The Coral Sea and Ribbon Reefs outstanding scuba diving expeditions
This Coral Sea region covers an area of 15,000 kilometres along the north Queensland coast. The Coral Reef is east of the Great Barrier Reef with exceptional visibility and large fish.
The Coral Sea & Ribbon Reefs is one of those on many a diver’s bucket list. While the dive sites are very remote, the liveaboards depart from Cairns on the Queensland coast of Australia.
How to Dive the Coral Sea?
A couple of different liveaboard companies sail from Cairns on a week-long dive vacation to the Ribbon Reefs, a portion of the Great Barrier Reef and out to a remote reef, often Osprey reef, in the Coral Seas.
The liveaboards use different sailing dates, and some will start with the ribbon Reefs, and others will head to the Coral Sea from Cairns.
These trips can be either.
Seven days are covering the Coral Sea and Ribbon Reefs. Or for travellers short of time, a choice of a four days Coral Sea trip or three days Ribbon Reefs
Ribbon Reef Section
The Ribbon Reefs are a series of long narrow reefs stretching about 55 miles in the Northern Reef area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
There are ten of these reefs, no names, just numbered 1 to 10. They are to the north and east of Cooktown.
Cooktown, a town of about 2,000, is isolated, a five-hour bus ride from Cairns with one trip a day.
The Ribbon Reefs are unique in their make up.
They share the same characteristics as typical barrier reefs, on the edge of steep drop-offs on the ocean side with calm shallow lagoons between them and land.
They do not have the broad flat tops that barrier reefs are known. Some scientist classifies them as separate reef type. Breaks between the reefs are few and often present a strong current.
It was these reefs that confounded Captain James Cook when he sailed to them.
What makes these reefs so spectacular?
For the diver, they are perfect. The rich nutrients brought from the deep trenches cause the coral life to grow to immense sizes.
It also brings pelagic species in to visit and feed. The outgoing current flushed away any sediment and waste built up from the vast marine life. The impact caused by humans is not apparent.
They are far from any significant human settlement and the pollution they can create. Only a few small liveaboards visit the area each week.
Cod Hole get special attention as it has several human-sized 90 kg Potato Cod. Photographs and movies, In 1982, were used as part of a campaign to protect Potato Cod from commercial fishing.
Not only were the images highly successful in protecting the Cod, but they also prompted making the area a marine sanctuary. To divers around the world, it showed how a perfect reef.
Over thirty years later, the visibility is still perfect, the marine life healthy, and the Cod Hole dive site is still awing divers with excellent conditions and unbeatable marine life.
Coral Sea Diving-Osprey Reef
If you got a group of experienced divers together and ask them to describe their dream dive, and if you put all the answers together, you have the Osprey reef.
A ten-hour boat ride from the Ribbon Reef is a massive underwater mountain that reaches 3,000 feet from the ocean floor to just under the surface.
The mountain top covers about 195 square kilometres, roughly 25 kilometres long and as wide as 12 kilometres. The central lagoon area is 30 metres deep at its deepest location, with many dive sites as shallow as 10 metres.
Osprey reef has an atoll appearance to it, as coral above sea level surrounds the central lagoon. The floor of the lagoon has massive crevices in places.
One site got its name, Castles, as the steep-walled crevices and spirals create the image of a medieval town with high walls and towers. Caves exist but inside and outside of the lagoon.
Outside of the atoll, the reef takes on a different look. Forty-five-degree slopes to depths beyond diving limits, in other locations, shear walls. Seemly unlimited visibility with pelagic fish in abundance.
The Osprey Reef is one of the leading field research locations studying sharks. The variety and numbers of each species are unmatched anywhere in the world.
Dwarf nautilus found in these waters. The nautilus lives in the deep hundreds of meters deep but, on some nights, venture into shallow waters.
Some of the largest coral fans in the world documented on this reef site.
Also, this is the home of the stout infant fish, a previous record holder of the world’s smallest fish. The remoteness adds to the thrill of diving.
Coral Sea, Cod Hole and Ribbon Reefs
In this region, great pinnacles rise from the depths of the ocean, forming undersea mountains. These pinnacles extend thousands of kilometres deep.
Suitable for advanced scuba divers only, providing unforgettable diving excursions to some of the most remote and idyllic parts of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea.
This area of reefs is well known for incredible visibility and outstanding scuba diving. Scuba divers looking for big fish and sharks are in for a real treat on these reef locations.
The Cod Hole is perhaps Australia’s most famous dive site for serious scuba divers.
Approximately 240 kilometres north of Cairns, this dive site is part of the Ribbon Reefs. World-famous for the giant friendly potato cod.
In the winter, the area is also famous for the dwarf minke whales known to frequent this site. A highlight of any divers trip is to have a close encounter with a curious Minke Whale.
The Ribbon Reefs include dive locations Pixie Pinnacle and exciting reef teeming with fish life as you spiral your way up the pinnacle.
Steve’s Bommie is perfect for underwater photography enthusiasts, with its incredible biodiversity of fish life, including scorpionfish, octopus and turtles.
Bougainville Reef, located 210 kilometres northeast of Cairns, features enormous marine life with incredible visibility.
Shark enthusiast will be in their glory with this outstanding opportunity to view spectacular sharks up close. Divers can choose from:-
- The Shark Attraction is attracting around ten sharks with a 3-star photo opportunity.
- Shark Feed adds a bit more adrenaline to your dive, with 30-40 sharks actively feeding.
- Private Shark shoot this five-star photography option is an additional cost featuring around twenty sharks.
- Mike Ball dive expeditions
- The leaders in this field are Mike Ball dive expeditions. Due to high demand, we recommend booking in advance.
With spectacular visibility, an enormous amount of marine biodiversity and big fish on offer. Add Spoilsport, the purpose-built dive vessel and an outstanding crew into the mix.
Next, plan to dive on one of these fantastic trips.