Whether you are trying out scuba diving for the first time or you’re a seasoned veteran, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the best places in the world to dive. The visibility is great, the underwater landscape is spectacular and the sheer variety of marine species on view is second to none. As awe inspiring as diving at the Great Barrier is, it’s also important to tread lightly when you’re there. It’s a delicate, endangered ecosystem that’s considered to be a treasure by people around the world. Once you dive here, you’ll definitely never forget it.
The sheer size of it
The Great Barrier Reef reaches for about 2,000 kilometers from Lizard Island to Great Palm Island. Its proportions are massive. In fact, there’s no coral reef system in the world that’s bigger than this one. Even if you spent a lifetime doing it, you’d be hard pressed to explore the entire length of the reef. Consequently, it’s important to pick out the areas where you’re most likely to have an outstanding experience, especially if your time is limited.
Aside from the coral system’s sheer size, one of its other impressive features is the number and diversity of wildlife that it supports. When you’re diving here, you’ll definitely want to make a point of seeing at least a few of the six different species of turtles and the many dolphins and whales. There’s also sharks lurking about, but they are a fascinating sight and rarely pose any serious hazard to divers. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, and they are unlikely to bother you.
Liveaboards, the only way to go
I’ve spent quite a lot of time diving along the Great Barrier Reef and, in my opinion, the best way to do so is by taking a liveaboard cruise. Exceptional dive sites like Osprey Reef and Ribbon Reefs are not practical destinations for a one day trip. They are simply too remote. You’ll want ample time for underwater exploration, so a liveaboard is definitely the way to go. However, you should take care to book such a trip well in advance. The number of trips each year are limited and these are very popular destinations for diving.
When to go
If you decide that Osprey or Ribbon is the destination for you, the months of June through September offer the best visibility. Ribbon Reefs will treat you to colorful corals and an abundance of marine life. The highlight here for me is always Cod Hole.
The Giant Potato Cod found here behave much like domesticated fish thanks to several generations of interaction with divers. Each time I go there, the best part of the trip is having these enormous fish delicately nibble food right out of my hand. Of course, they are not the only fish who partake in the feast.
Coral trout, triggerfish and other species are common sights here, and it’s an amazing experience when they swarm gracefully around you. You’ll definitely want to have your underwater camera ready if you’re diving here.
GBR isn’t just for expert divers
If you’re new to diving, I highly recommend trying the Outer Barrier Reef. Plenty of great opportunities lie just outside of Cairns, and there are plenty of dive companies who can take you on a breathtaking excursion. In my experience, Flynn Reef offers some of the best wildlife viewing anywhere along the Great Barrier Reef.
This is especially true if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of turtles. Some particularly enormous specimens call this area home, and these gentle giants will leave you breathless and amused.
Flynn is also an excellent spot for finding diverse species of coral. Plate coral, table coral, staghorn and others are all found here. If you have only a short time to dive, then I would recommend this beautiful and easily accessible site.
If you’ve got plenty of time and are feeling adventurous, sail out to the Coral Sea. Bougainville, Shark and Holmes reefs offer monumental opportunities for diving. Massive sheer walls and graceful pinnacles are combined with stunning sea life to make this a diver’s dream destination.
With so many wonderful opportunities for interacting with nature, I think I could spend my whole live diving here without ever feeling that I’m seeing the same thing twice. The Great Barrier Reef offers endless variety, and it's a suitable place for novice and experienced divers to practice their sport surrounded by unparalleled beauty.
What are your thoughts about scuba diving the GBR? Let us know in the comments below
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Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.