Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Green sea turtle I spotted while diving on the Great Barrier Reef

In September and October of 2021, I was fortunate enough to land a job as an underwater photographer, getting to dive on the Great Barrier Reef every day.

This exposure to the reef rekindled my love for scuba diving and reignited my passion that the Great Barrier Reef truly is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. I believe that all Australians should endeavour to go visit the reef in their life-time and get to experience the magic of this national treasure for themselves.

So what is the Great Barrier Reef?

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral reef system and is found in Australia’s north eastern tip, located in the Coral Sea. The Great Barrier Reef extends from Bundaberg in the south up to the Cape York peninsula in the north. Ranging over 2300km in length and covering an area 344,400㎢ roughly the size of Japan. This amazing wonder of the world is even visible from space.  The Reef has astonishing bio-diversity and is home to over 1500 species of fish, 140 species of shark and ray and 40 species of marine mammals like dolphins, whales and manatees.  The Great Barrier Reef is also home to 14 species of sea snake, 6 species of turtle, 2000 species of sponge and over 400 species of marine coral.  This staggering list of wildlife makes the Great Barrier Reef an incredibly dense biodiverse ecosystem, the reef is essentially a cradle of life. 

How healthy is the reef? Is it damaged from bleaching and climate change?

The reef has been impacted by cyclones, coral bleaching, agricultural run-off and other human interface. It is true that in some areas the coral bleaching is worse than in others, however I still believe the Great Barrier Reef is incredible and worth a visit. Some reefs within the Great Barrier Reef have been able to survive better the effects of global warming as they have increased cool water flow, increased nutrient flow, and other factors contributing to their health. Is the reef suffering? Yes. Is it still worth seeing? Yes.

Is it worth visiting the Great Barrier Reef?

Of-course I am biased but my answer is a resounding yes. It doesn’t matter whether your new to seeing coral reefs, first time seeing the ocean or an experienced traveller. Getting to experience the Great Barrier Reef is incredible. It truly is what you make of it. Learn the history, learn the geography, learn how sacred the GBR is to first nations Australians and how important it is to all Australians now. Learn about the fish species, the coral and the ecosystems. All of this will contribute to your overall understanding and experience on the reef.

Where is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef?

I believe seeing the Great Barrier Reef is easiest from the small city of Cairns in North Queensland. Here there is a small airport to arrive and depart, and the city itself caters well to tourists and foreigners looking to see the reef. From Cairns it is easy to book a boat or a tour to get to the reef, so a lot of the hassle is taken care for you. There is also the option of flights

What can I see on the Great Barrier Reef?

Hundreds of species of coral and fish. You’ll see starfish, sea cucumbers, colourful coral and fish guaranteed. You might also see stingrays, sharks, bigger fish like wrasse, groper and barracuda. Getting out to the reef is an adventure within itself and definitely worth your time.

Do I need to be a qualified scuba diver to see coral and the reef?

No. you can snorkel on the reef if you like. There is also options for unqualified scuba divers who wish to dive to do an ‘into to scuba’. Likewise, if you are a qualified scuba diver there is a plethora of options for you to choose from.

Is it expensive?

It can be. If your looking to do 2 dives with a dive company in Cairns expect to pay around $200. The more diving you do the cheaper it will get. You also have the option to do a live-aboard boat where you spend multiple nights out on the Great Barrier Reef, eating, sleeping and relaxing on a large boat. On a live aboard you get more bang for your buck, you dive more often and you get to watch sunrise and sunset from on the ocean.

Afterword:

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. Seeing the reef is an incredible experience because it means you are interacting with nature, in one of the most spectacular locations there is globally. If you want to know what it feels like to Scuba Dive, give it a try, you may just find the experience blows your away.

Nowadays the reef is an important economic and cultural feature of the Australian identity. Supporting the local operators that rely on the reef, and getting to learn about conservation effort taking place on the Great Barrier Reef is a great place to start your journey.

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