Holmes Reef, a superb twin reef system 240 km east of Cairns. The reefs are simply superb, with an amazing range of species, and scuba diving, snorkeling and underwater photography is outstanding.
Charter boats are still exploring dive sites around the 450 sq km Holmes Reef, reef system.
The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of over 2000 islands and reefs but it is only when seen from the air that it comes home to you just how extensive it really is. The diving potential is enormous. (photo: Neville Coleman)
A Coral Reef Quickie
Most live-aboard trips to the Coral Sea usually take a week or longer. These trips are great if you have the time and money, but for those divers on a budget, or with limited time, there is an alternative; a Coral Sea quickie with Charters to Holmes Reef, a twin reef system 240 km east of Cairns.
A number of other charter boats stop off at Holmes Reef, running four-day trips to the area. In two days of diving, about eight different locations are visited.
Huge numbers of caves and swim throughs and deep fissues turn many reefs in gigantic labarinths. However, when you get down in them you realize that they just go on and on, and any penetration could spell disaster. Yet they always compel you to 'go look' (photo: Neville Coleman)
This site is a complex of three huge pinnacles rising from 30 m to within 5 m of the surface. A number of caves and ledges cut into the pinnacles, each one packed with a profusion of gorgonians and soft corals. The gutters between each pinnacle are overgrown with brightly-coloured corals. Small reef fish and invertebrates are common; divers will also find lionfish, angelfish, rock cod, molluscs and nudibranchs. A massive school of big eye trevally appears to be resident here, and other large pelagic fish are regularly seen.
Sea fans and soft corals grow where there are moderate currents to bring in the plankton they need to survive. Many are bedecked with feather stars which use them as feeding platforms, taking advantage of their higher situations. (photo: Neville Coleman)
Dozens of caves are the main feature at Amazing, providing considerable excitement, but some of the long narrow ones should be treated with respect. Most of the caves are located in depths between 10 and 20 m, but it is possible to find some deeper. These caves are home to squirrelfish, cardinalfish and rock lobsters; it is usual to find several dozen lobsters hanging off the walls. Outside the caves, the reef is superb with plenty of fish and other invertebrates.
The further one leaves the mainland behind, the clearer the visibility gets. Clear water means better wide angle images but it does not mean there are as many species, because the further out from the continent one goes, the less plankton there is in the water. (photo: Neville Coleman)
This is Coral Sea wall diving at its best, a sheer coral wall dropping into a depth of 1000 m. This wall is crammed with magnificent coral growth, large gorgonians, sea whips and masses of spiky soft coral 'trees'. Small reef fish shelter along the wall, and not far off cruise the usual pelagic fish; trevally, jobfish, barracuda and mackerel. Schools of fusiliers and surgeonfish, grey reef and whitetip reef sharks are always around, and green turtles are frequently seen.
Another incredible wall dive! Drifting along this wall, divers feel as if they are flying, as the wall disappears into blackness in the clear water below. Photographs will find plenty of corals to photograph along the sides of the wall, and curious pelagic fish and reef sharks off the wall. Look closely, as there are many small critters to find, including shrimp, coral crabs, spider crabs, nudibranchs, sea stars, feather stars and brittle stars.
Seen at almost every outer reef dive site are packs of Grey Reef Sharks Carcharhinus amblyrhynchus. They are especially prevelant around the edges of the drop offs and often 'buzz' in for a closer look. (photo: Neville Coleman)
A spectacular deep-water pinnacle in 35m attracts schooling fish when the current is running. Fish species regularly seen include unicornfish, barracuda, mackerel, rainbow runners, dogtooth tuna and surgeonfish. Reef sharks at the pinnacle are always fascinating to watch. The pinnacle itself is quite beautiful, but is generally ignored among so much fish action.
(photo: Neville Coleman)
Leopards Lair is a large pinnacle where harmless leopard sharks can sometimes be seen lazing on the sand during the day. The pinnacle has a good covering of hard and soft corals, gorgonians, sea whips and a variety of feather stars. Along the top of the pinnacle parrotfish can usually be found grazing in hard coral gardens.
From the shallows all the way down to the deeper walls there are feather stars clinging to the reefs. These echinoderms are especially adapted to feed on plankton, catching minute organisms on the sticky pinnules of their arms. (photo: Neville Coleman)
The crew of Rum Runner do an exciting shark feed at Predators' Playground during each trip. They set up a large floating shark cage, where dozens of reef sharks gather. Once the divers are in the cage, baits are lowered into the water and the sharks move in. Both whitetip and grey reef sharks come in for the feed, but the whitetips are definitely the boldest.
After two days of diving around Holmes Reef, the boat does an overnight crossing back to the reefs off Cairns, where several more dive sites are explored before arriving back at Cairns harbour in the afternoon.
Neville Coleman's diving expeditions, fauna surveys, photographic fauna surveys and marine life identification courses 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 Holmes Reef.
( Copyright Neville Coleman/Nigel Marsh)