Great Barrier Reef

great-barrier-reef - dive tables

In the UNESCO declaration granting World Heritage Site status to the Great Barrier Reef, they stated that the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful places on earth both above and below the water. In the finding evaluation summary that the UNESCO did, the head of the evaluation stated, “if only one reef in the world could be granted status, this is the one”.

With recommendations like this it is no wonder that the Great Barrier Reef attracts so many visitors. When talking about the reef complex or the Great Barrier Reef Marine National Park that contains it really does not do the reef justice speaking about it as one location. The reef stretches over 2,300 kilometers and ranges from 60 kilometers to 250 kilometers wide. If you took all of Switzerland, Holland and the United Kingdom and turned them into a park, it would be smaller than the Great Barrier Reef Park. The reef itself is only 7% of the make up, the park contains some 300 coral cays, 600 continental islands, 3000 coral reefs, and about 150 inshore mangrove islands. Many divers can identify all the different species of fish in their home dive sites. Would be difficult to do on the GBR, since it has 1635 species of fish, plus 133 species of sharks and rays among others.

Who Can Dive The Great Barrier Reef

The size and variety that the reef represents translates to something for everyone as it comes to diving. The inland waters, those waters between the outer reefs and the mainland have an average depth of 35 meters. That means most of the area is within recreational diving limits. The reefs themselves provide endless possibilities. Some reefs are just below the surface offering a number of possibilities for shallow dives and snorkeling. Behind the reef is an area often referred to as the lagoon. The Lagoon is a general calm often smooth expansion of water that is frequently shallow. In many cases the majority of it is less than ten meters. As the nears the edge of the lagoon it slopes to a deeper depth. The outer reefs, those that are the ones closest to the open ocean, the back side is the same, however, the front side offers amazing wall dives. The outer reefs sit on the edge of the continental shelf. This is the technical ending of the continent and leads to the ocean. Most of the outer reefs are at or very near a wall that drops to 1,000 to 2,000 meters. Fantastic drift dives are possible along these walls and to not be surprised at the large marine life that comes up from the depths to follow the wall to an opening in the reef.

Where To Dive

Most of the coast of Australia where the Great Barrier Reef is located is sparsely populated. Major cities are far apart. So it mostly the larger population and tourism centers that have the dive operations. While there are many dive operators along the coast the most frequently visited areas are from the Whitsundays Islands and from Cairns.

The Whitsundays Islands is a group of about 70 islands located about midway along the reef. It is best known as the finest sailing destination in the world. Most of the islands are uninhabited and surrounded by fringe reefs and have great beaches. Many of the dive operators are associated with resorts and many have fine shore dives. As sailing and cruising are so popular in the area many divers dive from boats that are designed for cruising and diving is an extra. There are some Liveaboards. The outer reefs are wonderful locations and the Hardy reef has a pontoon called reefworld ( previous Fantasea) that attracts numerous visitors a day. Visitors can experience a semi-submersible sub, glass bottom boats, an underwater viewing area as well as snorkeling or diving on the reef.

The Cairns area has the largest number of dive boats both daily and Liveaboards among the Great Barrier Reef. 60 to 90 minutes from Cairns will bring you to the other reef area. Daily boats such as the  Compass Cruises and the MV Reef Experience  and others will bring you out to the outer reefs for snorkeling or  a couple of dives. They generally visit two different reefs. Other dive operators will stay closer to the main land and visit some of the coral gardens of other reefs. Cairns is famous as well for the Liveaboards that call it their home port. The MV Reef Encounter is a luxury liveaboard that sails and dives along the outer reefs. The Spirit of Freedom and the MV Spoilsport sail to the Ribbon Reefs and Lizard Island ass well as out to the Coral sea.

What ever option you chose you are sure to find great diving.