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Australia Scuba Diving: The Coral Sea


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...Highlights: whale sharks, shark action, turtles, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Bougainville's diving environment: healthy reefs, wall diving, beginner and advanced divers, off the beaten track...

Bougainville Reef is named after Louis-Antoine de Bougainville who could so very easily have claimed Australia for France. Had he not turned north-east to avoid the perilous breakers over this reef, he may have 'discovered' Australia 2 years before Captain Cook. Imagine how different Australia could have been if colonised by the French! The reef which bears his name lies some 150 km to the south of Osprey Reef and is not often visited by Australian liveaboards in this area. Normally, Coral Sea trips will return to the Ribbon Reefs after visiting Osprey Reef but if conditions permit, you may be lucky enough to dive around this exposed offshore reef.

Like Osprey, Bougainville is a Coral Sea reef in the middle of nowhere that enjoys a proliferation of life thanks to the deep ocean upwellings that bring nutrients into the shallows. The coral here is in great condition. Superb visibility and a lack of river run-off result in pristine reefs with some large areas of the finest plate coral imaginable. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions for Bougainville

The Zoo - This is one of the most-loved spots in Bougainville, whose proliferation of creatures gives this site its name. You can expect plenty of white tip reef sharks as well as some cowtail rays on the sea floor, grey reef sharks in the blue, as well as green and hawksbill turtles, plus myriad schooling butterflyfish and unicornfish. Show more

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How to Dive Bougainville

Due to its remoteness, access to the Bougainville is by Great Barrier Reef liveaboard only. It is only visited by those Liveaboards that take in Osprey Reef but it does not form part of the normal route. For more information on the cruises, duration options, and all the other travel information you might need to enter Australia, visit our Coral Sea liveaboard section.

Depending on weather conditions, your captain may decide to spend a shorter time at Osprey in order to visit Bougainville, so it is unlikely it can be promised in advance.

Liveaboard diving cruises to Bougainville and Osprey Reef are in high demand and fill up quickly. We recommend you plan to book well in advance.

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Bougainville Diving Season

As Bougainville is only visited by liveaboards that go to Osprey Reef, you should consult the diving season of Osprey Reef when considering your Great Barrier Reef vacation. Bougainville is subject to similar weather influences to Osprey Reef although it can enjoy more settled conditions when Osprey Reef is being exposed to heavy winds. This explains why it is occasionally visited as an alternative to Osprey Reef.

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Where is Bougainville and How Do I Get There?

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

As with all Osprey Reef liveaboards, some operators do also leave from or return to Lizard Island, which is accessible by flight. The flight departs from Cairns and flies to Lizard Island over the reef, providing you a scenic trip with an overview of what you'll be diving on the Great Barrier Reef. This promises to deliver some of your best Australian scuba diving memories.

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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Bougainville Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 20 - 40m
Currents: Normally gentle, can be strong
Surface conditions: Can be choppy
Water temperature: 25 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: 5
Distance: ~230 km north east of Cairns
Recommended length of stay: 2 days

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Useful References for Bougainville Dive Trips

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