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Our Favorite Great Barrier Reef Dives | Scuba Diving Blog

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

It's surprising how many divers take their first underwater breaths on the Great Barrier Reef. A magnet for backpackers and independent travelers, Cairns is a renowned access point to the world's largest barrier reef system, and some of the best diving in Australia. Sadly, millions of visitors each year have taken their toll on the inshore reefs accessible by day boats and from shore, however, for those willing to spend a few nights adventuring to the outer reaches on a Great Barrier Reef liveaboard, a rich and diverse world awaits.

Osprey Reef

The further you travel from shore, the better the diving gets, and Osprey Reef doesn't disappoint. This isolated pinnacle lies 220 miles (350km) northwest of Cairns and is a magnet for large pelagics such as whales, whale sharks, turtles, and mantas. Upwellings of nutrient-rich water and mixing ocean currents create the perfect marine environment to support the full range of Coral Sea species. Beautiful coral gardens covered in anemones and giant clams play host to a thriving community of small and medium reef fish, including a dwarf species of nautilus, and the stout infant fish, one of the world's smallest fish.

We recommend choosing a 5 or 7-night liveaboard trip that is large enough to withstand the sometimes-rough ocean transit out to Osprey Reef. Itineraries often include dives along the Ribbon Reefs.

Ribbon Reef

Heading further south and closer to shore, Ribbon Reef is a 75 mile (120km) long stretch of reef system featuring some of the world's best-known dives. Ten individual reefs feature healthy corals and a wide variety of lively fish. Steve's Bommie is a pinnacle that rises from 100ft (30m) to just 16ft (5m) below the surface and is known for schooling trevally, jacks, and snapper. The plateau is home to notable macro including nudibranchs, pipefish, and flatworms, as well as five species of anemonefish. Another memorable site on Ribbon Reef is Cod Hole, famous for its huge but very friendly resident potato cod. These giant fish are well accustomed to divers and approach without fear hoping to be hand-fed a tasty morsel.

Ribbon Reef lies about 60 miles (96km) from Cairns, and divers can choose a variety of trip lengths from 3 to 7 nights. There are numerous dive sites to explore, and we would recommend combining with a trip to Osprey Reef.

If you fancy exploring the best of the Great Barrier Reef, contact Bluewater Travel for advice and the best rates on Great Barrier Reef liveaboards.

Learn more about diving Australia's other great sites.

Check out reviews from the Underwater Photography Guide of the latest camera equipment including the Sony A1 underwater camera and housing.

Find great deals on underwater cameras from brands such as Nauticam at the Bluewater Photo Store.

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