Your Guide to Diving Australia
Including the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island and Whitsunday Islands
All of Undercurrent's information on diving Australia, including articles, reader reports, Chapbook sections, ...
Diving Australia Overview
A vast continental island bordered by the Indian Ocean the Coral Sea and the South Atlantic, with diving as varied. The Queensland coast is most popular for diving with Cairns the jumping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef. It is a youth-oriented, tropical city with plenty of hotels and restaurants as well as an assortment of day boats going to the Reef and overnight trips to Cod Hole at Lizard Island. Cairn's "beach" is a mud flat dotted with roseate spoonbills and other tropical birds, and you can visit the reptile farm to gawk at saltwater crocodiles eating chickens or take the Kuranda Railway for a look at a magnificent waterfall . . .
The best diving, with pristine reefs and oodles of fish, is to the north of Port Douglas, reachable only by liveaboard during their summer months, roughly November to March.
Further offshore by a two-hour boat ride from Cairns, the Ribbon Reefs are known for big sharks, lots of them, including fleets of bronze whalers . . . Pack safety sausages, whistles, strobes, mirrors, and any other safety devices that would make you noticeable if a current carries you too far from the boat. However, Aussie dive rules are now tight (far tighter than the Florida Keys, for example), with redundant head counts after every dive . . .
Lizard Island is the northernmost land-based operation; they have day trips to Cod Hole (Ribbon Reef #10) to pet-friendly, refrigerator-sized potato cod, locally known as groper. Although the GBR has had some bad press, better by a hundred miles is the Coral Sea, whose outlying atolls and pinnacles such as Flinders Reef offer some of the best diving in the world. To the south, the current-blasted wreck of the Yongala out from Townsville is often claimed to be the best fish-covered wreck in the world . . .
Moving from Queensland south, you'll pass from full-on tropics, with such places as the eco-resort at Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island at the barrier reef's southern end, through temperate water, to chilly water in Sydney, and finally into the really cold stuff when you reach Tasmania . . . Don't worry about the Great White in the GBR; they hang around south of Sydney, off Adelaide where the water is cooler, although Rodney Fox and his son operate cage dives for those who are interested. The Indian Ocean coast of Australia is notable for whale sharks, where seaplanes from Exmouth lead dive boats to aggregations at Ningaloo Reef.
Australia Seasonal Dive Planner
Australia's winter is during the Northern Hemisphere's summer. Summer weather in the tropical north, including Queensland, is sultry and oppressive, with tropical showers . . . Water temperature is below 80°F (27°C) and cooler in their winter, so bring rubber. Visibility can be in the 50ft (15m) range. That's the easy part. From there, it gets increasingly complex. Queensland's diving areas are vast. Cyclone season is January through March; April, May, and June see heavy trade winds. The best season to dive Queensland on a liveaboard (really the only way to see the best) is July through November. Best vis at Osprey Reef, in the northern Coral Sea, is between June and September.
On the other side of the country, 2250 miles away in Western Australia, whale sharks congregate at Ningaloo Reef during March and April. Summers (December to February) are hot and dry (63°-86°F/17°-30°C) while winters are relatively cool at 53-74°F (11-23°C).
New South Wales (inc. Sydney) is cooler, with the average highs 79°F (26°C) in summer (though many days exceed 100°F/38°C), to as low as 44°F (7°C) in winter, with an average high of 58°F (14°C) in Victoria, where snow falls over high ground, and Tasmania is even colder.
| Featured Links from Our Sponsors
becoming a sponsor?
Reef & Rainforest
is an agency for travelers that scuba dive. See
the Great Barrier Reef, Cod Hole, kangaroos, outback, leafy seadragons.
Let us plan your adventure to Australia.
Diving Australia Reader Reports and Feature Articles
For Undercurrent Online Members
The Most Recent Australia Dive Reviews
from our Instant Reader Reports
Complete Articles Available to Undercurrent Online
Members; Some Publicly Available as Indicated
Diving Australia Articles - Liveaboards
|Spirit of Freedom, Cairns, Australia , a cramped, colorless experience on the Great Barrier Reef, 8/19|
|Roatan, the Brac, Sulawesi, Fiji …, and a lot of bad diving behavior, 11/17|
|The Great Barrier Reef; Dive it Now, 10/17|
Available to the Public
|Six Hours Adrift Alone, a stirring tale of Australian true grit, 8/16|
|Climate Change Wreaks Havoc on Coral, and raises more than one stink!, 7/16|
|Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Controversy, science versus commerce?, 5/16|
|A New App for Coral Sea Diving, 4/14|
|Spoilsport, Great Barrier Reef & Coral Sea, Australia, something for everyone, even snorkelers, 10/11|
|Did Gabe Watson Get Away With Murder?, 7/09|
|Aussie Liveaboard Gives Divers a Wild Ride, 6/09|
|MV Odyssey, Rowley Shoals, Western Australia, great diving Down Under, 4/07|
|Nimrod Explorer, Coral Sea, Australia, a sea full of turtles, 6/06|
|More Trouble on the Reef Explorer, the $3000 Australian cruise from hell, 1/99|
|Spirit of Freedom, 1/95||
Diving Australia Articles - Land Based
|Lady Elliot Island, Queensland, Australia, diving (what’s left of) the GBR, 10/17|
|My Word, It’s Ugly Down There!, 7/17|
|Six Deaths in Five Days Call for Tougher Aussie Standards, 1/17|
Available to the Public
|Australia, Grand Cayman, Philippines . . ., and when it’s really the best time to dive in Raja Ampat, 11/11|
|A Tale of Three Fees, 10/11|
|Why the Dive Industry Is Dying: “It’s the Media’s Fault”, 10/09|
|Kangaroos and LSD, Looking for leafy sea dragons in Australia, 10/99|
|Diving Western Australia's True North, it's more than just skurfing, whale sharks and waterfalls, 4/99|
|Whale Sharks in Oz, 9/95|
Australia Sections from Our Travelin'
Reader Reports filed for
Editor's Book Picks for Scuba Diving Australia
Including the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island and Whitsunday Islands
The books below are my
favorites about diving in this part of the world All books are
available at a significant discount from Amazon.com; just
follow the links. -- BD
Reef Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific
by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach
Paul Humann and Ned Deloach have done it again, releasing a definitive identification guide to 1600 extraordinary reef creatures of the Tropical Pacific. with this 500+ page softbound guide, you get upwards of 2000 exceptional photos of shrimp and crabs and stars and worms and lobsters and nudibranchs and slugs and squid and bivalves . . . well, all those invertebrates that move along the reefs of this region without fining, so it seems. There are several photos of some creatures to help you identify them during different life stages, and about ten percent of the book is descriptive copy so you can tie down your identification. Even if you have no plans to go to the tropical Pacific, just to thumb through the pages, gawk at the complexity and uniqueness of these animals, and read a thumbnail sketch will give any serious diver vicarious thrills for endless hours.
Click here to order through Undercurrent and you’ll get Amazon’s best price -- and we'll get a cut of the proceeds to continue our reef-protection efforts.
Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific
by Gerald Allen, Rodger Steene, Paul Humann, & Ned Deloach
At last, here's a comprehensive fish ID guide covering the reefs of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The generous 500-page text, displaying 2,500 underwater photographs of 2,000 species, identifies the myriad fishes that inhabit the warm tropical seas between Thailand and Tahiti. The concise text accompanying each species portrait includes the fish's common, scientific and family names, size, description, visually distinctive features, preferred habitat, typical behavior, depth range, and geographical distribution. This is an essential book for every diver traveling westward. 6x9 inches. Order through us, get Amazon.com's best price and a good hunk of the profit will be donated to preserve coral reefs.
Dive Sites of the Great Barrier Reef
by Neville Coleman.
2900 reefs in 220,000 square miles, the enormous Great Barrier Reef has incredible
dives -- and some very ordinary ones. If you're contemplating a trip, Neville
Coleman's Dive Sites of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea will help you
ensure you pick the best. This 176 page book, with good maps and scores of colorful
photos, describes the significant sites, the topography and the critters, then
rates and ranks them so you can pick the best. Don't even consider a trip to Australia
without consulting this. $24.95
Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide
by Gerald R. Allen, Roger Steene.
I was trying to pack
light for a change. Surely the Solomon Sea would have good identification books
aboard. Not so; the only book on the boat belonged to a fellow passenger. It was
one that I had not seen before, the Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide,
by two of the best fish guys around, Gerry Allen and Roger Steene. The problem
was this fellow passenger kept it in a plastic baggie most of the trip and I had
to beg to see it. Great book, good traveling size, and it covers everything from
fish, shells, marine plants, mammals, corals, and invertebrates to sea birds and
more. Now I've got my own, and it won't do you any good to beg me to borrow it.
This is one of two books that I will not travel to the Pacific without. Good for
travel to the Red Sea, East Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Andaman Sea,
Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Hawaii,
it has 1,800 color illustrations in a 6x8 1/2 paperback format with 378 pages.
There's a Cockroach in My Regulator
The Best of Undercurrent: Bizarre and Brilliant True Diving Tales from Thirty Years of Undercurrent.
Shipping now is our brand new, 240-page book filled with the best of the unusual, the entertaining, and the jaw dropping stories Undercurrent has published. They’re true, often unbelievable, and always fascinating. We’re offering it to you now for the special price of just $14.95.
Click here to order.
You might find some other books
of interest in our
Editor's Book Picks