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It’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world and for good reason. The Great Barrier Reef is a marine park that stretches over 2,600 km (1,600 miles) and covers 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 square miles) and is teeming with a vast array of wildlife. It’s home to the worlds largest collection of coral – more than 400 different kinds – as well as molluscs, dolphins, tropical fish, rays, birds, sea turtles and giant clams. The reef is composed of over 2,900 reefs and 900 islands and is located in the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland. It’s also the only living thing on earth that is visible from space. We also ranked The Great Barrier Reef number one in the top 10 scuba diving destinations in the world.
But why look at photo’s from outer space when you can submerse yourself in the reef. Literally. What better way to experience the colors and life forms of the Great Barrier Reef than scuba diving. The first thing to do is to get yourself to Cairns which is beautiful city in it’s own right. Situated in the far north Queensland, Cairns offers rain forests, rivers and coastal living. It is also the base for most trips out to the reef. When it comes to diving the options are endless. Whether you’re an experienced diver, a novice, an adventure seeker or never dived before, there’s something for everybody.
If diving is something that you’ve always wanted to learn then why not learn on the worlds biggest reef? You can get your SSI (Scuba Schools International) certificate in as little as three days. It is also possible to get your PADI dive certificate in four days. Generally these courses start with two days in the classroom and pool, followed by day trips out to the reef. There is also the option to spend some time on a liveaboard dive boat where you can spend your days exploring the colors and life forms of the reef. If you get certified or licensed on the reef then you can dive all over the world!
If you already have your dive certificate but not much experience then perhaps a day out on Moore Reef Pontoon is in order. Heading out to Moore Reef, the pontoon provides a host of activities for the novice diver. It is also a great place for families and non swimmers. From here you can dive or snorkel among the most amazing coral gardens. Other activities include glass bottom boat rides or helicopter flights. Or if none of that is exciting enough for you then why not pop on a dive helmet and go for a sea walk along the bottom of the ocean. Sea walking has been designed so that people with no dive experience or knowledge can still enjoy the excitement of the under water world.
For the diving expert there is pristine reefs and remote locations to explore. With the option to spend up to seven days on a boat on the reef there is plenty of time to explore. Visiting places such as Ribbon Reefs, Cod Hole, Acropolis Plateau and Pixies Pinnacle you will be diving with all manner of sea creatures. Perhaps take a night dive at Challenger Bay and using the light of your torch watch the barracuda, moray eel and lionfish hunt their dinner.
If you were hoping to see something a little…bigger on your dive then a trip to Lighthouse Bommie is definitely on the cards. A pinnacle rising 30 metres (98 feet) from the sand, Lighthouse Bommie is one of the best places to sight Minke whales. This is a seasonal activity so make sure your there between June and August. But if it’s sharks you wanted to see then a dive out at North Horn is the way to go. Swim with grey reef sharks, white tip reef sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. Test your bravery as you get up close and personal with these ocean predators.
For a unique dive experience then why not dive among the ship wreck of the S.S. Yongala. Sinking off the coast of Townsville in 1911 with the loss of all 122 passengers and crew, the S.S Yongala has often been referred to as “Townsville’s Titanic.” It now sits at the bottom of the ocean and is abundant with marine life. A dive to the wreck will bring you face to face with giant trevally and barracuda. Also patrolling the length of the ship you will find grouper, bull rays, eagle rays, sea snakes, turtles, coral trout and sharks.
Whatever your dive level or whatever experience you were hoping to have the Great Barrier Reef provides an abundance of choices. With a multitude of dives and activities to choose from, getting interactive with one of the seven natural wonders of the world seems like an opportunity too good to pass up.
Australian Sky client Gillian Manning says: “Having never been diving before, I was slightly apprehensive about jumping into the deep blue sea and going under! After a very involved briefing and medical, I was certified fit to meet the fish. This was only a short introductory dive, but where better than on the Great Barrier Reef itself. I found the process of breathing came quite naturally to me and was soon swimming down to the sea bed to investigate what really lurked beneath.
Our group comprised two instructors and five other novices. To my delight, my first encounter was a giant clam, which moved much more slowly than I could… I also made firm friends with a beautiful blue fish which exactly matched the color of my bikini and followed me faithfully for the duration of the dive! The underwater world is an amazing place and immediately transported me into a real life ‘Finding Nemo’ set. The plethora of fish, sea turtles, the stunning reef itself and a random (but luckily very small) shark make me realise what respect the seas are entitled to. A trip which should not be missed if traveling to Australia.”
Article written by Kellie Parry.