Queensland’s World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef as scuba diver’s paradise. You could dive on the world’s largest marine park every day for the rest of your life and still not see it all. Queensland’s warm subtropical climate is perfect for diving all year round and the water is clearer than crystal. Discover a Garden of Eden below the waves, a magical world filled with diverse species of marine life. There’s a whole new undersea world waiting, where you can enjoy peak diving experiences.
The reef offers some of the best wall diving in the world, with sheer walls of coral that disappear into the blue void of ocean down to the sea bed hundreds and sometimes thousands of meters below. You can arrange to have a marine ecologist or reef guide accompany your dive to explain the rich and complex life forms of the reef. Or take a step back into history, diving among the hundreds of wrecks dotted along the reef and coast, most of which are teeming with bright corals and hundreds of fish. Fifteen hundred species of fish make their home on the reef. It’s not uncommon to find yourself swimming alongside Sea Snakes, Sharks, Manta Rays and Turtles.The Great Barrier Reef stretches along most of the Queensland coastline covering several regions:
Northern Queensland Region
Stretching from Cairns to Cape York at the northern tip of mainland Australia, the northern region of the Reef offers a fantastic range of diving holidays in the cleanest waters of the world with visibility often exceeding 100 meters. There’s spectacular marine life, isolated atolls, amazing drop offs, exciting shark feeding stations and intact shipwrecks. Many of the most exotic dive sites are close to Cairns.
Popular reefs include Thetford Reef which has sand cays, walls and coral gardens and small caves in 20 to 30 meters of water, and Norman Reef, the site of a large fully-roofed pontoon that serves as a base for visits to nearby smaller reefs. Shipwreck buffs must include a dive on the RMS Quetta wreck which sunk in the Torres Strait in 1890 and lies on her side in good conditions off the tip of Cape York.
The section of the Great Barrier Reef covering Mission Beach, Townsville and Bowen offers some great diving experiences along the outer edge of the Reef. This is a region where the serious diver should look to make use of the many excellent charter boats and take extended trips. Most of the reefs in this region boast terrific photo and video opportunities.
Bowl Reef has many large and varied Gorgonian fans, caves, drop-offs, fish feeding and good night diving. John Brewer Reef is good for shallow reef diving and some shark feeding. The coral reefs off the coast of Bowen are littered with shipwrecks including the famous Gothenburg which sank with great loss of life and a cargo of gold in 1854.
The Whitsunday Region
The most popular scuba diving locations around the Whitsunday Islands are located at the northern end of Hook Island which is sheltered from the southerly weather. There are many day trips and extended cruises departing from Shute Harbour at Airlie Beach and from the island resorts such as the marina in Hamilton island. Bait Reef and its famous Stepping Stones in the northeast of the region is the closest reef to the mainland. This reef is famous for its diversity of great dive experiences and locations. Another popular dive site is Black Reef, a fantasy land for scuba diving exploration.
The Mackay Region
The most popular dive site of the Mackay Region is Credlin Reef which has at least ten excellent sites along the permanently moored giant pontoon for both beginner and advanced divers.
There are so many options to dive the Great Barrier Reef and so many locations that to try and describe them all here would be impossible.
Dive Global focused on the Whitsunday Region and took day trips with H2O Sportz and Fantasea Cruises, both located on beautiful Hamilton Island. Hamilton Island is in the heart of the Whitsunday Islands and houses the main airport. It is also the only island in this group with a wide variety of hotels, apartments, bungalows and houses to rent to suit most tastes and budgets as well as offering an endless array of activities. Surrounded by idyllic coral fringed beaches, Hamilton Island provides the perfect backdrop for the ultimate tropical Great Barrier Reef holiday for divers and non-divers alike.
Dive Sites in The Great Barrier Reef
Diving is offered in Bait Reef Marine Park in the Great Barrier Reef, a two hour boat trip away. Bait Reef is one of the best known and most spectacular locations on the Great Barrier Reef. The reef provides an “oasis” for all sorts of tropical marine life, with turtles and manta rays common sights. Coral gardens, underwater canyons, swim throughs and dramatic walls provide a range of terrain to explore. The reef is an ideal location for both scuba divers and snorkelers.
H2O Sportz offers daily departures from their dive shop at Hamilton Island Marina at 9:30 am, returning at 5:00 pm. The boat ride takes about 2 hours each way and you’ll spend around 4 hours at your reef location, which allows plenty of time for lots of snorkeling and/or 2 leisurely dives. A delicious buffet lunch is served on board and the crew is excellent! On bad weather days, H2O sportz offers half day diving/snorkeling trips to the closer reefs around the Whitsunday islands to avoid the rough open seas which can swell to three meters of more. Have a look at the dive sites of Bait Reef for more specific dive sites information. Snorkelers can explore the shallow gardens on top of the reef, confident in the hands of their snorkel guide. Beginner divers, are escorted by the instructors around the reef formations at around 10 meters (30 feet). The more experienced divers can investigate the canyons and walls at “Stepping Stones”.
Another option is the large, air-conditioned and high speed trip out with the Fantasea 2000 Catamaran of Fantasea Cruises who will drop you off at their permanent pontoon “Reefworld”. As an accredited PADI facility, they offer both certified and introductory diving at Reefworld, a permanently moored adventure platform on the Great Barrier Reef.
Reefworld is positioned on the outer edge of Hardy Reef, which is a ‘patch reef’ on the Great Barrier Reef and all dives are conducted along the 70 m reef wall. A special feature of Reefworld is the ‘Moon Pool’, a suspended dive cage in waist deep water, located underneath Reefworld. The Moon Pool is an ideal safe area for introductory divers to practice their skills before venturing out in to deeper waters and an excellent entry/exit point for certified divers.
The pontoon offers a semi submarine tour from which you can get a good glimpse of the reef. There is also a large sundeck, an enclosed snorkeling area, picnic tables and a souvenir shop. Reefworld offers scenic helicopter tours over the reef and if you wish to overnight, enjoy Reefsleep – the ultimate sleepover on the Great Barrier Reef. Reefworld is also a research location of the Australian Marine Science Institute.
Getting to The Great Barrier reef
No better airline to fly Down Under then Australian Qantas. The carrier has an extensive schedule to and from major cities around the world.
Qantas also operates daily flights to Hamilton Island and Cairns from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Dive Global experienced the comforts of Qantas Business Class. We enjoyed the new Dreamtime seats which adjusts five ways electronically for maximum comfort using touch controls. Business class offers more space than ever so you can feel more comfortable while working, or really stretch out and just relax while enjoying nonstop entertainment on the individual TV screen.
The food was divine as Qantas in-flight cuisine is excellent. In 1998, Qantas changed high altitude dining forever. They introduced a new style of First and Business Class cuisine created by award-winning Australian chef and restaurateur, Neil Perry. Think of “the Wolfgang Puck of Australia”, and you’ll get a sense of Neil’s talents for creating meals on the ground. Yum!
Qantas allows for 2 x 32 kg (70 pound) bags per person and 1 x 5 kg (11 pound) carry-on. Surcharges may apply to surplus.
When to Visit The Great Barrier Reef
Daily temperatures ranging from a daytime maximum of 25-27°C to an overnight minimum of 17-20°C in Queensland. As the region is totally tropical (being 16° south of the equator) summer is generally much warmer and subject to high seasonal rainfall from December to April. Heavy intermittent downpours followed by long periods of sunshine are the most characteristic aspect of the weather at this time of year. Daily maximums are 30-34°C with 20-24°C overnight.
You have to take the good with the bad, and during the summer months North Queensland is affected by cyclone activity. If you intend visiting during this period, it is probably best that you familiarize yourself with the necessary cyclone precautions and emergency procedures. Prevailing southeasterly winds blow for 9 months of the year, limiting diving time in the far North to a few short months, from late August to January. Generally the winds die down in October.