Australia boasts the world's largest coral reef system, known collectively as the Great Barrier Reef, it can literally be seen from outer space. The entire system, which consists of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 Islands, was created over the past 10 million years by a countless number of tiny coral polyps. The marine biodiversity of the entire area includes more than 1,500 fish species, 400 soft and hard coral species, nearly 30 different species of whales, and 6 sea turtle species which use the reef system as a place to breed and lay eggs. It stretches over 2,300 kilometres from south to north and encompasses an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. The Great Barrier Reef truly stands as one of the great natural wonders of the world.
There are only a handful of liveaboard operators running extended diving trips to the outer reefs in the north of the system. Places like Lizard Island, Ribbons Reef, Osprey and Shark Reefs in the Coral Sea are only accessible by these vessels. The reefs in the northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef are exceptional for divers, they're remote and untouched locations which offer unique experiences. You'll find huge schools of pelagic fish, manta rays and sharks in the crystal clear waters of the Coral Sea. You can also dive with the massive potato cod at the famous Cod Hole, or get up close with Minke Whales in certain times of the year around the Ribbons Reef.
All liveaboards to these northern Great Barrier Reef regions depart weekly from Cairns, with the possibility of shorter 3 or 4 night trips that include flights to or from Lizard island mid-trip. The flight is stunning and is fully chartered allowing for a close-up scenic view of the reefs and surrounding areas. There are also occasionally longer, special northern expedition trips which take divers from Lizard Island up to Raine Island, finishing at Lockhart River.
Diving conditions are comfortable all year long, with visibility ranging from 10 to 20 meters closer to the Great Barrier Reef and up to 30 meters or more further out in the Coral Sea. Water temperatures range from a low of 24 degrees C in the winter months of July to September, and a high of 29 degrees C in the summer months of January to March.