10 December 2018
The Great Barrier Reef. The name resonates, pulling divers towards it. But is it the best Australia has to offer?
The best time to dive the Great Barrier Reef is between August and December: but you can dive there all year round. The water temperature ranges from 22 oC in June rising to 28 oC in March. Although January, February and March are the warmest months they are also the wettest.
Frog fish in Australia by Tim Nicholson
For Western Australia, the coral spawning in March and April is a good time to go as this is when the big pelagics like whale sharks arrive.
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One of the best dives in Australia, indeed in the world, is the wreck of the Yongala in Queensland. She is full of life, from sea snakes to potato cod. (If you see a sea snake keep calm and don't touch it.)
Australia has five marine World Heritage Sites, more than any other country. The first to be inscribed by UNESCO was the Great Barrier Reef and the latest is Ningaloo Coast.
The Yongala is a shipwreck in Queensland. She sank during a cyclone in 1911 killing 122 people, a racehorse called Moonshine and a red Lincolnshire bull. She had no telegraph facilities and so could not be warned of the weather ahead. In 1981 the Yongala was given official protection under the Historic Shipwrecks Act. The ship is 90 km southeast of Townsville, 10 km away form Cape Bowling Green. She is arguably the best dive in the world.
109 meters long, the bow points north and the ship lists to starboard.
The vessel was named after a small town in South Australia. In the local Aboriginal language, 'Yongala' (originally pronounced Yonggluh) meant 'broad water', or 'broad wide watering place'. It was launched on the 29 April 1903, and left Southampton on 9th October. Carrying passengers bound for Australia, it arrived in Sydney on 6 December 1903. More information is at the Maritime Museum of Townsville
Full of life you may see manta rays, sea snakes, octopuses, turtles, bull sharks, tiger sharks, clouds of fish and spectacular coral. You are forbidden from entering the ship: divers have been arrested and fined for doing so.
Make the trip from Townsville or Ayr, or take a liveaboard.
"Diving the SS Yongala was the worst experience of my life and I highly recommend that people do not dive there (box jellyfish fun!). 812 dives under my belt and I stopped diving for 2 years after the nightmarish trip out there (resumed diving 5 years ago). I was not stung by the box but other people on the trip refused to wear full coverage wet suits and were, the conditions are rough and the highest level of biodiversity means the most things that will kill you per square foot - sea snakes, swooping scary birds, poor surface conditions due to the open water nature of the underwater topography. "
Kathryn Ross , USA, 4 October 2017
"Tiger Shark 20 m. roaming off bow (stay low/sipbreathe quiet). Day Dives: everthing!-snakes/sharks/octopus/huge turtles/frogfish/rays. Awesome night dive with 8 large rays lined up side by side facing into current over the top of the wreck- octopus/squid/snakes/eels everything! "
Stoney, USA, 5 September 2014
"An unbelievable dive. I live at nearby Townsville and have dived Yongala many times. Greatest concentration of marine life than any other place on the entire GBR."
Murray Stephen, Australia, 20 September 2012
"Masses of life, history, warm water and easy diving."
Matt Jackson, United Kingdom, 2012
"Just awesome. Corals are so bright, and all the fish look like they've been on steroids. It is like a bustling city down there, only the inhabitants are fish, sharks, turtles, clown fish, eels, snakes everywhere, potato cod, you name it, it is there. "
Tina, Australia, 2010
"Absolutely amazing. We had humpback whales swim up right beside the boat! I was mm's away from a marble ray. we were fighting our way through fish. "
"The place you never forget..one of the best wreck dives in the world. Dive adventure with its coral encrusted structure and incredible array of marine life, including eagle rays, turtles, giant Queensland groupers, schooling barracuda, sea snakes and much more."
" For sheer variety and numbers cannot be beaten. Six-foot giant trevally hunting batfish up and down the ship, tiger shark in the distance being mobbed by giant trevally which were only about a third of its length, 2 bull sharks up close being mobbed (in a split second) by a pair of dolphin that flashed by, eagle rays, turtles, giant grouper, seasnakes....all in one dive. Unbelievable!!
Also memorable for getting the bends on this dive.....something to do with a severe case of the shits causing dehydration plus a desire to stay down as long as possible, not allowing sufficient leeway for the former although technically within the limits. "
" Like swimming in an aquarium. National Geographic quality video with a larger variety of marine life than I've ever seen, including a grouper the size of my couch! "
" Beautiful colours and full of life. "
Mike O'Neill, 2009
" More life than you can shake a stick at!! "
" By far the best dive I've ever made. It feels like swimming in a "Blue Planet" video. The amounts of different types fish and their size (the grouper with the name VW) are incredible. "
" Like discovering the Titanic! "
" Travelled the world to try and find a dive to top the Yongala to no avail! The most awesome dive due to the variety and numbers of marine life down there including sea snakes winding themselves round your legs. You hardly know which way to look there is so much. "
" It's ALL about the fish! Nowhere I've dived (including the Carribean, Thailand, Great Barrier Reef and Red Sea) comes anywhere near to the awe inspired by this wreck dive. The Sheer weight of numbers AND the size of the specimens that you are able to approach to sometime alarming proximity really allows you to feel part of the wreck based ecosystem rather than a cumbersome intruder from another realm. At times you wont even be able to see your buddy cause you'll be engulfed by a few hundred >3 kg snapper. The 800 lb queensland Grouper was an obvious highlight but don't get too close, could have you AND your buddy for breakfast, in one mouthful! They dont call him VW for nothing.
Loved the tens of sea snakes who are very friendly. Could spend a month enjoying the fauna before even noticing the magnificent 111 m ship which is responsible for the oasis of life in a sea of surrounding sand. Well worth the long boat ride from Townsville. "
Dr Russell Garnett
" As part of the Advanced course we got two free dives on the S.S Yongala which was a commercial liner built in Northampton (U.K) which took passengers from Melbourne to Cairns. We had to get up at stupid o clock (05:30) to get all the kit ready and loaded into the ute to take down to the waterway terminal. The boat left at around 07:00 in the morning and it took around two and a half hours to get out there. Once there one of the Dive masters tried to take a guide rope down toa submerged buoy that sits at 5 meters below the surface which is used for decompression stops. Unfortunatley there was a really huge current that was ripping that morning and he used a third of a tank just getting down to 5 meters so we all had to hang back and wait for the current to die down. We resorted to playing 'Shit Head' on deck cos we were all really bored. Luckily though there were loads of huge sea turtles and sea snakes coming to the surface for air so there was plenty to do in the meantime.
After about three quarters of an hour of waiting the current was still ripping over the wreck and there was no way we were going to be able to swim against the current at 30 meters so the skipper changed the plans. They went over and attached a buoy to the bow of the wreck and we were going to decend to 30 M down the line and do a 'drift dive' along the hull of the wreck. This turned out to be a really cool idea because as we were anchored to the stern of the wreck, we all had to be ferried over tot he bow line four by four in a zodiac (army style dingy). Because of the current we all had to do a backwards roll back out of the zodiac at exactly the same time to avoid tipping it over which was pretty cool. Once we were all in the water, the dingy was already gone. It was a bit of a mission decending down the line because the current really was strong! Once we hit around 19 meters it was really dissorientating because you could neither see the wrech or the surface so you get a kind of vertigo which is weired. At around 22 meters you could see the wreck which was entirely encrusted with really colourfull correl. We headed straignt down to the sea bed where the rudders and propellers used to be and let go of the line. It was the easiest dive I have done yuet because you don't even have to swim. The current just took you right along the side of the wreck. The vis was really good and I got some really cool pictures, saw really huge fish, some around a metre long and built like brick s//t houses!
Once we were at the stern we had two chances to grab onto the mooring line before being swept off which was a bit un nerving but we all managed to do it thank god! Ascending up the line was also a mission though because the current was still really strong and we were all literally dragging ourselves up the line! Had to stop at 10 meters for a decompression stop for five minutes which wasn't too bad because although we were hanging onto the line really tight we saw loads of sea turtles coming up for air which was amazing!
We had lunch and chilled on deck for about an hour and a half bu which time the current had died down so it was possible to do the seckond dive after all. This time we decended down the stern of the wreck and dived against the current along the other side of the hull. This was a much better side because there are huge gaping holes into the cargo area where you can see inside the ship! Saw a few big sea snakes slithering around the bottom and yet more huge fish. Went down to 28 meters and got Nitrogen Narcosis (reaction by your body to brething compressed air at depth), he he. It was really funny. Aparantly it's the same effect as taking narcotics ... aparantley I was swimming around and around in circles for about three minutes on the sea bed before somebody noticed. My dive buddy grabbed me and we ascended a few meters which is all that it takes to immediatley dissepate. By then I was fine but that was the best feeling in the world, it was cool. Aparantle the week before one guy also got it and he was trying to feed his regulater to a sea turtle!
We carried on diving along the hull and it all of a sudden wasn't so funny when our instructor spotted a bull shark. It didn't bother anyone but came swimming right besided us about 5 or so meters away! It was over 3 meters long and looks like ti took steroids for breakfast! we were crapping ourselves at the time but the adrenaline rush when we were back on the boat was amazing!!! "
"I can see why the Yongala is at the No 1 spot for diving. Just returned to UK from Oz. Can't wait to return to do it again."
"Everything you could wish for. Amazing rainbow of coral, 3 m rays, 3 m+ sharks, turtles, nudibranch, you name it!"
Jayson Everett, 2006
" I don't think i willl ever find a better dive site than the Yongala. She is amazing, lying upright surrounded by sand everything is attracted to her. I saw turtles, seasnakes, eaglerays, grouper, batfish and all the usual suspects and the beautiful coral that grows on her."
"Not an easy dive, but one of my first Ocean warm water dives. I did it 15 years ago, and still have not found one to out rank it. A brief list where I have been trying so far: Canada, (West Coast), Australia (Coral Sea with Taka II- several dives are a close, but not quite), Belize (blue hole-it’s trying), Mexico and Thailand. Still trying and expecting to get close in Egypt this year.
The site is absolutely amazing, everything seems oversized and so abundant your feel like you are missing twice as much as you are seeing. Definitely a site to put on anyone's list. Just make sure you go with a good-sized boat. "
"This is what novice divers imagine their first dive experience will be like. Of course, it seldom is. I have done hundreds of dives and have only experienced what I consider the best dive of my life very recently.
Kick ass current, but the life and colour that awaits you at the Yongala is breathtaking. I could not believe that even in average visibility the beauty and sheer abundance of marine life swarming around both my head and the wreck excited me so much!.
Massive schools of Giant Barracuda, basking in the ripping current near the buoy line. Huge, silver Giant Trevally, gangs of Maori wrasse, spectacular in stature and in colour. Friendly turtles, one in particular using my arm to propel himself upward to take some air from the surface..
A shovel nosed ray/shark, sea snakes, and just fish everywhere..
This is what diving is all about especially for those of us that do it for a job, to re-kindle the passion for the underwater world is worth it's weight in gold. I'm in love with this dive site. "
"It has everything in a small spot. Colourful coral, big fish, history. "
" Although I am nominating this as the best dive site, due to other factors this was the worst dive I have ever done. I am adding these comments so that other divers will be able to experience the amazing marine life at this wreck without experiencing the problems I did.
1. Choose a large boat. I went with a smaller dive company on a small boat- the waves were particularly large and even the dive crew were being sea sick on the 3.5 journey from Townsville.
2. Choose a calm day to avoid the strong current. The current is particularly strong around the wreck and my dive company would only take people who had an advanced diving certificate or who were on an advanced course.
3. Take extra weights
My problems started as the dive master said that I would not need my usual 4 weights as I could sink and cut myself on the sharp edges of the boat. This is RUBBISH- it is better to take too many weights than too few. I listened to the dive master and started to descend down the guideline. Even though most people were struggling against the current and had to pull on the rope- I could not get down at all and the dive master had to pull me down- all the way to 28 metres. (This is deeper than you need to view the wreck, however, some people were doing a 'deep diving' module, so went down that deep. A minute later, I started to ascend very quickly to the surface- I could see my buddy and the dive master waving me to come down, but soon I had lost them in the poor visibility. Ascended past giant trevelly, sea snakes and through schools of fish. There was no air in my jacket-so I tried to do the recommended somersault and swim down-but still carried on ascending till I was at the surface. (I hadn't even done my safety stop at 10m. aI was quite a long way from the guideline and the boat and after doing the 'I'm OK but need some assistance sign' the current started carrying me further away. When I realised noone had seen me I started shouting. When I was spotted, a motorised dinghy was sent out to get me. The crew were worried that I would get the bends, but even so they advised me not to see a doctor as they would be obliged to put me in a decompression chamber- think they were trying to cover themselves. The next 24 hours, I was terrified- but luckily I escaped the bends. Later someone said they had spotted 2 giant bull sharks in the area where I was stranded. This is an amazing site and would advise people to go, however, please go with a larger company. "
Tel: +61 414615082.
"Fantastic crew and great diving. 3 day - 3 night liveaboard, diving the SS Yongala, SS Gothenburg and then finding other wrecks that are un-charted was a real buzz for the whole trip. The boat is fully air-conditioned and the bunks are first class. Cost was $565 Australian dollars (November 2004), value for money compared to other operators and boats that have been there for many years. Their boats are a bath tub compared to MV Centurion"
Yongala Dive Pty Ltd
56 Narrah Street
PO Box No. 841
Tel: +61 7 4783 1519
Fax: +61 7 4783 7277
"Would dive with them again but definately wont stay there. Accommodation offered by centre is poor but well worth major detour on Oz trip to dive this wreck which was awesome. Far outclassed any other dive I did whilst exploring Oz. Arrived at dive site to see 3 turtles basking in the sun on the surface. Strong current, heavy swell and had to hold on to descent line which was through a massive wall of huge barracuda and just got better. Not for the faint hearted and strong pair of legs needed to swim into current to be able to enjoy the rollercoaster drift dive back to line.Second dive was far more relaxed as I knew what to expect. Care when choosing a dive operator as our skipper had watched two divers for half an hour about 1/2 mile from their boat who he then picked up once we were all back on board - their skipper didn't even know they had surfaced - worrying!! Strongly recommended and already planning next trip. "
"Lived on a dive boat for 5 nights, 6 days in the coral sea and GBR with about 24 other people with a company called Undersea Explorer, Port Douglas. Managed to get 22 dives in at world famous sites. The variety of life was amazing: there was everything there that one would want to see. Plus another benefit about diving in the Coral sea was that we were the only dive boat there. The staff were really friendly plus they served great food and plenty of it after each dive. I will go back again one day!
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"Amazing caves, 1000 Metre walls, pinnacles, turtles' grave yard, incredible night diving. A dive company called Coral Sea Diving Co takes you there, aboard Rum Runner.
Incredible visibility and amazing variety of marine life in the Coral Sea.
Osprey Reef is an isolated seamount in the Coral Sea (13°54.190’S, 146°38.985’E), approximately 220 km east off the north-east coast of Australia, and 125 km from the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Osprey Reef rises vertically from 2400 m to just below the sea surface (up to less than 1 m), and is 25 km in length and 12 km wide, covering an area of about 195 km2. The east wall and southern end of the reef are exposed to the prevailing south-east winds, and the north-west corner is the least exposed area. The centre of the reef is a lagoon with a maximum depth of 40 m, characterised by sandy substrate scattered with coral bommies throughout.1.
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Along with the rest of the Coral Sea, Osprey Reef is a marine reserve.1
The most common sharks at Osprey Reef are whitetip reef sharks Triaenodon obesus, grey reef sharks Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos and silvertip sharks Carcharhinus albimarginatus. These mostly stay year-round at Osprey Reef, although some also move to the neighbouring Shark Reef, 14 km away. They prefer the north-west corner of Osprey Reef: the east wall and southern ends are rarely visited.
White tip reef shark by Tim Nicholson
The only known spawning aggregation of black marlin in the Pacific Ocean occurs near Osprey Reef.
Nearly 20 000 divers visit Osprey Reef a year to dive with reef sharks.
"A coral Atoll off northern Queensland. Unbelievable animals encounters and pristine Corals.
Johnny Gaskell, 5 December 2012
"Heaps of sharks, I mean heaps. White tip, silver tip, blue, hammerheads. Lots of huge potato cod. Tutles. Awesome coral. 1000 m walls
"Osprey Reef (in The Coral Sea) has 50 m+ of viz! (But a fast drift at Shark/Yolanda in Ras Muhammad, Red Sea, does it for me every time.)"
"False Entrance, Osprey Reef: 1000 m + drop off. 50 to 60 m vis. Fantastic wall dive with everything there just being massive! Remote ocean diving at its best."
Robert Salisbury, 2005
"North Horn, large number of reef sharks and silvertips. Nice corals."
Mark Goodchild, 2005
"North Horn, Soooooo many sharks, great vis."
"6000ft vertical walls, endless sharks, giant cod, great coral on top and the side, amazing macro as well, even swam with a black marlin!"
Pat Ward, 2009
"Shark Reef is 8 miles south of Osprey and is my number one dive site so far. Fussilers by the thousands, silver tip sharks, schools of banner fish, trevally in schools, plenty of Tridacna clams, anenomes and variety in coral and fish species. Goliath Grouper, lionfish, clownfish, etc.
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"Amazing diversity of fish life, in a small area. On a good visibility day simply too much to absorb"
Brad, September 2016
"Extending about 300 m from shore, the T-shaped structure is 300 m wide, including two outlying "dolphins" (platforms for larger ships to tie up to). Although a very defined and somewhat compact site (the main part of the pier is about 10 0m across) I felt I could spend 5 days diving there and not be bored, particularly at night. On any given dive there were lots of nudibranchs and flatworms, eels, woebegone and white tipped sharks, octopuses, lion and scorpion fish, stargazers, and the usual smaller finned friends. A couple of times we came across absolutely huge rays dozing in the sand: One brown ray was wider than my 1.8m tall dive buddy's outstretched arms, another spotted eagle ray was just slightly smaller."
"Myriad of species here on probably the best shore dive on the planet.
"Biggest wow in diving makes Yongala look like the poor relation.
"Navy Pier was fantastic, lots of large White tip reef sharks, Woobygongs, large sting rays, trevely and heaps more marine life. Far better than the Great Barrier reef.
Emma and Dean
"Like Diving in a big Aquarium, so many fish to see.
"Navy Pier was an absolutely fantastic dive site. I was lucky enough to do two dives there and saw a real abundance of aquatic life...ranging from the small and miniscule, to Woebegone Sharks, to 6 Humpback Whales which came pretty close to the pier during the second dive. A fantastic experience!
"Amazing shore dive. Amazing fish life in such a small space. Impressive large fish.
"Best critter dive on the planet.
Dive Centres: see Ningaloo Reef Dive Centres
14000 divers a year visit Ningaloo Reef to dive and snorkel with whale sharks.
"For those who absolutely must get in the water with a whale shark and who have a fair amount of time for a vacation, the remote Ningaloo Reef would be for you. If you like really small critters like nudibranchs, or odd animals like woebegone sharks, and once again don't mind travelling to the ends of the Earth, Ningaloo is a fair choice. But if you don't have a lot of time, want lots of really flourishing, colourful coral and excellent visibility, or want to be at least somewhat spontaneous about your dive-schedule, it may not be the place to go."
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"I have dived the Ningaloo reef in February from Coral Bay: the dive shop was most helpful. I only booked the day before and it was incredible almost everything you could wish for even a 2 m plus leopard shark to finish off the second dive. The sea temp was 23 deg C but after diving in the UK that was a luxury. I will certainly be back to the Ningaloo before too long. It is well worth the long drive, may it long remain isolated.
David Flint, Aylesbury UK
"Ningaloo reef was spectacular. I learnt to dive on the Great Barrier Reef & Ningaloo was 10 million times better. First we snorkelled with the Manta Rays which was an amazing yet exhausting experience, and then did a further 3 dives over the next couple of days. Heaps of big turtles, bright sea snakes, wobbegong sharks, heaps and heaps of little fish ... more sharks ... and so much else to see that i couldn't possibly name it all here. Definitely would recommend it to anyone. I went with Exmouth Dive and they were really good."
"If you are after Manta Rays, Sting Rays, Sharks, Turtles, all sorts of Cod (including the occassional too inquisitive Potato Cod)and virtually everything else, then there is no better place than the Ningaloo Reef. Exmouth Dive were fantastic and took really good care of me and the rest of the divers. "
"Ningaloo Reef on australia's West Coast is pretty cool, less visited and as much to see than the GBR on the East Coast. "
Sam Seed, UK, 2007
Dive Centres: see Ningaloo Reef Dive Centres
"Limestone ridge, tonnes and tonnes of fish life"
Dave Scanlon, Australia, 2007
"Amazing amount of marine life"
Dave Scanlon, Australia, 2007
The best time to visit Rowley Shoals is Spring to early Summer (September to early December).
Rowley Shoals Liveaboard: Book now & pay later.
"Rowley Shoals is three separate atolls, two with sand bars that are exposed full time or at low tide. We visited Clark and Mermaid Atolls, both of which have outer edges marked by a combination of vertical drops to deeper than you can see, drop offs to a sandy shelf/bottom, and walls that are intricately cut with channels, swim throughs, and some interesting caves, some of which are also swim throughs. The insides of both atolls have some scattered bommies which made for nice night dives.
Animal life is plentiful so long as you aren't thinking macro. The fish life was wonderful, and there were grey or white tip reef sharks on each dive, but if you're looking for small critters - crustaceans, nudibranchs, flatworms, etc., there weren't many to be seen. That said, three of the most incredible nudibranchs I've seen were here - so I guess I just wasn't looking in the right places.
And even given my love of macro-life, and the lack thereof, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to go back. "
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"Super dive - it's at a place called Dunsborough near Margaret River, a couple of hours south of Perth. It's a destroyer that was purposely sunk as a dive site, so has swim-holes cut in the side and good lighting throughout. It's not a "natural" wreck, but if you want to sit in the Captain's chair 30m below, it's as good an experience as any!"
Robert Frumkin, 12 September 2012
Christmas Island is a small territory of Australia located in the Indian Ocean, 2,360 kilometres (1,466 miles) northwest of Perth. There are flights to Christmas Island from Perth or Singapore.
Dive Centres: see Christmas Island Dive Centres
Meagan Maher, 2007
"The dive begins with the boat pulling up 10 m from the cliff, sparking divers to consider 'is it deep enough to jump here?' However the cliff sheers through the water to depths of 10-50 m directly. This makes Perpendicular wall, at the north-western tip of the island, the best wall dive on Christmas Island. Generally the conditions are perfect, 40-50m visibility, gorgonian fan corals, pelagics and other big fish; however care must be taken to check the currents before diving. Whale sharks and Manta rays are spotted crusing along the wall during their season. "
Hannah Boughton, 2007
"Another great spot. Most days you will see giant green sea turtles, ribbon eels, space crab, sea urchins, banded shrimp, starfish, coral crab, soapfish, butterfly fish and moray eels. Most of the year the vis is 30m+. A divers paradise. "
Meagan Maher, 2007
"The cove is a beautiful dive site beginning with a shore entry and short fin out the jetty or boat ramp. Divers can choose to go left or right to experience great corals and fish. The coral gardens extend from 3-30m deep before the 'drop off'. At the southern end of the cove is 'admin point' a sheer wall where many pelagics and other big fish cruise by. Many times whale sharks are spotted in the cove during the season. "
Hannah Boughton, 2007
"For a really eerie dive go to pigrock. Not always easy to get to but if you can it is quite amazing. The water is so incredibily flat and as you submerge it is an indescibable feeling. It was a bit creepy but an incredible dive that I have experienced nowhere else. Almost anywhere you dive over here you are in the company of spinner dolphins, with them being attracted by the boat and then you just pop overboard and have a play. And in the whalesharks season you are garanteed to see these majestic creatures. "
Meagan Maher, 2007
New South Wales
"Dozens of wobbegong sharks, several zebra sharks and mantas in summer or sandtiger sharks in winter, green and huge loggerhead sea turtle, schooling eagle rays, barracudas, trevallies, jewfishes, huge groupers and marbled rays. If this sounds like the best dive ever, it's actually daily routine at Julian Rocks. Just 5 minutes off Byron Bay, in easy sites fit for beginners, you're almost guaranteed to see big, amazing stuff on every dive. There's even heaps of smaller critters like ghost pipefishes, cephalopods, orangutan crabs or mantis shrimps."
Romain Michallet, 2018
"So amazingly diverse with reef life and a breeding spot for grey nurse sharks. Beautiful weather all year round and a must destination for all Aussie travellers. "
"Great diving to be found in Mandurah, Western Australia. Purposely sunk wrecks for beginners and great selection of early Dutch Schooners etc for the more accomplished. All sites are marked with plinths and location markers on land."
"A truly spectacular dive but often overlooked by divers concentrating on the Great Barrier Reef!
At this special place warmer tropical and cooler nutrient-rich currents meet and result in an amazing wealth of marine life.
I have seen turtles almost every dive and also a selection of sharks (wobbegong, leopard and grey nurse depending on the time of year) and rays (bull, manta, eagle, blue spotted, shovelnose) every dive. Plus over 400 species of fish, huge schools of snapper, trevally kingfish, sweetlips, batfish and many others.
The site is just a 5 minute boat ride from the famous beaches, hinterland and laid-back lifestyle of Byron Bay, so a great place to stay. I dive with Byron Bay Dive Centre, always fun, informative and professional.
And in case divers are missing more of Australia's top spots, check out Fish Rock Cave (South West Rocks) for an awesome cave swim through and the Solitary Islands. Australia has more unique and spectacular diving than the Barrier Reef alone! "
" I did my openwater ticket at Byron Bay. The diving at Julian Rocks was amazing. We saw manta rays, turtles, woobegong sharks and one big grey nurse shark."
"A must do Shark dive. Have been here several times, and have seen up to 35+ large Gray Nurse Sharks on any one dive. Sit on the bommie and just watch in awe as these majestic creatures swim above, below and around you. Also, Wobbegong and Port Jackson Sharks abound. Shark wise seems to beat South West rocks and certainly Magic Point in Sydney. Better than the Yongala."
"Located at South West Rocks, 5hrs north of Sydney. 125mtr long cave with air chimneys and many grey nurse sharks. "
Michael Jonkhoff, 13 February 2017
"On my dive: Around 40 Grey Nurse sharks, wobbies, a great cave full of lobsters, angel sharks, stingrays etc. "
Peder, South Korea, 2009
"Best cave dive i've ever done. Many grey nurses, fantastic topography and marine life. A stunning dive. "
Lord Howe Island is nearly 2 hours flying from Sydney. It is one of just four island groups to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list for the global significance of its natural beauty and heritage.
"600km off the mainland this site is situated in a marine park. Less than 50 divers per year get to this site so it is totally unspoiled wilderness. With out a doubt the most beautiful dive site in Australia. 30m depth. Rivers of fish and amazing benthics. "
John Johnstone, 2008
Pro Dive, Po Box 182, Lord Howe Island, NSW, Australia 2898. Tel: (02) 6563 2253. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howea Divers, Lagoon Beach, Lord Howe Island, NSW. Tel/Fax: 02 6563 2290, 02 6563 2298. E-mail: email@example.com.
" One of Australia's most remarkable natural gifts, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world's largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. "
Maxts, India, 2012
"The inner reefs near Cairns have taken a battering from the constant divers and snorkelers. You best bet is get further up North. There is an excellent liveaboard called the Spirit of Freedom that does a 3 day trip from Cairns to the Cod Hole. The reefs further up North are unspoilt and leave the inner reefs near Cairns for dead. It's well worth the money. "
Damian De Conno
"Our first two dives were at Cod Hole. The maximum depth of this dive was 100 feet to a sandy ledge. You would then make your way around some coral ridges and bommies to a coral wall that went up to within four feet of the surface. Larger fish we saw here included Potato and Camouflage Cod, Trigger Fish, Maori Wrasse, Coral Trout, jacks and snapper. The coral here was in pristine condition. The second dive was also here about an hour later but this time it was to watch the dive masters feed the 200 pound cod we saw. (It should be noted that what they call large cod here would be similar to what Americans call large groupers.) On this dive we were requested to swim out to the sandy feeding area as quickly as we could and lie still while the dive master did a controlled feeding. We were told that feedings were permitted by park officials as long as it was no more than about 2 pounds per day. The reasoning was that the fish would still have to hunt on their own and not be totally dependent on the divers."
"Along with the friendly and large cod there were several sleeping white tip sharks, as well as the usual suspects. "
"Rather artificial because the dive leaders feed the fish but the result is amazing, the Cod are huge and swim very close allowing the divers to stroke them and on the return to Lizard Island we had dolphins as escorts who did somersaults in the air. "
"Vis up to 50 m,large cods in abundance and more fish than you could poke a stick at. "
"The best coral and fish dive I have ever done. Barracuda, Scorpian fish, Nudibranchs, Lion fish and much much more "
Renee Ker, Australia, 2008
"After my 3000+ logged dives, this has site has it all. The best GBR coral growths, great 10m plateau, 40m wall, all 500m from the continental shelf drop off, so pelagics available -mantas, minke whales, sharks, sea snakes, giant grouper, giant clams, even ghost pipe fish!"
Pat Ward, 2009
" This is a large coral bommie starting at about 100 feet and making a cone type shape until it reaches about 10 feet from the surface. Our ship literally stopped in the middle of what seemed to be open ocean between the Ribbon Reefs to dive here. Next to Steve's Bommie was a memorial plaque to Steve himself who is said to have dived this particular place often before he died. Depending on who you talked to, his death was either a motorcycle accident or a free dive accident."
"Just a normal Bommie, but I've never seen so much coral or fish life anywhere In The world."
"This is a plateau type coral structure starting at 100 feet and making its way to a flat area about 9 feet under water. It took about 45 minutes to circle the reef where we kept our depth between 40 and 60 feet. This site had more fish life than some of the other places we visited because of the way the very slow current comes by with the needed nutrients. One note on the lighter side is that during the dive briefing we were advised we really can "Find Nemo" here. What we saw in the middle of the plateau in about 10 feet of water was an anemone about one and half times the size of a basketball with the small center opened about 12 inches protecting three small, very cute, clown fish. I have seen films and pictures of clown fish swimming in and out of their protective environment and it was neat to see it up close and personal. "
" As the name states, this place is known for the large clams famous in this part of the world. We saw clams ranging from 3 to 6 feet long with different colors on the inside. The varied colouring was attributed to a type of algae that grows under the skin. What I liked about this reef was the diversity of the area. Because the dive briefings were so detailed, we were able to navigate around the bommies in the area and eventually make it to one of the most colorful sun drenched coral walls I have ever seen. "
" Country Bombie has astonishing fish life and a array of exotic soft corals built upon a solid coral base. These soft corals are discovered from the depths of the sea bed floor to within 100 mm of the surface. (A awesome trip with Bianca Charters.) "
Matthew Sayre, Australia, 2012
"Night Dive: Giant trevallies, whitetip reef sharks and moray eels are out to hunt in the dark and they are everywhere! Diving among them feels like starring in an underwater action movie. They use the light of the divers torches to help in their hunt so you are constantly surrounded by lightning fast swimming predators. All of this in the gorgeous setting of the northern great barrier reef. "
Romain Michallet, 7 July 2015
"The third dive this morning was at Challenger Bay. Challenger Bay was another beautiful dive that started at about 60 feet and again worked its way up around a few coral bommes until you reached a pure coral wall that went straight up to about four feet. Each piece of coral was laid out beautifully next to one another. Here we saw lionfish, garden eels, tangs and a school of barracudas. The bottom time allowed for this dive was 45 minutes. This was also the same place that we did our night dive. My 13 year old son Daniel with a total only of six dives under his belt decided to try his first night dive at Challenger Bay. Here he spotted the large jacks and snappers chasing after the fish that left the safety of the reef. The hunting for these small fish was made even easier to the big fish anytime a diver put their flash light on small fish. The land analogy would be like blinding a deer with your headlights. Daniel also was excited when he spotted two five foot white tipped reef sharks in separate areas."
"Night dive at reef called Beer Gardens. We were told the name comes from this being the last night of the 3 night cruise and people celebrating with a beer or two. Seriously though, this is the place to see sleeping turtles. "
"Amazing rock formations, caves, swim throughs with giant turtles, larges schools of fish and constantly changing seascapes. "
Travis, Australia, 2011
"Easy beach dive, close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, guarantees good fishlife: wobbegongs, angelsharks, rays,m orays and plenty of small stuff for the muck divers. "
"My son Steven and I recently dived the HMAS Brisbane; an Australian Destroyer recently sunk on the 31st August 2005, off the coast of Mooloolaba, Queensland. Mooloolaba is about a one hour drive north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. Nearest airport is Maroochydore. The HMAS Brisbane is now a purpose made diving site with all the appropriate holes cut in it for exits and of course safety. It's beginning to get a lot of marine life attached as well as fish life. In one of the holds inside we saw a superb Lion fish. You'll need to take your torch with you and if you like to swim through hatches and small spaces, in holds etc., then this is a dive for you and well worth the trip!"
"HMAS Brisbane is a warship wreck in Mooloolaba Queensland Australia. Participated in the Vietnam war, shunk for diving some years ago. Canons very impressive. Holes made on the sides of the ship are making dives safe (exit, light) even in areas like engine room! "
"Nothing deep or unusual just the best fifty square feet of pristine coral I've seen in many years of diving. You swim into a bowl shape of coral heads and from the middle you're surrounded by color."
Robert Osborne, 2006
"I have been to hundreds of places and Heron island is by far the best "
Matt Fitz, 2011
"5-10 minute boat rides from marina gets you to various dive sites with visibility of 100+ feet revealing sea turtles, 60 foot high coral mountains, small sharks and lots of colourful fish. "
"Sharks and even whales but loads of turtles and a healthy section of the Great Barrier Reef "
"Southern most island on the GBR. Pristine and deep waters. Manta Ray heaven. "
Murray Stephen, 2012
"Local dive site in the city. Large schools of trevally, bull rays, small critters, etc. Best dived on the high tide. Marine life is seasonal: small critters in the summer; huge groupers come back every year."
Jennifer Dachroeden, 2011
"I have just come back from 3 months in Australia and tried to get in as much diving as I could. I went to all the places recommended, Morton Island, which i would not go back to again, the dive club there was dreadful! Then the Coral Sea, inner & outer reefs and even Stradbrooke Island, they were all very good and saw loads, sharks, rays, dolphins octopus, cuttle fish, scorpion fish etc.
But the best place of all was a single day dive trip at Mission Beach. The guy there was a great guide, very unassuming and if you were expecting a big boat and a fantastic lunch then this is not for you! But he took us to couple of very beautiful sites. The reefs were all in regeneration stages and the fish were inquisitive and very photogenic!! Great place to practice on your photography techniques without risk of harming any sealife or yourself. The dives were not particularly deep but they were well worth it.
Go on! try it out somewhere off the beaten track! "
"Beautiful dive site with many different ledges and thousands of different wild life "
"Rapid Bay South Australia where you find the amazing leafy sea dragon. "
Jackie Bone-George, 2013
"Cooler water diving, abundant fish life and leafy sea dragons. Clear water "
Leona Fitzgerald, 2009
1Barnett A, Abrantes KG, Seymour J, Fitzpatrick R (2012) Residency and Spatial Use by Reef Sharks of an Isolated Seamount and Its Implications for Conservation. PLoS ONE 7(5): e36574. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036574
This page is regularly updated: to be alerted when new dives have been added, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter - SCUBA News (ISSN 1476-8011). Meanwhile, for details of other dives in Australia, try one of these books.
- Lonely Planet Diving and Snorkelling Australia's Great Barrier Reef
- by Len Zell, Paperback, Lonely Planet, 160 pages, (2006)
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