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Diving in Cairns

The Dive Sites of the Outer Barrier Reef

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...Highlights: turtles, great macro life/ marine diversity...
...Cairns' diving environment: wall diving, beginner divers, very popular...

Starting at a distance of 50 km off shore and forming the further reaches of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Cairns Barrier Reef offers wall diving, swim throughs and endless fields of corals in clear blue waters, all accessed only by the Cairns liveaboards that frequent this area.

What is sometimes called the Outer Barrier Reef is a must if you fancy doing some nice and easy, entry level scuba diving off Cairns. This area includes the reefs on Milln, Flynn, Thetford, Hastings, Briggs, Norman and Saxon. All of the low budget liveaboards that we recommend visit the Outer Barrier Reef. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions for Cairns

Flynn Reef

- 60 km east of Cairns, Flynn Reef has excellent wall dives and a wide-ranging scuba experience, with swimthroughs, over hangs, expansive fields of hard corals and an abundance of diverse marine life. It is home to several turtles and with some diver's luck you will see them all. One of them is truly enormous and must have lived the good life, and a long one too, to have reached such a size.

The colour on Flynn Reef is courtesy of the hard coral field, which features staghorn, table, plate and boulder coral heads. Splashes of vivid blue, green and yellow is interjected by many species of soft corals that can be found in Cairns. Luckily on Flynn Reef there is always something willing to provide you with a photo opportunity. As you drop down the reef to the slightly deeper sections, you can catch sight of white tip reef sharks that are frequently sighted in Cairns. At night they hang out in shallower areas resting in the small caves and overhangs of the bommies. Show more

How to Dive Cairns

Various liveaboard trip options of different durations are available for your local diving adventure, and these run all year round so it's easy to work your schedule around a departure date and time that suits you. For more information on the cruises, duration options, and all the other travel information you might need to enter Australia, visit our Cairns liveaboard section.

Cairns is also the starting point for exceptional liveaboard cruises that visit the top spots on the Great Barrier Reef. The finest dives, which can be truly world-class, are found around Osprey Reef and the Ribbon Reefs. These are all found to the north of here and, depending on your choice of itinerary, may involve boarding or disembarking at Cairns or a stunning low level flight over the reef to or from Lizard Island. If you want to dive the best sites of the area then check out Osprey Reef and the Ribbon Reefs and the Australian liveaboards that visit these areas.

If you choose to dive the entry level sites of the Cairns Barrier Reef, which are some distance from shore, this requires a substantial amount of travel time. Although day trips are possible, most of the day is spent on travelling to and from your hotel and the reef. Dive The World therefore recommends a short liveaboard tour to maximise your time at the Barrier Reef.

Cairns Diving Season

As with the rest of the Great Barrier Reef, any time is a good time for diving in Cairns. The tropical weather ensures that the water temperature is always between 22 - 29°C. Sea surface conditions are calm, except during the Australian winter months when they can become moderate. The Great Barrier Reef is blessed with perpetual great visibility and during September to November it goes from great to excellent.

Special times of the year on the Great Barrier Reef are from June - November when humpback whales are commonly spotted, and in October / November during coral spawning. This is in addition to the usual magical spectacle which characterises the reef all year round.

The summer season of Cairns sees a little more rain than the dry winter seasons, although rainfall is still moderate and showers generally occur in the early mornings and late afternoons.

Visit the Bureau of Meteorology websiteOpens in a new window for more information on the climate and sea conditions around Cairns.

Where is Cairns and How Do I Get There?

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

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

Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - 30m
Visibility: 5 - 20m
Currents: Gentle
Surface conditions: Generally calm but can be choppy
Water temperature: 25 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: 16
Distance: 60 km east of Cairns
Recommended length of stay: 3 - 5 days

Useful References

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... I had about a million questions in the months leading up to my liveaboard trip, but I always received a fast and useful reply ... -- , Canada.  [More customer reviews]