, Challenger Bay is a hotspot for cuttlefish encounters.
- Osprey Reef – Only accessible via liveaboards departing from Cairns or Port Douglas, this exposed coral mesa sits in the middle of the Coral Sea far from anything. North Horn is perhaps its most famous dive site for its shark feed. Around the Bend displays colorful soft coral and offers the chance to see manta rays as they pass through this site.
- SS Yongala – The Great Barrier Reef’s signature wreck is the SS Yongala, a 109-metre/357-foot luxury passenger ship that went down during a 1911 cyclone. On this wreck everything is supersized – sea snakes the size of your bicep and sea turtles so big they look prehistoric. Every single space on the wreck is covered in colorful life. It’s worth several dives to try and see it all.
- The Whitsundays – Comprising 74 idyllic islands, the Whitsundays are perfect for divers looking to complement their diving with multiple activities, such as sailing, island exploring or just lying on top rated beaches. While scuba diving, expect colorful shallow coral gardens and a variety of marine life like passing green sea turtles, patrolling white tip reef sharks and striking Napoleon wrasse.
- Heron Island – On the Great Barrier Reef’s southern reaches, this famed resort island is accessible via ferry or helicopter. Scuba dive on a bommie that serves as a manta ray cleaning station and also watch for crowds of jacks, barracuda, eels, sharks, eagle rays and very curious sea snakes. Other dive sites feature sea turtles and nudibranchs.
- HMAS Brisbane – Off Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is the great wreck dive of the former HMAS Brisbane, a 133-metre/433-foot guided missile destroyer. This purpose-sunk artificial reef went down in 2005 and sits upright in 15-18 metres/50-60 feet of water. There’s a lot of ship to see and a lot of marine life that now call HMAS Brisbane home.
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Visibility – Tides, current and surge all affect water clarity inside the Great Barrier Reef, but it averages 15-21 metres/50-70 feet and can hit a high of 30 metres/100 feet. Outside the reef, visibility averages a reliable 18-30 metres/60-100 feet and often soars to more than 46 metres/150 feet in the Coral Sea.
Water Temperature – Expect water temperatures around 30° C/85° F during the summer throughout the central and northern Great Barrier Reef. Expect around 24° C/75° F in winter and cooler water off the Sunshine Coast.
Weather – In tropical Queensland, daytime air temperatures vary from the mid 20°sC/80°sF in winter to the mid 30°sC/90°sF in summer. Diving is great year round, but different seasons offer different rewards. December through February mean great visibility and warmer water, while June through November pays off with minke and humpback whale spotting and coral spawning.
Featured Creatures – Everything from dwarf minke whales, sea turtles, manta rays, sharks, carpet sharks, sea snakes, cuttlefish, bumphead parrotfish, leopard moray eels, potato cod and macro life. It's the world's largest reef system so you can truly expect to see a bit of just about everything.
Recommended Training – The PADI Digital Underwater Photographer and PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy courses will help you capture images that show the beauty of the reef. PADI Enriched Air Diver is a good idea because enriched air nitrox is widely available. The PADI Wreck Diver course will prepare you to visit the iconic wrecks of Queensland.
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – English, although dive center and liveaboard staff often speak various languages.
Currency – Australian Dollar. Credit card are accepted almost everywhere.
Major Airports – Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Townsville Airports receive international flights. Smaller regional airports service the smaller cities and the reef islands.
Electricity – Electricity is 240 volts, 50 Hz. Internet access is available almost everywhere.
Topside Attractions – Visit the tropical rainforests of Daintree, Cape Tribulation or Mossman Gorge and marvel at the waterfalls of the Atherton Tablelands. Stop by one of the many zoos or parks to learn about saltwater crocodiles, koala, wallabies, cassowaries and other indigenous creatures. Raft the Barron River or head deep into the outback for Aboriginal rock art and kangaroos.