Travel Rankings & Advice

Diving and Snorkeling

Diving and Snorkeling Photo info
  • Type: Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Swimming/Pools
  • Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
Overall Rating: 5.0 (4.8)
Value: 4.0 (4.0)
Facilities: 0.0 (N/A)
Atmosphere: 5.0 (5.0)
About these ratings

The best way to see the Great Barrier Reef is through a scuba mask, but it's no small feat to traverse the area's 5,000-plus dive spots. When choosing which regions to explore, consider your skill level, the amount of travel involved and the length of dive trips in that area. We've listed two of the most popular diving and snorkeling areas below:

Cairns Reefs

Hosting a kaleidoscope of fish, sea turtles and humpback whales, the Cairns Reefs are teeming with wildlife. This region of the reef (referred to as the "Outer Barrier Reef") is ideal for first-time divers and families with young children because the travel time from Cairns' Reef Fleet Terminal to the reef is relatively short, ranging from one to three hours. (Keep in mind that travel time can vary, depending on the speed of your boat and the specific area you're visiting.) Even if you consider yourself a more advanced diver, the Outer Barrier Reefs are still worth exploring because the water clarity is excellent. Though each tour company visits different dive sites, some of the more popular dive spots in the Cairns Reefs include Michaelmas Cay, Green Island and Hastings Reef. Ocean Free, Seastar Cruises and Tusa Dive all offer a variety of half- to full-day cruises departing from Cairns.

The Ribbon Reefs

Running alongside the north Queensland coastline, these 10 narrow reefs are known simply as the Ribbon Reefs. You won't have a hard time telling them apart since they're conveniently numbered one through 10, from south to north. Because these reefs are about 60 miles north of Cairns, the travel time isn't as swift compared to the Cairns Reef, but your patience pays off when you see the beauty of this region. This area is also home to one of the reef's most famous dive sites, Cod Hole. Along with the chromatic parade of tropical fish, Cod Hole is best known for the massive Potato Cod and Maori Wrasse fish. After 30 years of being hand-fed by guides, the resident Potato Cod aren't afraid to approach divers in hopes of scoring some chow. More elusive are the Dwarf Minke Whales, which can be spotted in June and July. Though these dive trips require more time (they usually last about three to seven days), the reefs' seclusion from the mainland affords clearer visibility than the reefs located closer to Cairns. Check with Spirit of Freedom, Deep Sea Divers Den and Mike Ball Dive Expeditions for tour times and prices to Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs.

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