With a 47,000 km coastline, Australia has more opportunities for diving that nearly any other country on earth. Travel along the coastal routes and at almost every place you stop, someone will be offering cruises, whitsundays tours and diving in the local waters.
From the cool waters off the southern coastline to the tropical waters of the north, divers are spoiled for choice. Here are just a few of the destinations suitable for both learner and professional divers.
Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef extends over 2000 km along the Queensland coast. It is a unique marine park of more than 2900 individual reefs and 71 coral islands that stretches from the mainland to Australia’s eastern continental shelf. The area is so large it is visible from the moon. It is one of the world’s great diving experiences, with sites available all along the reef.
Many people think of the reef as being basically the same wherever your go. However, the “inner reef” and the “outer reef” are just two of the many terms used to describe different types of reef conditions. The inner reef lies closest to the mainland and is where many of the island holiday resorts are located. These inner reef islands usually have a surrounding or nearby fringe reef with their own particular marine environment. This differs from the environment of the outer reef which can take several hours to reach and which generally demands a greater level of deep water diving skills.
The inner reef islands and the outer reef dive sites each have their attractions. While any visit to the Great Barrier Reef will be a memorable experience, it becomes even more rewarding when you focus your diving on that part of the reef that will match your skills and expectations.
Think diving in Australia is to think of Cairns. The main city of tropical north Queensland, Cairns is a diving haven for most professional and recreational divers because of its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns, and Port Douglas, it’s northern neighbour, have come to be considered amongst the world’s most outstanding snorkeling and diving destinations. Divers and snorkelers never tire of exploring the area because of its abundance of spectacular reefs, colored corals and numerous varieties of tropical fish.
Cairns has an international airport and is the jumping off point for most travel, tours and holidays in the area. It’s a place of high summer rainfall, summer humidity and emerald green sugar cane plantations. The city is the hub of a highway network that fans north to the remarkable Daintree Rainforest and Cape York, west to the Atherton Tablelands and on to the Gulf Savannah country or south to the cane towns of Ingham and Innsfail.
The Cairns accommodation scene caters to all tastes and budgets, ranging from budget backpacker to 5 star luxury resorts.
The beautiful Whitsundays are one of the jewels in the Australian tourism crown and provides many top diving locations. This premier holiday destination is home to many of the resorts that are synonymous with the Great Barrier Reef. Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Lindeman Island, Daydream Island are just some of the better known islands in the chain of 76 that comprise the Whitsundays.
The Whitsunday Islands area has always been considered one of the most wonderful diving sites in the world because it is basically a reef haven in a very calm location. This is a place for dive training, learn to dive, day trips and dive holidays. Shute Harbour alongside Airlie Beach is the mainland berth for the many reef cruises and dive excursions.
Popular off shore dive sites include Blue Pearl Bay, Manta Ray Bay, Hayman Island, Hooks Island, Fairy Reef, Maureen’s Cove and Hardy Reef. Spectacular coral, Manta rays, huge groupers, coral trout and moray eels are all part of the local marine scene.
Airlie Beach is backpacker heaven and the town overflows with the youth of the world, While much of the accommodation caters to that market, there are numerous resorts clinging to the hill sides above the town that offer truly magnificent vistas across the nearby islands.
Although not noted for natural features like the Barrier Reef, the Gold Coast is Australia’s number one holiday destination and offers lots of dive opportunities to the hordes that flock to this beautiful part of the world. It’s an easy place to get to, there is Gold Coast accommodation for every budget, and lots of entertainment all year round.
Diving opportunities range from Kirra Reef in the south all the way up to South Stradbroke Island in the north, passing the site of the wreck of Scottish Price, dating from 1887. More adventurous divers can dive the “shark alley” at 9 Mile Reef or the HMAS Brisbane wreck site.
A holiday on the Gold Coast can be an opportunity to take a learn to dive beginners course or one of the more advanced PADI courses, from one of the several training operators based here.
This site is a bit off the beaten track, and requires time and money to get there, but this site rewards divers with some world class experiences. The Ningaloo Marine Park lies 1100 kms north of Perth in Western Australia and is Australia’s premier site for diving with huge Manta rays and Whale Sharks. Spectacular sunsets are a bonus.
Swimming with the Whale Sharks is one of those experiences that every diver/snorkeller lives for and this is where there is an opportunity to get up close and personal with these awesome giants as they silently glide through the clear waters of the marine park.
The acclaimed Muiron Islands, a group of uninhabited islands 16kms off the coast, is a wonderful dive site. Spend the day diving and snorkelling the islands and say hello to “Clive” the friendly giant cod, or get to tell your friends how manta rays swam acrobatics around you. Explore coral caves and swim through huge schools of fish.