The Largest Coral Reef on Earth
Diving on the Great Barrier Reef is surely on the bucket list of many travelers! Most travelers come to the city of Cairns to book their dive cruise on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a good idea if you have tight timing, or if these are your first bubbles in the world of Nemo.
Starting from this town, you will often sail to the nearest reefs, namely Saxon Reef, Norman Reef and Hastings Reef. Approximately 37 miles from Cairns, they enjoy a variety of wildlife and dives are easy. However, it can be seen that the coral is sometimes damaged or even dead, probably because of the high frequency of these waters.
Why You Need to Dive at the Great Barrier Reef
A selfie with one of the gigantic Napoleon wrasse and snorkeling with sea turtles – diving dreams come true at the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is a place of superlatives and one of the most fascinating treasures of our planet. Hundreds of different coral species, countless colorful fish and impressive marine mammals – no wonder diving enthusiasts from all over the world have the Great Barrier Reef on their bucket list.
Diving at least once in your life to this natural wonder of the earth is an experience that will leave its mark and give you impressions of an underwater world that you will never forget again.
Record-breaking and Diverse
Almost everyone has heard of it before, but only very few people know about the special features of the Great Barrier Reef. Where is the famous coral reef?
The Great Barrier Reef, which actually consists of about 2,800 smaller reefs, is located in the South Pacific and runs almost parallel to the coast of the state Queensland in the northeast of Australia.
In the north it extends from Torres Strait, which runs between Australia and Papua New Guinea, to Lady Elliott Island in the south. It has a full length of no less than 1,430 miles. This is almost the same distance between New York and Denver, or Seattle and Los Angeles, from London to Moscow or from Berlin to Reykjavik.
An enormous size that seems even more unbelievable when you consider that this is a coral reef. A complex created over millions of years by organisms no bigger than a fingernail. So the Great Barrier Reef is not only the longest coral reef on earth, it is also the largest structure of our planet created by living beings and even visible from outer space.
But it’s not just these size records that attract divers and nature lovers from all over the world to the east coast of Australia. Also the incomparable diversity of species makes this underwater paradise so special. So it is hardly surprising that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981.
The Great Barrier Reef is a true hotspot of biodiversity. Over 2,000 different fish species have already been sighted. These include the Clownfish known from the Pixar film “Finding Nemo” with their bright orange color. Also worth seeing is the up to 6.5 feet long, carnivorous Napoleon wrasse, which changes color several times in its life.
A true highlight is an encounter with one of the impressive manta rays, which glide gently through the water with a range of up to 23 feet. The reef is also home to an estimated 400 coral and 4,000 mollusc species, including the world’s largest mussels.
Marine mammals such as dolphins, Minke whales, Humpback whales and Dugongs also feel very at home in the marine ecosystem. Sea turtles, sea snakes and even crocodiles also live here.
How and When is the Great Barrier Reef Best Explored?
Does your heart beat faster at the thought of diving into the crystal clear water, getting lost in huge shoals of fish and experiencing the natural beauty of this magical place with your own eyes? Find out how best to get to the Great Barrier Reef and what the best time of year is for a diving holiday in Australia.
First of all, you need to travel to the Australian state of Queensland. If you come directly from Los Angeles, you can fly to Brisbane, for example. Long-haul flights from California take you to the third largest city in Australia with just one stopover, for example in Singapore or Abu Dhabi.
From Brisbane it’s another 224 miles to Bundaberg, the southernmost coastal town from where ships leave for the Great Barrier Reef. Another option is a flight to the northern Australian city of Cairns, which is also considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. However, you will usually need to plan another stopover in Melbourne or Sydney.
Once on the Queensland coast, you’ll be spoiled for choice as to where to start your reef adventure. You can also choose how you want to explore the reef. Classic are of course boat trips out to the reef, where you will be taken to the best diving and snorkeling areas.
Even better than a day trip, you can get to know the reef by staying on one of the islands in the Great Barrier Reef, where you can explore the underwater world on your own.
Of course, there is an endless choice of providers where you can take a diving course. For those who prefer not to get their feet wet, a trip with a glass-bottomed ship or even a submarine is recommended. From a completely different perspective, the largest coral reef in the world can also be experienced on a helicopter flight.
The Great Barrier Reef is located in tropical waters, which is why the water temperatures are pleasantly warm all year round. Generally, you can visit the reef at any time of year. The best conditions for diving are from October to January. During this time there is little precipitation and the waves are low.
Therefore the water is very clear and the visibility is excellent. The cyclone season lasts from the end of January to April. Although you can still dive wonderfully during these months, it can happen that boat trips are cancelled for safety reasons.
The best dive sites at the Great Barrier Reef:
Due to the enormous size of the Great Barrier Reef it can be difficult to choose a suitable dive site. In general, underwater visibility is best at the outer reefs. These are located towards the open sea, which is why only a few sediments float in the sea and the colours seem even more bright. Diving beginners enjoy trips to the coral reefs that surround the islands of the region. Diving and snorkelling is easier on these reefs, but the biodiversity is also less than on the actual reefs of the Great Barrier Reef.
The southern Great Barrier Reef: Corals, Humpback Whales and Clownfish
For those in the southern part of Queensland, Lady Elliot Island is a good option for exploring Australia’s underwater world. The island is located in a marine sanctuary and the coral gardens begin here just a few steps from the beach.
Even inexperienced snorkellers can admire starfish, urchins and small reef fish in the quiet lagoon on the east coast of the island. Reef sharks, dolphins and turtles can often be seen on the reefs of the west coast. The Lady Elliot Island is especially known for its manta rays, which form larger groups here especially in the winter months.
A true colour spectacle awaits you around the picturesque Orpheus Island. The corals of the Great Barrier Reef are not only very colourful, but also very diverse, with hundreds of species of hard and soft corals. A trip to Orpheus Island between late June and mid September, when humpback whales pass the island, is worthwhile.
The uninhabited island Lady Musgrave Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef is surrounded by a shallow lagoon. Protected from strong currents, clownfish can be seen in the clear water all year round between the sea anemones. Bright blue starfish, harmless leopard sharks and sea turtles grazing in the seagrass meadows also feel at home here.
The Australian Whitsunday Islands in front of Airlie Beach have fantastic island worlds to offer. Hayman Island is the best of the islands to dive the coral reef. A hotspot is the Blue Pearl Bay, where Napoleon wrasse are among the fish that swim through the water.
Experience the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns. If Cairns is your starting point to explore the Great Barrier Reef, a day trip to Green Island is worthwhile. Here the coral gardens start almost immediately after the beach. Giant clams, butterfly and parrot fish – here you will find an El Dorado for divers and snorkelers.
In the tropical north of Queensland the reefs Norman, Hastings and Saxon are very close together. The underwater visibility is very good. At Norman Reef you can dive in caves and snorkel with curious minke whales. At Hastings Reef the coral formations are particularly spectacular and host parrotfish, small reef sharks, turtles and giant clams.
The Ribbon Reefs are considered as one of the best dive sites of the Great Barrier Reef. These are about 40 miles from Port Douglas. Due to their remoteness, you will find even more diverse habitats here. Popular is the Cod Hole, where you can swim with tame groupers weighing up to 150 pounds. No matter which section of this huge coral reef you choose, the underwater worlds of the Great Barrier Reef are sure to captivate you. Make this dream come true and immerse yourself in a colourful world that is always on the move and full of life.