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orange bulletGreat Barrier Reef Scuba Diving

Australia is a vast country well known for its ever-changing landscapes and varied flora and fauna, but it is also famed for its rich marine life.

Below the surface of the ocean, there is one region which is clearly the jewel in the crown of Australia’s marine heritage: The Great Barrier Reef.

It is here where you will find the best range of Australian liveaboards. True diving enthusiasts the world over count the Great Barrier Reef and its marine park as one of the ‘must do’ dive spots in the world.

With a span of more than 2,000 km from Great Palm Island in the south up to Lizard Island in the north, the Great Barrier Reef is the biggest coral reef system in the world, and the only such sight constructed by living organisms to be visible from space.

Among the most alluring elements is the vast range of marine species it supports and many are believed to be endemic to the Great Barrier Reef, putting it clearly at the top of tree when it comes to Australia scuba diving.

Specifically the reef is a breeding ground for six species of turtle, lured by the various seagrasses in the region. Common sightings of turtle include hawksbill, green, olive ridely, leatherback, loggerhead and flatback variations. Sharks are numerous and indeed there are believed to be some 125 recorded species of shark or ray spread throughout the Great Barrier Reef. The coral itself is represented in over 400 species.

Mass spawning of the coral is an annual event and an incredible sight to witness. Each October, during the week after full moon, the inner reefs spawn, followed in November and December by the outer reefs spawning. Other creatures represented by several species include mollusks, giant clams, nudibranchs, pipefish and seahorses.

When most people think of reefs they think of fish and the Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,500 different species such as clownfish, red bass, stonefish, lionfish, red-throat emperors and several species of snapper. Even salt water crocodiles can be spotted on the reef, but divers need not worry as their areas of movement are restricted to marshes and coastal mangroves.

bullet wideTop Dive Spots

While the Great Barrier Reef may be the highlight of every diver’s experience of Australia’s marine environment, there are notable differences from one place to the next. The Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea are the areas which offer the most interesting diving. These sites tend to be less crowded and are visited by the better quality liveaboards, so these are the areas preferred by divers looking to see the best of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Cod Hole, part of the Ribbon Reefs, is a famous site known for up close encounters with giant potato cod that sometimes dwarf, in size, the captivated diver. If action is more your thing then dozens of sharks, sometimes in a feeding frenzy, are often seen at North Horn in Osprey Reef.

bullet wideThe Best Way to Dive the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef liveaboards are undoubtedly the best way to see what the region has to offer. There are short liveaboards available to the Outer Barrier Reef near Cairns which are good for beginners or those taking courses.

The Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef are further to the north from the Cairns dive sites and are where any divers with more than a few dives under their weightbelt should be visiting. Sometimes these trips involve an inspiring, low-level flight over the reef; an unforgettable experience in itself.

bullet wideThe Diving Season

The Great Barrier Reef can be dived all year round, although during some months inclement weather is more likely. The best diving conditions on the Great Barrier Reef tend to be late August to early December. Visibility in the Coral Sea tends to peak between June and September. Minke whale season runs from June to August and some of the better liveaboards run special minke whale cruises.

reef diver Our thanks to Dive The World for the above article. Dive The World are specialists in world-wide dive travel, both liveaboard and dive resort based.