Great Barrier Reef
Everyone, even non-divers, knows that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the world. A UNESCO Heritage center. The Reef is also a national park that stretches over 2,300 kilometers. The park area ranges from 60 kilometers to 250 kilometers from the mainland. If you took all of Switzerland, Holland and the United Kingdom and turned them into a park, it would be smaller than the Great Barrier Reef Park. In addition to the reef structure of some 3000 coral reefs there is also some 150 inshore mangrove islands, 600 continental islands, and about 300 coral cays. While diving occurs in most of the park, three areas have the majority of the dive operators.
Whitsundays Island group is known as one of the best sailing destinations in the world. The calm lagoon formed behind the Great Barrier Reefs outer reefs provide perfect sailing to over 70 islands. Each of these islands have their own fringe reef. Diving is generally from small boats and often boats will bring the guest to the shore where they can spend a few hours doing unlimited shore dives. Many divers will charter a small boat with crew and just roam the area. Dive operators also go to the outer reef areas.
Townsville is most famous for the 100 year old wreck the SS Yongala. Lost in a storm she remained missing for 50 years before being found. Considered the best wreck dive in Australia and one of the top 5 wrecks worldwide.
Cairns and the Ribbon Reefs. The Northern reefs off shore from the city of Cairns is the most dived section of the Great Barrier Reef. Day boats and Liveaboards take diver to the outer reefs in about 90 minutes while smaller patch reefs are even closer. The Ribbon Reefs are the destination for Liveaboards Such as Mike Balls Spoilsport. These offer 3,4 and 7 day trips.
Ningaloo Commonwealth Marine Reserve is a 300 kilometer long and 16 kilometer wide marine park on the Northwestern coast of Australia. The park contains both marine and land asset’s, including the Ningaloo reef. Ningaloo reef is the third longest reef in the world just a few kilometers short of the Belize Barrier Reef. It is, however, not a barrier reef but a fringing reef and the worlds largest. A fringing reef differs from a barrier reef in its location. A fringing reef is close to shore, and in the case on Ningaloo it touches the mainland at the low water mark in many places and is generally no more that 200 meters from shore and extending out. Exmouth and Coral Bay are the two areas where the dive centers are located, and are about 150 kilometers apart. Both offer the diver a range of packages with shore diving, day boats and Liveaboards as options.
Ningaloo nearly matches the Great Barrier Reef in diversity. Many divers feel that it surpasses the GBR in many ways. The Ningaloo is known to have the largest seasonal number of Whale Sharks in the world, with over 500 commonly being along the reef in season. Also Humpback whales and a wide variety of sharks and rays made the reef their breeding grounds. The remote area slightly populated gives most the reef no impact from humans.