Cairns is popular dive travel destination with some of the best Great Barrier Reef diving and snorkeling available.Thousands of visitors are taken out daily by the giant catamarans to snorkel and scuba dive the large number of local reefs and participate in underwater photography and snorkeling snapshots.
Two permanent pontoons, owned by Quicksilver Diving Service, are moored on the Agincourt Reefs, giving access to numerous excellent dive sites.
The pontoons are very well organised and safety proceedures for snorkeling and scuba diving are some of the highest in the world.
The Channels offer interesting swim-throughs and caves, while The Gardens are renowned for their exceptional abundance of brightly-coloured reef fish.
Blue Wonder is a breathtaking wall dive to beyond 40 m, while Nursery Bommie is a spectacular pinnacle where pelagic fish gather to feed.
With a number of pontoons permanently anchored at various chosen reef sites, the day trip catamarans provide a daily service offerring scuba diving, snorkeling, underwater obsevatory and semi- submercible glass- bottomed boat excursions. Divers can experience Discover Scuba trial dives and have videos made of their time underwater, Giant Maori Wrasses and all. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Day-Tripping to the Reef
The towns of Cairns and Port Douglas, with a huge range of accommodations, are popular tourist destinations attracting divers from all parts of the globe. The climate is tropical year round, and both towns offer a wealth of activities to enjoy including white-water rafting, bungy jumping, fishing, sailing, rainforest and outback tours and, of course, diving. Dozens of charter boats offer live-aboard and day trips and a large number of dive shops are located in the area. Thousands of visitors are taken out daily to snorkel and dive the large number of local reefs.
On the darker sides of some of the reefs, the walls are festooned with brilliant Spikey soft coral colonies providing panaramas of spectacular colour, especially when viewed by an underwater torch. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Two permanent pontoons, owned by Quicksilver Diving Service, are moored on the Agincourt Reefs, giving access to several excellent dive sites. The Channels offer interesting swim-throughs and caves, while The Gardens are renowned for their exceptional abundance of brightly-coloured reef fish. Blue Wonder is a breathtaking wall dive to beyond 40 m, while Nursery Bommie is a spectacular pinnacle where pelagic fish gather to feed.
Scuba Diving allows the opportunity to observe all the many species of fish amongst the stony corals. By kneeling on the sand around the corals the divers here display good fish watching practice. By being still and not moving, the divers are no visual threat. The fish actually go about their business, even swimming quite close to the divers. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The site of Great Adventure's pontoon, Norman Reef has many exciting dive sites along its length. Coral gardens are found in the shallows, and divers usually see reef sharks, gropers, turtles and pelagic fish patrolling the 30 m drop-off.
The stony corals along the reefs adjacent to the pontoons are spectacular and both snorkelers, scuba divers and reef watchers in the glass bottomed boats can marvel at natures extravagance. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Saxon Reef offers many great diving and snorkelling spots. The shallows shelter a host of the ever-present reef fish; typical are anemonefish, goatfish, squirrelfish, pufferfish, damsels and butterflyfish. Dropping to 30 m are a number of walls, broken up by caves and gutters, which are covered with an incredible variety of coral and other marine invertebrates. These are good places to see turtles, reef sharks and schools of barracuda.
The town of Cairns is spread across a wide area of the coast and provides a marvelous array of tourism related activites for visitors. From Rainforest to Reef there is a something for everyone. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Pinnacles, walls, caves and coral gardens are all features of Hastings Reef. Gorgonians, soft corals and sea whips cover the walls and pinnacles. Reef and pelagic fish are numerous, and stingrays, Maori wrasse, moray eels and reef sharks are frequently seen. Photographers will find plenty of subjects, from pretty nudibranchs to schools of trevally.
The Giant Catamarans made easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and were as it used to take a day of more to get out to the outer barrier, the big 'Cats' can manage it in hours and can operate in all but the heaviest weather. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The pinnacles of Broken Patches in depths from 10 to 25 m are covered with lovely corals and masses of reef fish. A site known as Paradise Reef is an excellent place to see large pelagic fish and reef sharks.
Almost all the pontoons have resident Giant Maori Wrasse Cheilinus undulatus. These large tame fish are used to being around divers and often receive baitfish from the instructors which of course is the reason they meet each Catamaran as it arrives. however, these big fish provide a great thrill for the visiting divers, especially the Discover Scuba students, for in some cases the fish are bigger than the divers. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Similar to many reefs in the area, Michaelmas Reef has extensive coral gardens and a number of pinnacles. The pinnacles, regularly visited by pelagic fish and crowded with soft corals and gorgonians, offer the best diving.
Malabar Rock Cods (Epinephelus malabaricus) at the Cod Hole and in the vicinity of the some of the pontoons have been fed at regular intervals for many years. The Cod hole is accessable from Cairns, Port Douglas and Lizard Island and many charter boats transit there and overstay overnight at the anchored buoys. These big fish are delightful to be amongst but one should always be careful because they can become a bit demanding when they are being fed.
( photo: Neville Coleman)
The pinnacles and hard coral gardens are popular dive sites at Flynn Reef. Gordon's Mooring, where a number of pinnacles attract masses of reef and pelagic fish, is one of the best.
Numerous good dive sites are found at Millin Reef, a popular charter boat destination. Whale Bommie is an impressive pinnacle, and attractive coral gardens are found at Club 10 and the Swimming Pool. Sharks, barracuda, trevally and mackerel gather at the Three Sisters, an assemblage of invertebrate-covered pinnacles.
One of the largest nudibranchs in the southern hemisphere, the Spanish Dancer Hexabranchus sanguineus grows in excess of 300 mm and inhabits the entire Great Barrier Reef and is recorded as far south as Moreton Bay, Queensland. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Macro-photographers will find plenty of nudibranchs, tubeworms, shrimps, anemonefish, crabs, brightly-coloured reef fish and pretty corals as subject matter in the coral gardens on Thetford Reef.
Snorkeling around the offshore reefs at Green Island or Michaelmas Cay is a wonderful way to experience the Great Barrier Reef. However, because the sun in the tropics is so hot, snorkelers really need to cover up if they intend to spend time in the water. It only takes a short time to be badly burnt and because the water is lapping over the body, the burning is not felt until later. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
Moore Reef has a number of beautiful hard coral gardens that are worth a visit, but the best diving is along the reef drop-off. Here an assortment of gorgonians, sea whips and soft corals cling to the wall to depths of 30m. A multitude of reef and pelagic fish live in the area.
Pixie Pinnacle is a fabulous dive site ( and even more so at night) Almost all the charter boats from Cairns stop in there on their way to various other venues and I for one really look forward to getting back there whenever possible. ( photo: Neville Coleman)
The coral wall along the northern side of Briggs Reef drops into 30 m of water, and is covered in an excellent variety of corals. Along the wall swim batfish, coral trout, sweetlips, parrotfish and the occasional pelagic fish. On top of the reef is a coral garden where lionfish, angelfish, stingrays, rabbitfish, wrasse and many other species can be found in abundance.
Shallow coral gardens and drop-offs to 35 m can be explored on Sudbury Reef. Reef fish are prolific. You are also likely to see turtles and gropers.
Neville Coleman's diving expeditions, fauna surveys, photographic fauna surveys include every major group of marine life.
Neville Coleman's expertise in living taxonomy and marine life identification extends to the identification of Algae, Sea Grass, Forams, Sponges, Stony Corals, Soft Corals, Sea Anemones, Sea Jellies, Zoanthids, Corallimorphs, Black Corals, Flatworms, Segmented Worms, Crustaceans, Barnacles, Shrimps, Rock Lobsters, Hermit Crabs, Squat Lobsters, Molluscs, Chitons, Univalves, Bivalves, Cephalopods, Octopus, Cuttlefish, Squid, Opisthobranchs, Nudibranchs, Sea Slugs, Bryozoans, Sea Mosses, Echinoderms, Sea Stars, Feather Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Ascidians/Sea Squirts, Marine Fish, Sharks, Marine Reptiles, and Marine Mammals, all found in the waters around Cairns.
(copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel marsh)