Scuba Diving Great Barrier Reef

Scuba Diving The Great Barrier Reef: The Complete Guide

Quite possibly the most famous diving spot in the world and the crown jewel of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef has tourists flocking from all over the world to immerse themselves in the majestic beauty that’s teeming with tropical marine life and an abundance of stunning vibrant corals.

Situated in the north of Australia’s east coast, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of almost 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, this work of natural art spans over 133,000 square miles of the Coral Sea.

It needs no explanation, and it comes as no surprise that the Great Barrier Reef is an absolute haven for scuba divers! Best accessed from Cairns, Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef promises pleasant water conditions with vibrant coral reefs and a diverse range of underwater life. It’s every diver’s dream to plunge beneath the surface and take in all the natural beauty and charm that the crystal clear waters here have to offer.

Scuba Diving Great Barrier Reef

What’s Good About Great Barrier Reef Diving?

With so many reefs and islands to explore, the Great Barrier Reef system has something captivating in store for every diver. There’s a world of opportunity on offer here and it’s one not to be missed on any trip to Far North Queensland.

Once in a Lifetime Experience

Most people don’t have the luxury of residing in Australia, or even close to it for that matter! That should be reason enough to get this one ticked off your bucket list while you have the chance.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site holds something you’ll never be able to see anywhere else in the world. The bragging rights alone are enough to persuade you to get your feet wet here!

Great for Beginners

Great news for beginner divers, the Great Barrier Reef has an abundance of beginner-friendly dive sites. With thousands upon thousands of square miles in area, there are conditions to suit all levels of diver.

The Great Barrier Reef is a popular place for people to get their first taste of scuba diving. Many like to tick this one off their bucket list while in Far North Queensland having had no prior diving experience.


As well as its diversity in species of tropical fish and other marine life, the waters of the Great Barrier Reef offer the opportunity to dive a range of different sites offering unique experiences and spectacles.

Whether you’re keen for a wall dive, a wreck diving junkie, or just love to explore mesmerizing reef systems and islands, the Great Barrier Reef has got you covered, and then some!

Great Barrier Reef Scuba Certification

Scuba Certification

There’s no requirement to be certified in order to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Moreover, there are many tour operators that cater to those of all levels of ability, no problem for beginner divers. There are plenty of beginner-friendly and easily accessible dive sites to get your flippers wet for the first time.

What’s more, there are plenty of opportunities to get scuba certified while on your trip to the Great Barrier Reef! Check out our recommended Open Water diving course below for more information.

Having said that, it’s always recommended to get scuba certified to give yourself the best, most enjoyable diving experience possible. While you’ll have a great time scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef as a first-time diver, there’s a lot you can miss out on without the extra confidence and diving experience, such as the more challenging reefs and wrecks.

In addition, becoming scuba certified will help you feel more comfortable and confident underwater. This leads to maximum enjoyment and safety from your diving experience and something worth considering.

Great Barrier Reef Scuba Diving Requirements

Scuba Diving Safety

Australia has more strict diving regulations than many other places in the world. You’ll be required to complete a medical declaration before diving to state you haven’t flown within the last 24 hours and that you’re in good health to dive. As always, tour operators state that you must be in good physical condition and have some swimming ability. Children must be at least 10 years old to scuba dive with a tour operator.

With that said, it’s always highly recommended to have a dive buddy when you’re out scuba diving in the waters of the Australian east coast, as it is anywhere else. This is particularly the case if you’re out diving without a tour operator or guide. In this situation, it’s also good practice to make use of diver down flags.

Best Dive Sites on the Great Barrier Reef

Ah! The Great Barrier Reef, the one place that I can’t get enough of. This natural wonder stretches almost 1,500 miles along the eastern coast of Australia and spans an area of more than 133,000 square miles. You don’t really need me to tell you that this massive natural habitat is teeming with marine life.

Another reason why I love diving in and around the Reefs is the moderate depths and the calm, clear waters that the location provides. On top of that, the waters around the region remain warm throughout the year and offer relatively shallow dive depths. This makes it suitable for divers of all experience levels.

Green Island

Great Barrier Reef

Situated merely 45 minutes from Cairns, Green Island promises and delivers one of the best dive spots around the reef. The location can be reached across the Coral Sea by catamaran and is essentially a 6,000-year old coral structure, located deep within the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

Green Island National Park is home to over 120 plant species and is surrounded by coral gardens. At the same time, you’ll have access to a massive variety of marine life, which you can explore during your diving expeditions. And considering the fact that it’s the only coral cay on the reef that has a rainforest growing on it, you wouldn’t want to miss it for the world!

If this sounds ideal to you, be sure to check out our recommended diving package experience below!

Wonder Wall, Upolu

Vibrant Coral

Surrounded by stunningly clear turquoise waters, Upolu Reef is a breath-taking Coral formation that is sure to mesmerize you. I’ve personally spent hours lazing around the cay, swimming in the shallow waters, and enjoying the company of marine life.

When talking about marine life, I must mention the Wonder Wall, which is a teeming ecosystem of sea life in one place. In particular, clownfish are abundant here, so you’ll get the feeling of swimming with schools of “Nemo” fish when you’re diving in these waters.

If you’re heading to the Great Barrier Reef and looking to get your first taste of scuba diving, this convenient shore dive is ideal for you, check out our recommended diving package below!

Hastings Reef

Great Barrier Reef Dive

Hastings reef is located just 30 nautical miles off Cairns’ coast and is one of the bustling scuba diving spots around the Australian waters. The reef dates back to the last ice age, which means you’re getting a taste of ancient history when diving here.

This location’s warm waters allow corals to thrive; the reef itself is an outer reef and is shallow on the top with sides that plunge deep into the surrounding waters. This makes it an ideal spot for deep-sea exploration.

Check out our recommended experience below for more details.

Best Time to go Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

The tropical climate of Far North Queensland means the Great Barrier Reef makes for great diving all year-round. With warm to hot temperatures the whole year, It’s hard to go wrong diving in the Great Barrier Reef whatever the time of year.

It’s worth bearing in mind that being this far north in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef can be affected by the tropical cyclone season. This runs through the summer from November up until April so, while they don’t affect the Great Barrier Reef very often, these times might be worth avoiding or taking some extra care when planning.

You’ll find beautiful water conditions with great visibility the majority of the time while diving the Great Barrier Reef. Expect water temperatures between 75-85°F year-round, with the coolest of those temperatures in the (still very warm) winter.

How Much Does Scuba Diving Cost on the Great Barrier Reef?

If you’re looking at booking a dive package experience through a tour company in Cairns, you’ll find prices between $150-$300 AUD. The prices generally include gear rental and levys so there are no extra fees.

In addition, a PADI Open Water Certification will set you back around $700 AUD, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Scuba Diving Gear on the Great Barrier Reef

Scuba Gear

There are plenty of dive shops located in Cairns. This means gear rental is always an option.

It’s worth noting, you’re left with one less thing to think about when going with a diving package from a guided tour operator as all equipment and gear are included.

However, buying your own gear might be ideal for you if you’re a more keen and experienced diver!

Be sure to check out our buyer’s guides if you’re looking for scuba gear. There you’ll find all of our top recommendations for a range of scuba gear.

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