The Great Barrier Reef Cairns’ Front Yard

come face to face with Nemo on a resort scuba dive


Just about everyone has heard of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef structure in the world.

The reef is 2,300 kilometres long providing a barrier along the eastern coast of Australia between the shoreline and the open seas.

The Great Barrier reef is not just one reef but over 3,000 reefs.

Some of these are the Barrier reefs while others are fringing reefs and patch reefs located in the lagoon of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Barrier Reefs are also called the outer reefs and are situated at the continental shelf.

This is the point where sea floor sharply drops off.

Most of the Barrier Reefs are within a few hundred metres of water being deeper than 1,000 metres.

The barrier reefs provide resistance against wave action of the open seas, causing the waves to lose some of their height and power.

The area of calmer waters behind the reef is called a lagoon.

The Lagoon behind the Great Barrier Reef averages about 30 metres.

The distance from the shore to the outer reefs varies from as near as 60 km to over 120 km.

Cairns is located at one of the points where the outer reefs are at their closest to shore.

There is also 600 continental islands, 300 Coral Cays and 150 mangrove islands.

The continental islands are mountain tops of submerged mountain ranges.

Coral Cays form when sediment is dropped on the reef by wave action.

Recreation On The Great Barrier Reef

Of course, we will mention the snorkeling and scuba diving first.

There are hundreds of scuba dive and snorkeling sites located in the Cairns area alone.

Liveaboards and the daily dive vessels have a full range of sites to select from for their offerings.

While the seaward side of the outer reefs are often for the advance scuba diver, snorkelers and divers of all skill levels have ample sites to explore and enjoy.

Tours to the reef generally offer snorkeling and most offer scuba diving as an option, some even have glass bottom boats to give you a better view and understanding of the reef.

The typical tour will have five to six hours on the reef.

Unlike most tours, getting to the outer reef area is a tour in itself. The scenery is breath taking.

The water is so clear in most places you can look over the side of the vessel and see the marine life.

Reef tours vary from large boats to small sail boat or power boats.

There are a few companies that maintain pontoons moored on one of the outer reefs.

These pontoons act as stations for enjoying the reefs for those who do not wish to be aboard a moving boat all day.

There is ample space for guest to relax with sun decks and shaded areas.

These trips include a buffet lunch at the site.

In addition to the scuba diving and snorkeling, many of these offers underwater observatories and semi-submersible rides.

A semi-submersible is a vessel whose can drop down a few meters submersing the hull but the top section remains above the water line.

The hull is mostly glass allowing the guest clear close up views of the reefs.

Guest are transported to these sites by high speed catamarans which remain to provide additional seating and air conditioned spaces.

Frankland, Fitzroy and Green Islands are popular island destinations with the Great Barrier Reef park near Cairns.

Frankland island is the Frankland Islands National Park which is really five islands none named Frankland.

The islands:High, Normanby, Mabel, Round and Russell, are continental islands and heavily forested.

The island group is located about 45 kilometres south of Cairns and about 10 kilometres offshore near the mouths of the Russell-Mulgrave  rivers.

While camping is allowed on two of the islands, there are no structures on any of them except for a lighthouse.

Green Island on the other hand has been lightly developed on 1/3 of the island the rest being a national park.

Green Island is a coral cay and is the only one of the 300 coral cays that has developed a rain forest. Boats from Cairns arrive at the dock of the resort.

Visitors can come spend the day on the beach or hike the nature trails around the island.

There is also an Interpretive Board walk that will point out items of interest along its route.

It connects to an Eco-trail that will take you the rest of the way around the island.

The coastline of green island is about a mile or 1.6 km. Visitors to the island can also snorkel or scuba dive off the beach or on a nearby reef.

Kayaking is available along with a guide tour.

The worlds fist underwater observatory and the first glass bottom boat tour occurred here on Green Island.

The Great Barrier Reef has been designated with different zones that allow different activities.

Some of the zones allow fishing.

Cairns is regarded as one of the top game fishing centres in the world and is considered the capital of Black Marlin fishing.

Using lighter tackle the sports fisherman and the fly fisherman also find the fishing some of the best in the world.

Fisherman will find a range of boats available to provide just the right experience they are looking for.

Jet skies and para-sailing are a stable now days in most resorts areas.

There are destinations in the world where you can look out to sea and count twenty or thirty para-sails and twice that many jet skies.

The use of these item on the Great Barrier reef is highly restricted.

They are, however, available in Cairns in the Trinity Inlet area of the port.

The Great Barrier Reef has so much to offer that you have to experience it, to fully understand what is possible.