The Great Barrier Reef has some incredible marine encounters – some that can be experienced nowhere else on the planet. Be sure to plan your trip well so you can include some of these amazing experiences on your trip down under.
1. Dwarf Minke Whales. When? June and July. Where? Ribbon Reefs.
This must be one of the most special marine encounters in the world – and it ONLY happens on the GBR’s northern Ribbon Reefs. These playful and inquisitive cetaceans, around 8 to 9 metres (26 feet) long, will approach you sometimes within inches as you float motionless on the surface attached to a mermaid line. They are also known to approach divers on safety stop on the mooring line – a good reason to be extra careful and extend your safety stop beyond three minutes!
2. Manta Rays. When? Year-round but best in July, and August. Where? Lady Elliot Island.
The (justified) self-proclaimed ‘Home of the Manta Ray’. Over 2000 individuals have been identified in waters surrounding Lady Elliot Island. They are most active in mating season, between May and August, where divers and snorkelers have sometimes reported seeing manta trains of over 20 mantas. If you’re lucky, you may get to see a truly unique individual: Inspector Clouseau, the only known pink manta ray in the world.
3. Giant Potato Cods. When? Year-round. Where? Northern Ribbon Reefs.
Located on the northern stretch of the Ribbon Reefs, Cod Hole is possibly the Great Barrier Reef’s best-known dive site. It’s home to a group of very friendly human-size potato cod, reaching up to 100 kilograms, that have become accustomed to divers over the past 30 years. The giant fish approach quite closely and are sometimes hand fed by a couple of licensed liveaboard operators.
4. Shark Spectacular. When? Year-round. Where? North Horn, Osprey Reef.
Osprey’s famous shark spectacular happens at the tip of North Horn reef, with divers seated around natural coral amphitheatre while the sharks are lured in for a thrill (and photo opportunity) with a bucket of chum. Once the sharks have had their feed, you can then drift along the Western Wall, which is festooned with vibrant soft corals and forests of gorgonian fans while clouds of purple anthias add to the whole rainbow of colours.