Guest Post: Jennifer Dawson
More than 2 million people visit The Great Barrier Reef every year according to the Australian government, and with very good reason. Not only is the reef made up of more than 2,900 individual reefs, 600 continental islands, and 300 coral cays, but it is also the only living structure on earth that is visible from outer space. The immense 2,300km long vastness of the Great Barrier Reef boasts a wide range of breathtaking diving sites that hold equal appeal to both novice and expert divers. From pristine waters and mesmerizing coral reefs to an abundance of mind-blowing marine life, the Great Barrier Reef has something to offer everyone. Whether you are looking for an exhilarating day-long outing, or prefer to spend a few days exploring the reef, you will undoubtedly relish in the immense beauty of some of the finest diving sites, which include the following, in the world.
The SS Yongola Wreck
The site of the SS Yongola wreck is undoubtedly one of the best diving spots in Australia if not the world. Located conveniently close to Townsville in Queensland, the 110-meter long steamer lies on a sandy bank 33 meters from the ocean surface. The marine life surrounding the wreck is nothing short of spectacular and divers can expect close encounters with giant Barracuda schools, sea snakes, turtles, angelfish, butterflies, and numerous shark species. If you visit the reef between June and November you may also be fortunate enough to spot humpback whale and Minke whales in the proximity of the wreck.
Heron Island is a coral cay situated approximately 50 km offshore and is easily accessible by both seaplane and boat. Known across the globe for its magnificent Great Barrier Reef diving sites, the island was named by renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau as one of his favorite dive spots. With depths ranging between 10 and 25 meters, the waters surrounding the island are suitable for divers of varying experience levels. Marine life is plentiful around the island and divers can expect to see an impressive variety of reef fish, manta rays, turtles, reef sharks, and countless marine invertebrates. It is believed that as many as 60% of the more than 1,500 species of fish found on the Great Barrier Reef live in the waters surrounding the island.
Lady Elliot Island
Like Heron Island, Lady Elliot is also a coral cay and is situated a mere 10km from the continental shelf. The island is situated no more than 56 km from the mainland and offers scuba divers unobstructed views of pristine coral reefs as well as numerous marine life spottings which include hawksbills, angelfish and even dolphin. If you are after a manta ray encounter or want to dive amongst countless nesting turtles, the more than 20 dive sites scattered around the island will undoubtedly meet with your approval. Visibility in the waters surrounding the island is superb, reaching over 20 meters for most parts of the year.
There are very few, if any, dives in the world that can compete with exploring the underwater kingdoms of the Great Barrier Reef. Regardless of which part of the Reef you choose to explore you will undoubtedly be blown away by the immense beauty of one of the most remarkable natural wonders of our world.