The Great Barrier Reef – Scuba Diver’s Dream Come True!
The Great Barrier Reef truly is a remarkable natural wonder, and there’s so many things to see and do! If you want to swim, dive, and go snorkeling in turquoise waters and see some of the most magnificent marine life the world has to offer, grab your dive mask and come to one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world – the Great Barrier Reef!
A Marine Biology Wonder
The Great Barrier Reef spans over 2000 kilometers along the eastern coast of Australia, and is made up of almost three thousand individual reefs. Almost one thousand small islands are sprinkled throughout the entire region, from the Tropic of Capricorn to the outskirts of Papua New Guinea. Thousands of species of marine life live in and around this largest structure on earth made by living organisms. A coral reef is made of coral polyps, which are little animals in the jellyfish family, along with algae called zooxanthellae. The algae supply the material polyps need to survive and create limestone to construct the reef structures.
The Great Barrier Reef is a region where thirty different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been
spotted – including the dwarf minke whale, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, and the humpback whale. Great populations of large manatee-like dugongs, also call the reef home. Over fifteen hundred species of fish live on the Great Barrier Reef, including red bass, the clownfish, red-throat emperor, as well as many different species of snapper and coral trout. Approximately five thousand species of mollusks, seventeen species of sea snakes, six different kinds of sea turtles (the green sea turtle, leatherback sea turtles, hawksbills, loggerheads, flatbacks and the olive ridley) all live on the Great Barrier Reef.
The list of creatures that call the Great Barrier Reef goes on and on! Saltwater crocodiles, over two hundred species of birds, and many, many more animals and a stunning variety of plant life make up the ecosystem that is the Great Barrier Reef. The reef is vital to the survival of many different endangered species living there, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has increased the amount of protected zones of the reef by almost 30 percent.
The Best Times to Go Diving in Great Barrier Reef:
You can dive the Great Barrier Reef all year long, which is a bonus when you’re trying to plan your holiday around your busy schedule.
- The best season for scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is typically from mid-August to mid-December.
- Winter seasons are from April to September and bring dry, sunny and warm weather. However, the winter winds that blow can be very powerful.
- The summer season runs from October to May, with the monsoon season running from January to March. The heavy rains will fall for about 2 hours, which leaves the rest of the day sunny.
- October and November are Coral Spawning times, but the exact date varies from year to year so it can be very hard to predict exactly when it will occur.
- Minke and humpback whales season runs from May or June through August, and November for the humpback whales. The whales can usually be spotted from the boats, and even sometimes underwater while diving!
- The best visibility is from June to September in the Coral Sea, at the famous Osprey Reef, as well as from September to November on the Ribbon Reef.
The Best Ways to See the Great Barrier Reef:
Hot Air Balloon
It never even occurs to some that seeing the Great Barrier Reef by hot air balloon is even an option, so why not spend a morning floating serenely over the colourful and magnificent natural wonder? It’s a great photo opportunity! Some tours offer meals after the balloon ride, such as a luxurious champagne breakfast. Watching the sun rise over the Great Barrier Reef from the basket of a hot air balloon is a once-in-a-lifetime travel experience!
See the Great Barrier Reef at a more intense and faster pace than a hot air balloon! Take an exhilarating scenic helicopter tour of the reef, and you’ll also be treated to a day of scuba diving and delicious meals.
Scuba Diving Tours
One of the most popular reasons to travel to the Great Barrier Reef is, of course, the unbeatable world-class scuba diving opportunities! There’s no other place in the world that offers the same quality of scuba diving that the Great Barrier Reef has. You have options when it comes to diving tours:
- Liveaboard tours – Check into a “hotel on water” and stay out on the ocean for days at a time, with the option to rent all necessary equipment or use your own. Meals and accommodations are all taken care of on the liveaboard, and daily dives, diving courses, and other activities fill your day with the Great Barrier Reef style adventure.
- Day Trips – If you intend on diving multiple days but don’t want to stay on a liveaboard out in the waters, there are many day trip tours that depart from shore on a daily basis and take you out onto the Great Barrier Reef for a day of scuba diving and other activities. A meal is typically served on board – usually lunch – and professional instructors are there to help you out every step of the way.
If you’re planning on taking day trips and require accommodations in the Great Barrier Reef region, consider the following:
Kewarra Beach Resort & Spa
80 Kewarra Street, Kewarra Beach, Queensland 4879, Australia
A private white sandy beach, and exceptional service!
Alamanda Palm Cove by Lancemore
1 Veivers Road | PO Box 40, Palm Cove, Queensland 4879, Australia (Formerly Angsana Great Barrier Reef)
Family friendly, welcoming accommodations with great staff.
Jack & Newell Cairns Holiday Apartments
27 Wharf Street, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Clean, spacious, and conveniently located near restaurants, shopping and groceries.
Snorkel and Scuba Equipment Essentials for the Great Barrier Reef
Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef is a rewarding experience, and plenty of tourists take advantage of the fantastic scuba diving opportunities this area provides each year. Snorkeling is also an option – especially for first timers taking to the waters. If you’re planning on snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, there are just three pieces of snorkel equipment that you have to have: a mask, snorkel and fins. But there are also some helpful pieces of equipment that enhance snorkeling and scuba experiences alike:
- Snorkel masks come in a variety of styles, sizes and materials. You can get them with one to four windows. Some have plastic skirts, but silicone is considered better. The important thing is to get one that fits you properly. A perfectly fitting mask is important for a great snorkeling experience. If you wear glasses (and don’t use contacts) you can get a specially ordered prescription dive mask that will allow you to see the Great Barrier Reef as though you are wearing your own glasses.
- Snorkels seem pretty simple, but they come in an overwhelming variety of styles and sizes. Getting the right one for your mouth shape is important. Some snorkels have splash guards on top, or dry valves and purge valves on the bottom. They can come as a one piece tube, or with a flexible silicone tube section on the bottom. Before you go snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, take some time to explore all your snorkel options.
- Fins also come in different styles, and depending on your skill and strength levels, your choices of snorkeling fins can be intimidating. They can come with a closed or open foot, with split or solid fins, and as compact travel versions.
- A word on sunscreen: It’s important to understand that protecting yourself from the harsh rays of the sun is something you’ll need to take into consideration when you’re swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling around the Great Barrier Reef. Generic “waterproof” sunscreen, just like most sunscreens, have been proven to be detrimental to the health of the ecosystem. It’s essential to protect yourself from the sun, so try a variety of different methods – for example the use of rashguards. Rashguards with long sleeves protect our skin from the sun’s radiation without polluting the water with sunscreen chemicals. Rashguards also provide an extra amount of warmth when the waters are cooler, and protect against possible jellyfish stings.
- Long hair and snorkeling or scuba diving doesn’t always mix. It can get stuck in the mask strap, or underneath the mask, causing water to leak in. The solution is a snorkeling swim cap – it also offers the added benefit of protecting your scalp and your ears from getting burned by the sun when you’re spending a day out on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Defogger or Anti-Fog is important for keeping the amount of fog inside your mask to a minimum. If there happens to be any moisture inside the mask, it will more than likely fog up, and before you know it the Great Barrier Reef looks like a cloud. Defogger sprayed inside of a clean mask is a good idea before you hit the water. A mixture of baby shampoo and water also works, but anti-fog products reportedly do a better job.
- A pair of water shoes, neoprene boots, or aqua socks are a good idea to wear in order to keep your feet safe when coming in and out of the water while diving around the Great Barrier Reef. If you want to sport a pair of these, just make sure that your fins are adjustable and open foot.
- Mask strap covers are made specifically for people with long hair. They’re made of neoprene and prevent the rubbery straps from becoming caught up and entangled in your hair, and also distribute the pressure of the strap across a wider area making the strap more comfortable. The covers make the act of putting on and taking off the mask easier, too.
- Storage bags are a great idea for keeping your face mask, camera and other items safe, neoprene ones are considered to be a better idea than the hard plastic ones that might come with your dive mask. They’re easy to travel with, so pick some up before you travel to the Great Barrier Reef.
- Bring along a travel towel – one that won’t take up too much space – and throw it into your travel bag for the Great Barrier Reef tour. You’ll want something that doesn’t take up a lot of room as towels are wont to do, so check out an MSR packTowl. They absorb more than double their weight in water, and wring almost completely dry over and over again!
- If night snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef is on the agenda, then good quality light that is designed for the purpose is an essential item to have with you.
The Great Barrier Reef is so immense that no matter where you choose to stay, or what activity you decide to take on, you’ll find the region is beautiful and offers plenty of breathing room. Whether you choose to go on a day trip, a week long tour on a liveaboard, take a hot air balloon, a catamaran, or see the sights via helicopter – the Great Barrier Reef will be a vacation you will never forget!
Visit the Australia destinations category to explore other places to visit in Australia!