If you visit Australia, you should not miss scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef with its countless colorful corals and exotic fish! The Great Barrier Reef is huge, spanning roughly 1,615 miles (2,600 km) along the Queensland coastline and consists of over 2,900 individual reefs.
There are well over a hundred boats that sail to the reef and depart from dozens of different locations, with travel from 1 day to 9 days (8-night rides) and prices that vary widely from budget-conscious backpackers to luxury travelers.
Below the water surface live more than 400 coral species and 1,500 colorful iridescent tropical fish species. Hundreds of small tropical islands provide a home for seabirds and sea turtles. Also, rays, dolphins and Minke whales feel at the Great Barrier Reef very well.
Diving and Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef
The best way to experience the wonderful world of corals is to go diving. If you want to do a scuba diving course on-site, keep in mind that courses often last 5 days. And if you want to explore the Great Barrier Reef underwater on your own, you must have a valid diver’s license. But do not worry, it is already an unforgettable experience to discover the dazzling underwater world while snorkeling. The crystal clear and pleasantly warm water gives you a good view and the corals can thrive optimally due to the bright light.
Sustainable Tours on the Great Barrier Reef
There are many ways to see and explore the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef: snorkeling, diving, by glass boat or a small submarine, out in the air on a helicopter flight, on a sailing trip … – you can even stay overnight on a platform in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef.
Explore the breathtaking outer Great Barrier Reef with style and comfort aboard our Silver Series fleet. It is specially designed for exciting diving and snorkeling adventures.
Also, especially for those who want to do a scuba diving course , there is a similar range of possibilities. With all the possibilities and various marketing promises, the decision is not easy.
The good news is that your dive trip to the Reef can be perfectly tuned to you, depending on your needs and interests. Here are some tips and recommendations to shed some light on:
Best Time to Travel
The diving season lasts all year round and pretty much every month of the year you can dive very well. If you are lucky enough to be able to choose the best diving conditions for your holiday (warm, clear water, low rainfall and consistently flat seas and good visibility) October to mid January is the best time.
Note that the time of our hurricane season is from the end of January to April, but during this time the diving conditions can be perfect. However, a hurricane (cyclone) can also ruin the planned trip and even cause trips to be canceled for security reasons.
Best Locations to Travel
Budget Traveler? You will find that Cairns is the best place for you, with very good diving opportunities and a wide range of possible trips. Competition between all diving companies keeps prices low.
The excursions here are very reef-oriented, you dive and snorkel a lot and there is little or no time spent visiting islands or other activities. Cairns is the perfect place if budget travelers are interested in visiting the reef.
If you have more diversified interests and are also interested in sailing, Airlie Beach is a good place for you. These trips usually take you on board for 2 or 3 nights, with several snorkeling and diving trips, combined with visits to the scenic beaches and remote islands of the Whitsunday Island Group.
A bit of caution should be taken with the trip choice, as not all of these trips go to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) itself. Many, instead, visit the reefs that surround the islands. They offer easier diving and snorkeling, but are not as rich and diverse in coral reef life as the GBR itself.
You are an experienced diver and looking for the most beautiful dive possible? We recommend the “liveaboard” trips that go to the Ribbon Reef section of the Great Barrier Reef and into the Coral Sea.
These locations offer an even more amazing variety of reef life and their seclusion provides better visibility. The view on the Coral Sea Riffs is almost always 30 feet or more, and the area is famous for the large numbers and variety of sharks that divers can see there.
These trips all start from Cairns and due to the remoteness of these dive sites, the trips are at least 3 nights long. Two companies carry out these excursions at a luxury price. A company offers a reasonably priced alternative to the Ribbon Reefs (see link below).
Another must-see for adventurous divers is scuba diving at the Yongala wreck. This is Australia’s best wreck dive, with both Townsville and Alva Beach starting.
The depth and current make this a dive for advanced and experienced divers. Note that this part of the coast is often very windy, making it the most canceled trip.
Diving and Snorkeling with Whales
You can be lucky enough to discover a number of different species of whales in diving, but as one would expect, most whales tend to regard divers and snorkelers with indifference, much like an elephant would consider a fruit fly.
However, several populations of Minke whales live along the coast on parts of our reefs, migrating from early June to late July. For some reason, and unlike other whales that are shy of divers, the Minke whales are extremely curious and particularly interested in the surface-swimming snorkelers – they approach snorkelers rather densely and accompany them for a longer time.
Only three boats offer trips with a better than 90% chance of meeting these whales. They are the only ones calling the Ribbon Reefs in the Zwerwal season. However, this region also offers fantastic diving and snorkeling experiences when the whales are not around. Due to the short season for these whales and the high demand, you should book your tour some time in advance.