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Diving on the Great Barrier Reef

Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs

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...Highlights: turtles, whales, great macro life/ marine diversity, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Diving environment: healthy reefs, beginner and advanced divers, off the beaten track...

The Ribbon Reefs are long, thin strips of reef, which form the outer edges of the Great Barrier Reef around 50 km - 100 km off the northern Queensland shore and so are accessed only by Australian liveaboards. Characteristically no wider than 450m, they are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and are covered in colourful corals that attract a plethora of reef life big and small, with sandy gullies separating them, themselves containing interesting critters.

The Ribbon Reefs are generally quite shallow, coming up to as high as 5 metres below the surface from a sandy bottom that is between 15-20 metres below the surface. Show more

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Dive Site Descriptions

Challenger Bay - Challenger Bay is between Ribbon Reef #9 and #10 and boasts excellent corals that will amaze you with dazzling colours. Extensive hard coral fields are intertwined by sandy gullies peppered with garden eels. You will often spot stingrays cruising along, with white tip reef sharks frequenting the outer edges of the reef in search of their next meal. Show more

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How to Dive the Ribbon Reefs



The Ribbon Reefs are only found north of Cairns where the best diving in the area is to be found. As such a liveaboard is the only option from which to reach this area and enjoy diving on the Great Barrier Reef here.

Dive The World will help you select the liveaboard that's right for you, so start off by checking out our Ribbon Reefs liveaboard section.

Liveaboard trips to the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef are very popular and fill up quickly. So we recommend booking well in advance.



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Diving Season

Due to Queensland's tropical climate, any time of the year is a good time to dive the Ribbon Reefs. Water temperatures fluctuate between 22°C in winter and 29°C during summer. Thanks to the absence of human activity in the area, visibility is good year round, with best vis from September to November.

During the wet summer months rainfall is moderate but usually limited to early mornings and later afternoons. The dry winter months see little rain. December to February are the rainiest months although the rainfall is often confined to night time. Surface conditions are most often calm but can become moderately rough during winter, although in and around the reefs there is plenty of shelter from the ocean swell.

In the winter months of June and July, dozens of dwarf minke whales can be seen on their migratory path around the Ribbon Reefs. The famous giant potato cod are present all year round.

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Where are the Ribbon Reefs and How Do I Get There?

Review our maps below of Great Barrier Reef, showing the location of the Ribbon Reefs, and their host country Australia. Here, you will find information on how to get to the Great Barrier Reef.

Map of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of Australia (click to enlarge in a new window)

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Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - 30m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Gentle
Surface conditions: Calm, moderate in winter
Water temperature: 22 - 29 °C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~25
Distance: 140 km north of Cairns
Recommended length of stay: 1 week

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Useful References


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