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Great Barrier Reefscuba diving the great barrier reef

Scuba diving and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia topped the list when early 2004 a survey was held in the U.K. asking people about the 50 things to do before you die.

The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living coral system in the world, stretching over 2000km. along Queensland's coast from Bundaberg through Cairns to the top of Cape York, it contains 2900 reefs, 600 islands and 300 coral cayes. This amazing place is home to 1500 species of fish, 360 species of hard coral, 30% of the world's soft corals, 7000 species of molluscs, 17 species of sea snakes, 6 species of endangered sea turtles, 1330 species of crustacea, 30 species of cetacea (whales and dolphins), and 14,000 of Australia's 90,000 dugongs.

coral spawning
Photograph from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The Great Barrier Reef is the site of the biggest orgasm in the universe. This is one of the terms the North Queensland scuba dive industry uses to describe the annual coral spawning where three to five nights after the full moon in November or December when the water temperature hits 28 degrees, the entire 2300 kms of Great Barrier Reef lets go of zillions and zillions of brightly colored sperm and eggs that float around for several days and fertilize eachother. Fish go into a feeding frenzy and the ocean sometimes resembles an oiltanker disaster site but all this is done to propagate new corals to ensure the survival of the Great Barrier Reef. If you find yourself in North Queensland around this time you can witness this spectacular event as many of the reef tour operators run extra night trips.
The Great Barrier Reef was the first Australian site to be placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1981, now there are 15 Australian sites. The coral on the reef is estimated to be around 18 million years old, and is thought to be about 500 metres thick in some places. Coral is made by tiny little polyps, which are marine animals from the Cindaria family. When the polyps die, their skeletons turn white (which is how you know if coral is alive or dead) and then more polyps grow on top of them.
It is extremely important you do not touch the coral or stand on it, the pressure of your finger is enough to squash and kill the tiny coral polyps!
There are a few conditions that are required for healthy growth of coral. The water must be salty, clear and not lower in temperature than 17.5 degrees and lower in depth than 30 metres. An amazing sight is seeing the spawning of the coral, which happens in late spring/early summer and is often called an 'underwater snowstorm'.

Some of the best places to see the reef from are Cairns, Port Douglas, Airlie Beach/Whitsundays and especially Cape Tribulation where the reef comes closest to the coast.

Below we have a great selection of tours and accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef but you might also like to check out Tours To Go, they have a good variety of tours on the reef, ranging from snorkelling day tours to live-aboard scuba diving, to scuba dive courses and charter boats.

Instant Bookings - Tours To Go

Daycruises from Cairns

cairns great barrier reef trip
MV Supercat
© Down Under Dive

The Supercat : If you are looking for a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef on a high speed catamaran that is EXCEPTIONAL VALUE, look no further. Offering one of the fastest day trips, visiting two outer reef locations for an unforgettable day of fun, discovery and adventure. The MV Supercat provides a superior and comfortable ride in almost all weather conditions. More info...

 


Green Island
© Big Cat Green Island Cruises

The Big Cat : Green Island is a beautiful coral cay which enjoys world acclaim as a tropical paradise on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The island is a protected Marine National Park, readily identified by its emerald rainforest surrounded by white sandy beaches and magnificent coral reefs. The marine life includes endless varieties of colorful fish, turtles, giant clams, shells, starfish, sea anemones and much more. More info...

 


Wavedancer
© Quicksilver

Wavedancer : Quicksilver's 30 meter luxury sailing catamaran, 'Wavedancer', offers the excitement of big ship sailing combined with the ultimate in comfort. Let the crew pamper you in the luxurious air-conditioned lounge with its fully licensed bar, or soak up the sun and sea air under the sails on our expansive deck. 'Wavedancer' is a memorable experience from the moment you step aboard. They will take you to Low Isles ehich is situated 15 kilometers north-east of Port Douglas. Low Isles is a 4 acre coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The corals are very close to the island, which makes snorkeling an enjoyable experience. The two small islands are separate with one common reef. The larger of the two, Woody Island, is uninhabited except for a large bird population. The smaller of the Low Isles is a coral cay with a lighthouse that has been operating since 1878. More info....

 

ocean spirit diving snorkeling cairns great barrier reef
© Ocean Spirit Cruises

Ocean Spirit Upolu Cay Reef Cruise : Set sail aboard a luxury catamaran with Ocean Spirit Cruises for Upolu Cay, an uninhabited coral cay lying about 18 nautical miles from Cairns, an ideal reef destination for a range of different age groups. The surrounding coral gardens play host to a myriad of marine life. Dugongs are often seen raising their calves throughout the year in the protected waters around the cay. You also have the opportunity to visit either Arlington Reef or Oyster Reef as you sail out to beautiful Upolu Cay, both of which are teeming with marine life and offer some of the best coral viewing on the Great Barrier Reef. For those interested in exploring the coral reef by diving on their day out to the Great Barrier Reef, Ocean Spirit also offers introductory dives for the novice and certified dives for experienced divers. More info....

 


Maori Wrasse
© Deep Sea Divers Den

SeaQuest ADV - Certified Diver Day Trip : SeaQuest ADV caters superbly for certified divers. With 14 permanent moorings, Deep Sea Divers Den offer superb diving sites on the Outer Barrier Reef which will excite divers of all experience levels. Dive guides are available for those wanting close underwater supervision and certified divers can explore two dive locations in one day. The dive locations on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef offer outstanding underwater visibility, superb coral formations and abundant, colorful marine life including 'Wally', a friendly 1.5 meter (5 feet) Maori Wrasse at Norman Reef. More info....

Overnight/liveaboard dive trips from Cairns

cod hole scuba diving cairns
Diving
© Quicksilver

Cod hole - Two days/two nights. Day One - is making our way North along the Agincourt and Ribbon Reef systems. Enjoy 3 day dives and a night dive. The night dive you choose may be included as part of the optional advanced diving course.
Day Two - Thursdays include diving at the famous Cod Hole and the Northern Ribbons, as well as another night dive. Awake to breakfast on Friday morning moored in the calm waters of Snapper Island. It is then a short journey back to the Marina at Port Douglas. Enjoy a minimum of 8 dives, including 2 night dives during your Cod Hole Diving Adventure. Snorkelers are welcome to join and have the opportunity to enjoy a FREE Introductory dive. More info....

Helicopter scenic flights from Cairns

helicopter flights over cairns and the great barrier reef
Scenic flights over Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

You can combine a helicopter flight and a reef cruise by flying out to the Great Barrier Reef, landing at Hastings reef, and then after some snorkeling head back to Cairns on the boat. More info...

Click here for more information and accommodation in Cairns....

Cape Tribulation

cape tribulation snorkel and dive trips to great barrier reef

Cape Tribulation is where the reef comes closest to the coast, and it will only take you an hour or less to get out there on one of the boats that depart from here. James Cook discovered here in 1770 how close the reef came to the coast when he hit Endeavour Reef with his ship and nearly sank, in his not too positive mood he then assigned the name Cape Tribulation to the last cape he had passed before darkness fell. ( Tribulation = trouble). More info on Great Barrier Reef trips from Cape Tribulation....

Reeftrips from Port Douglas

Silversonic dive and snorkel

port douglas silversonic to the great barrier reef


Silversonic is a luxury 29 meter catamaran with full bar facilities, fresh water showers, change rooms and spacious deck areas. Morning and afternoon tea are served as well as a hot and cold tropical buffet lunch and the spacious deck areas are ideal for sharing a cold drink and tales of your days adventure. Certified divers can enjoy up to three dives at two different sites during the day. There is a multitude of marine life at Agincourt Reef, from tiny iridescent fish seeking shelter in their coral homes to massive giant clams weighing up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Perhaps you will see a small harmless reef shark or a boulder coral hundreds of years old. The Silversonic crew with 25 years of combined experience will show you the best there is to see.
More info....

 

Ocean Spirit

upolu cay on great barrier reef from port douglas

Upolu Cay is an uninhabited coral cay lying about 18 nautical miles off the coast. Dugongs are often seen raising their calves throughout the year in the protected waters around the cay.
Set sail aboard a luxury catamaran with Ocean Spirit Cruises for Upolu Cay - a small uninhabited sand island on the outer Great Barrier Reef just short of Michaelmas Cay. View the brilliant coral and sea-life in the glass bottom boat or try a snorkel or a dive. Enjoy a hot and cold buffet lunch and relax with the friendly crew. Enjoy champagne and entertainment on the homeward sail back to Cairns. You also have the opportunity to visit Oyster Reef as you sail out to beautiful Upolu Cay. Oyster Reef is teeming with marine life and offers some of the best coral viewing on the Great Barrier Reef. For those interested in exploring the coral reef by diving on their day out to the Great Barrier Reef, Ocean Spirit also offers introductory dives for the novice and certified dives for experienced divers.
More info....

 

 

Quicksilver

quicksilver cruise from port douglas to the great barrier reef

Join Quicksilver's friendly crew as they take you to Agincourt Reef located at the very edge of Australia's Continental Shelf, to an underwater world that is a dazzling kaleidoscope of color and brilliance, where you can experience first hand the magic that is the Great Barrier Reef.
Situated on the very edge of the Great Barrier Reef, Agincourt Reef provides a sheltered anchorage for the Quicksilver vessel and the perfect spot for passengers to experience the new Ocean Walker helmet diving, snorkeling, scuba diving, or stay dry and explore the stunning reef from the comfort of a Quicksilver semi-sub, just one meter underwater and watch the fish feeding from Quicksilver's unique underwater viewing platform. Cruising at high speed to Agincourt Reef, 39 nautical miles (72 kilometers) from Port Douglas, these superb vessels give you the smoothest possible ride in all weather conditions.
More info....

 

Wave Dancer

scuba diving from port douglas
Wavedancer
© Quicksilver

Quicksilver's 30 meter luxury sailing catamaran, 'Wavedancer', offers the excitement of big ship sailing combined with the ultimate in comfort. Let the crew pamper you in the luxurious air-conditioned lounge with its fully licensed bar, or soak up the sun and sea air under the sails on our expansive deck. 'Wavedancer' is a memorable experience from the moment you step aboard. They will take you to Low Isles which is situated 15 kilometers north-east of Port Douglas. Low Isles is a 4 acre coral cay surrounded by 55 acres of reef. The corals are very close to the island, which makes snorkeling an enjoyable experience. The two small islands are separate with one common reef. The larger of the two, Woody Island, is uninhabited except for a large bird population. The smaller of the Low Isles is a coral cay with a lighthouse that has been operating since 1878.
More info....

Click here for more information and accommodation in Port Douglas....

Cruises from Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands

Half day cruise to Whitehaven Beach

airlie beach white haven beach snorkeling trip

From Airlie Beach, this cruise takes you to picturesque Whitehaven Beach - one of the Whitsundays premier natural attractions. Here you have the afternoon to enjoy the natural beauty of this seven kilometre stretch of pure white silica sand. Swim in the crystal clear waters, take a leisurely walk along the pristine beach, join in a game of beach volleyball or just relax and soak up the sunshine.
A delicious BBQ buffet lunch is served on board before you are transferred across to the beach to enjoy the activities. More info....

 

Cruise several islands

pristine beaches on the whitsunday islands off airlie beach

Departing from Airlie Beach, this Fantasea Two Island Cruise showcases two very different faces of the Whitsunday Islands. Apart from a visit to the spectacular Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island, you'll also enjoy the exciting resort attractions of Hamilton Island. The cruise departs daily from Shute Harbour and allows you to spend approximately two and a half hours on Hamilton Island before departing for the afternoon at beautiful Whitehaven Beach. Your cruise includes complimentary tea and coffee, a buffet lunch on route to Whitehaven Beach and beach activities.

HAMILTON ISLAND:
Hamilton Island is the largest, most cosmopolitan island resort in the South Pacific, offering an enormous range of activities. These include target shooting, the wire-flyer, go-karts, buggy hire, scenic island tours and a diverse range of bars, bistros, restaurants, shopping boutiques and numerous other activities.

WHITEHAVEN BEACH:
Visit one of the world's most pristine beaches and a Whitsunday icon. Enjoy a light buffet lunch on board before reaching Whitehaven Beach and then you have the whole afternoon to enjoy the natural beauty of this 6 kilometre (3.7 mile) stretch of pure white silica sand. Swim in the crystal clear water, take a leisurely walk along the pristine beach, join in the beach activities or simply soak up the sun.
More info on two islands cruise....

 

Scenic flight over the reef

scenic flight over the great barrier reef and to hamilton island

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's seven wonders, so why not indulge yourself in the best it has to offer?
Your scenic flight will take you over the Whitsundays... you will have a bird's eye view of the islands, stunning Whitehaven Beach and Heart Reef - a natural coral formation that inspires the romance in all of us!
After your flight, you will land at Reefworld to spend two hours snorkeling or scuba diving (additional cost), bathing in the sun or you can simply view the stunning coral from an underwater viewing chamber or a semi-submersible.
You will return to Hamilton Island via helicopter for another fantastic view of this spectacular part of the world. A trip you will always remember…
More info....

 

Half day cruise from Hamilton Island

airlie beach white haven beach snorkeling trip

This cruise takes you to picturesque Whitehaven Beach - one of the Whitsundays premier natural attractions. Here you have the afternoon to enjoy the natural beauty of this seven kilometre stretch of pure white silica sand. Swim in the crystal clear waters, take a leisurely walk along the pristine beach, join in a game of beach volleyball or just relax and soak up the sunshine.
A delicious BBQ buffet lunch is served on board before you are transferred across to the beach to enjoy the activities. More info....

 

Full day cruise from Hamilton Island

great barrier reef trip from hamilton island

Visit Reefworld, the largest and most sophisticated Australian owned reef platform on the Great Barrier Reef!
You will travel to Hardy Reef, the most beautiful and prolific of nature's coral gardens, in the air conditioned comfort of a high-speed catamaran. Here you can enjoy a day of adventure exploring the reef along the snorkelling trails or scuba diving with Fantasea's experienced dive instructors. For the less adventurous, the large open sundeck with shaded areas is the perfect place to enjoy the unique experience of sun baking on the reef. More info....

 

Overnight cruise

scuba diving and snorlkeling the great barrier reef from airlie beach

Reefsleep is a truly unforgettable reef experience, where you can stay overnight at Reefworld, the largest Australian owned offshore facility on the Great Barrier Reef. In fact past guests often call it the ultimate sleep-over on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reefsleep package offers a chance to explore the reef without the crowds. You have the opportunity to enjoy all of Reefworld's facilities over two days and experience the peace and tranquility of Reefworld at night. Watching the sun set from the top deck is truly breathtaking and Reefworld is the perfect place to star gaze - you will not believe how many stars there are or how bright they are until you have been out on the reef at night.
With exclusive time to explore the reef once the day-trippers have departed, come face to face with schools of colourful reef fish and be amazed at the coral formations as you dive or snorkel along the reef edge. From the comfort of the underwater viewing chamber witness the spectacular transformation as the marine life comes alive after sunset.
You will be pampered by your own personal Deck Steward for the night as canapes and drinks are served at dusk and dinner alfresco style under the stars. Breakfast is enjoyed on the reef the following morning.More info....

Click here for more information and accommodation in Airlie Beach / Whitsundays

 

 

       
       




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