Diving the Ribbon Reefs | the Great Barrier Reef
| Australia
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The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on the planet and for that reason alone, it's on most people's diving wish list. There are 3000 individual reefs, 1500 species of fish, 400 corals and 4000 molluscs. Although you can dive all the way along this impressive natural structure, the Ribbon Reefs are perhaps the most popular and most dived. They wind down the Queensland coast, defining the outer edge of the continental shelf before it drops off into the deep water, Queensland trench.

The Ribbon Reefs are characterised by two styles of dive – gently sloping rim reefs and more dramatic pinnacle dives. These tend to be tall, thin rocks, like an inverted chimney, that soar from around 30 metres until they almost break the surface. There's usually a mass of snappers, large schools of jacks, tuna and mackerel swimming around them. Smaller creatures include shrimp in mushroom corals or anemones, whip coral gobies, nudibranchs, leaffish and the usual tropical fish.

The world-famous Cod Hole dive site is at the top of this area, and you are almost guaranteed to see these enormous and curious animals. In the winter months (June and July) dwarf minke whales are frequent visitors to the Great Barrier Reef. You can snorkel with them and – if you are really lucky – they may visit during a dive.

Great Barrier Reef dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life

Pinnacle dives
Dwarf minke whales
Harlequin tuskfish

Top dive site The Cod Hole
Seasons Year round
Visibility 5 – 40 metres
Water temperature 24 – 29º C
Deco chambers Brisbane, Townsville
Flights to Brisbane and Cairns
Information Many dive operators and hotels in Cairns, more limited Port Douglas.

Australia is a long way from almost everywhere so consider the distance and time needed to get over jet lag. If you go, go for three weeks and try to see some land attractions as well as diving. Cairns is the starting point for most Great Barrier Reef liveaboards but cosmopolitan Port Douglas is a prettier and more compact town if you want to stay on land. Both have dive operators, hotels and restaurants.


Despite it's size, many experienced divers are a little disappointed with diving the Great Barrier Reef. Although it is a huge and prolific marine environment, the sites are widespread so you may get the impression that the reefs are not as rich as those in the nearby countries that are inside the Coral Triangle.

We have dived the Great Barrier Reef many times and although we have enjoyed every trip, it will never be right at the top of our personal favourite as it is can get very crowded with day-trippers. However, it is well worth seeing and snorkelling with the dwarf minke whales is a completely unique experience. The liveaboard we travelled on to do that is no longer running.
Complete reports on this area are in
Diving the World.

Order print copies direct from SeaFocus here.

The digital edition is on iTunes.