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Scuba Diving Australia: The Coral Sea

Holmes Reef

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...Highlights: whale sharks, shark action, turtles, great macro life/ marine diversity, schooling fish & big pelagics...
...Holmes Reef's diving environment: healthy reefs, wall dives, drift diving, caverns, advanced divers, off the beaten track...

Holmes Reef is a remote spot in the Coral Sea west of Cairns. It is much further from shore than the Outer Barrier Reef and is, along with Osprey Reef and Bougainville, among the Great Barrier Reef’s most world-class dive sites. It can only be visited by Australian liveaboards that venture to the Coral Sea, and only when weather conditions permit.

Holmes Reef is named after the young Captain Henry Holmes whose ship, the Thomasine, sank here en route to Hong Kong at a time when the reef was uncharted. Happily Holmes and most of his crew survived. They would certainly not have appreciated the splendour of the undersea world on these reefs, which would come to immortalise their struggle. Show more

Dive Site Descriptions for Holmes Reef

Amazing - This site has a difficult name to live up to, but as a shallow wall teeming with sharks, soft corals and swim-throughs, it somehow manages it! You can expect to see grey reef sharks, silvertips and white tips numbering in the dozens.

The wall itself is home to a number of large cavernous archways and swim-throughs between around 10 and 20m depth. Many are easily penetrated despite the thick bushy covering of soft corals. Within the caves and caverns look out for lots of lobsters and other crustaceans in the nooks and crannies, where a keen eye might also spot a stubbytail eel. Meanwhile, as you are poking around in the recesses, turtles and potato cod are always likely to put in an appearance, cruising by, casting a curious glance or two in your direction. Show more

How to Dive Holmes Reef

Thanks to its remote location, Holmes Reef is accessible only by Great Barrier Reef liveaboard only. Only those liveaboards that take in Osprey Reef can include Holmes Reef, particularly when the weather is fair. 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.

Since visiting Holmes Reef is dependent on weather conditions, your captain will probably make the call in the early stages of your trip, so it is unlikely it can be promised in advance.

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

Holmes Reef Diving Season

As Holmes Reef 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. Holmes Reef is subject to similar weather influences to Osprey Reef although variations do occur. As such Homes Reef is something of a fair weather destination.

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Where is Holmes Reef and How Do I Get There?

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

Operators following Coral Sea itineraries leave from or return to Lizard Island, which is accessible by flight, or Cairns. The flight to Lizard island departs from Cairns and flies over the reef, an exciting scenic trip in itself!

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 - >38m
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: 8+
Distance: ~250 km east of Cairns
Recommended length of stay: 2 days

Useful References

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