Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef


Nothing will prepare you for the beauty when you arrive at the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef Park Management Authority has the responsibility and privilege of looking out for the Great Barrier Reef Park, the largest marine park in the world and the site of a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The park authority has divided the park into different management areas, and within the individual management areas have designated activity zones.

These zones allow or restrict various activities so that the ecological requirements and economic wealth are equally balanced.

The Cairns/ Port Douglas Management area is one of the most diverse and one of the most visited areas in the entire park.

Tourism is high on the list of activities that benefit from the Great Barrier Reef in the area around Cairns. Day tours out to the reef for line fishing, snorkelling and just cruising is very popular.

One of the biggest draws is the scuba diving and snorkelling

Tour operators going north of Cairns and for those tour operators operating from Port Douglas, snorkelling tours that visit pristine reefs with a vast array of colourful marine life

There are a number of small coral cays that are used for the snorkelling.

Some of the day snorkelling and dive boat operators visit some of the small islands in close to Cairns, Green Island and Fitzroy Island are two of the locations that are often visited.

It’s the outer Barrier Reef that offers the best reefs

The majority of the snorkelling and diving trips take place on the outer Barrier reefs.

The outer barrier reefs of the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns is only about an hour to an hour and a half away.

These reefs are close enough to be visited by day reef tour boats from Cairns and Port Douglas.

A barrier reef protects the land behind it with an area of shallower water. They are generally situated near or on the continental shelve.

This means that one side of the reef may drop down to a thousand metre or more while the other side may only be 20- 30 metres deep.

In the Cairns area, the barrier reefs are like that.

The ocean side drops to at least a thousand metres providing excellent wall dives and numerous pelagic species.

The average maximum depth of the water behind the reef, in the area, referred to as the lagoon is about 30 metres.



Reef Locations:

The city of Cairns can be seen on Google Earth at the location: 16° 55′ 0″ South, 145° 46′ 0″ East

Most of the boats depart from here to the reefs.   There are a wide range of both Barrier reefs at the edge of the Continental shelve and other reefs closer to shore.

One unusual Reef is Michaelmas reef.

This is a crescent-shaped reef that has developed an impressive cay.

A cay is a type of island develops by sentiment dropped on the reef by wave action, this cay is the home of thousands of nesting pairs of different sea birds.

While visits to the cay is limited as to not disturb the birds, the diving in the area is outstanding to take a look at this area  look at  16° 36.238′ S / 145° 58.381′ E, this is one of the moorings maintained by the Luxury Liveaboard dive vessel MV Reef Encounter and their day trip  MV Reef Experience Day tours.


Dive Sites:

This is a very large area and the potential for dive sites are almost unlimited.

Some of the reefs, mostly the outer reefs, have site management plans that control their usage.

Using Michaelmas Reef as an example, the Great Barrier Reef Park Management has authorized 19 private moorings in and around that reef.

These sites are maintained and are under the control of the permit holder.

Permit holders are encouraged to share their moorings with others when they are not using them.

Other boats are allowed to anchor in designated areas or at least 50 metres from the reef. There are also two public moorings.

Other outer reefs have similar mooring plans creating popular diving sites on the Saxon, Norman, Hastings and Breaking patches reefs.


Daily And Liveaboard Diving:

Unlike other areas of the Great Barrier Reef Park, such as the Whitsunday Islands, there is little or no shore diving in the Cairns area.

The coastline is mostly mangroves or mudflats. Daily boats, as mentioned above, provide divers with the opportunity to visit both inner reefs and islands and the outer reefs.

There are a number of Liveaboards that sail from Cairns. Some pass the outer reefs on the way to the Ribbon Reefs further north or stop at them before continuing further.

There are a number of Liveaboards that stay out on the Outer reefs for extended times.

Liveaboards provide the opportunities to do sunrise and night dives, something that the daily dive boats can not do.

Most of the Liveaboards that sail from Cairns and spend a few days on the reef before sailing back.

Some of the Liveaboards, such as the Luxury MV Reef Encounter, stay out on the outer reef for extended periods.

Guest are transferred from land to the Liveaboard by a daily dive vessel.

This allows the guest to choose from an overnight on an outer Barrier reef, two-night trips or more.

This allows a great deal of flexibility and allows the individual guest more diving opportunities.

The vessel will visit two or three different reefs in a day and have as many as six in water sessions a day.

The Great Barrier Reef is looked at as one of the best locations in the world for diving, and within the reef, the best place is the Cairns area. We look forward to Scuba Diving with you soon.