Cairns is located in north Queensland, and has gained a reputation as a tourist hotspot thanks to its tropical climate and unparalleled access to the majestic Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef is truly one of the wonders of the natural world, covering an area of roughly 345,000 square kilometers, and consisting of over 2,900 individual reefs. The reef is bursting with life and biodiversity, and as such is one of the most sought after SCUBA diving destinations in the world. The water is crystal clear and pleasantly warm year round. Whether you are a seasoned pro, or are looking to take your first steps in the world of diving, you are sure to find your perfect diving location in Cairns.
The Inter-Reef Gardens
These gardens are amongst the most accessible diving sites in the reef, as they are scattered close to the shoreline, and often have picturesque small islands or cays. The Inter-Reef Gardens are a perfect choice for beginners as they offer shallow, safe dives. A myriad of small brightly colored fish inhabit these shallow waters, as well as giant clams, turtles and, of course, corals galore. The sandy patches that are dotted between the bommies are home to numerous stingrays, and if you are lucky you might even spot a dugong or two peacefully grazing on the vast fields of sea grass.
The Outer Reef
As the name suggests, the outer reef is located further away from the shoreline. As opposed to the inner reef, the outer reef has much more variation to offer, both in regards to underwater life and geological features. There are numerous sites that are famous for their maze-like series of gorges and canyons that cut through coral heads for miles. There are also more moderate gardens that are teeming with butterflyfish, wrasse and parrotfish. There are whole cities of clown fish that inhabit vast majestic stretches of sea anemone, making it one of the best places for underwater photography.
The Far Northern Reefs
This reef system includes the ribbon reef system that stretches to the north all the way up to the iconic Cod Hole, which is home to an astoundingly large family of potato cod, huge schools of the alien-like humphead wrasse and many other species of fish. The ribbon reef offers many great dive sites and stunning sea life: clams that can grow in excess of two meters across, big eye trevally, barracuda, mackerel, baitfish and rays, just to name a few. A highlight of this dive site is spotting the majestic and graceful manta ray.
The Coral Sea
Reaching this dive site requires a long ride out into the open ocean, but it is a paradise for the experienced diver. If the conditions are just right, you can expect a stunning 40 meter visibility and vertical walls that stretch for up to a kilometer. This is shark territory, and you can spot gray whalers, white tips, silver tip whalers and even hammerhead sharks that hunt on large schools of dogtooth tuna. The Coral Sea is definitely not for the inexperienced diver, or for those faint of heart, as dives are usually quite deep and currents can be ferocious. The pros can enjoy night dives in which they can marvel at the rare and elusive flashlight fish.