The Great Barrier Reef – 5 Unique and Amazing Places to Visit
Summer is here and the Greatest Barrier Reef in the world is right here in our backyard ready to dazzle and amaze with memories that twinkle as the highlights of your life. Torrens Luxury Collection takes a look at some of the best places to explore while visiting the reef.
Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot Island is a picture book coral cay that boasts impressive and vibrant outer reefs. If you like manta rays then this is the island for you as there is no better place on the planet to meet and swim with the gigantic rays. World renowned by PADI and other international organisations as one of the best dive sport on the planet for encounters with giant rays and sea turtles and when you get there you’ll see why.
Lady Elliot Island is has a shallow lagoon on the eastern side that is filled with a variety of colourful corals in close proximity to shore. Its calm and predictable waters makes for perfect snorkelling conditions at high tide for swimmers of all ages and abilities even families. In addition to the vibrant coral, starfish, clams and turtles are often spotted a short distance from shore. In addition to vibrant marine life and coral, the premium water clarity means you won’t have a hard time seeing this underwater mecca come to life.
On the other side of the island, the water drops to deeper depths, however at low tide it is a popular spot to see fish and manta rays as well as turtles and, if you’re lucky, dolphins or whales. Obviously snorkelling and diving is a popular activity off the island mainly due to its flourishing marine life, coral and water clarity. Dropping to depths up to 35 metres, these dives provide spectacular opportunities to spot the manta rays while they glide through the water feeding. Whatever you decide you’ll have a spectacular time on Lady Elliot Island!
Do you like privacy, seclusion snd luxury private beaches? if so then Torrens Luxury Colletion has found the Island for you! Lizard Island is a relatively rugged, rocky and hilly island with no day trippers so to speak of unless they own their own yacht.
The island is mostly non tropical grassland with much of the island being a protected National Park. Why is it called Lizard island?; just take a lazy walk through the grasslands and rocky outcrops and you’ll soon meet up with the locals laying in the sun like lizards do. It’s the beaches, however, that make Lizard Island a true gem. 24 wonderful and isolated stretches of sand can be found here, and the sparse number of fellow travellers at any one time means it’s entirely possible to have one of the world’s best beaches all to yourself.
The snorkelling here is absolutely gorgeous and available straight off the beach with a very large variety of fish species calling the island home. The fringing reef surrounding Lizard Island is typically healthy, vibrant and colourful, however some of it has been damaged by recent cyclones – a continuous factor that has effected the island’s wellbeing in recent years.
Snorkelling highlights include the extensive clam gardens off Watson’s Bay, with massive clams measuring up to 2 metres long able to be found nestled amongst the blend of hard and soft coral. Anchor Bay also offers a walk-in coral environment and beachfront snorkelling. In both locations you’ll seldom have to worry about stingers which are a perpetual concern in most other reef locations.
Another hidden gem that has restricted visitor numbers and so has remained close to pristine. As a listed low-density site the reef is only visited by smaller vessels and tour operators in very limited numbers meaning that if you have your awn yacht you can have unrestricted access and sometimes have it all to yourself!
The reef features a number of long, sloping walls festooned with soft and hard coral that attracts plenty of feeding fish, with large clams dotted periodically throughout, as well as a huge number of anemones that can be encountered – most housing their very own “Nemo” (clownfish), including the rarer pink variety.
Opal Reef also strikes a nice balance between the visibility and quality levels of the Outer Reef without being located as far out as some other popular reef locations with a 1.5 hour cruise as opposed to 2 hour journey each way from Cairns. This allows for more time spent exploring the reef itself.
This is definitely a good thing, as Opal Reef offers a number of quality sites conducive to both snorkelling and diving; on a tour here you’ll typically be taken by the operator to visit 3 different sites in a single day. These include the likes of the Sandbox (a great shallower section with a number of sandy patches leading up into the shallows that averages around 10 metres in depth), the Barracuda Pass (where several species of the long, angular fish can be found as well as several fish-rich bommies), and perhaps most notably of all, the SNO (South North Opal, one of the most vibrant displays of coral and fish life on the reef with excellent coral cover and beautiful gardens).
Have you ever dived a ship wreak? If you love the ocean it’s a must do on your bucket list as the history and danger of ocean travel is revealed. This wreak lies in the middle of a flat sandy channel around 29 metres down in very clear water. The wreak is home to an incredible quantity of marine life that would require multiple outer reef trips to encounter all wrapped up in a single dive.
The wreck itself has remained mostly untouched, a factor largely owed to its protected status; divers cannot enter the wreck for preservation reasons, however the impact of currents and time has left a number of angles exposed for a glimpse into the vessel’s interior; it can make for an eerie site seeing toilets, the dining room and other everyday features amongst the wreckage.
The Yongala is an advanced dive that requires an open water certification with a minimum of 6 dives and the requirement to be accompanied by an instructor to complete (those with 15 times or over are exempt from this requirement), a restriction put in place due to its occasional currents.
Tidal factors play an important role in the dive conditions because of its lack of protection from the Great Barrier Reef. Visibility is also not as great as the Outer Reef due to the sandy bottom, however as the focus is almost always directly in front of you, this is not as much of a factor while diving the Yongala.
As the wreck is the only structure in its underwater area, it’s a veritable magnet for marine life, and since its century-plus time at the bottom of the sea, significant marine growth has taken place on its structure; the combination of fish and coral is so dense at times it’s hard to recognise there’s actually a boat here!
Hastings Reef possesses an excellent mixture of wall dives and shallow corals for snorkellers, as the top of the reef varies in depth from 6 to 15 metres and offers plenty of marine scenery to pass over while snorkelling. Simply float on top and watch the parrotfish, trumpet fish go by below.
Divers, meanwhile can head down to depths of around 20 metres along the reef edge and down to the sand floors where white tip reef sharks and rays can be seen resting on the ocean floor.
This particular reef is brimming with anemones and staghorn coral, while giant clams can be spotted on the reef and its bommies and the likes of sweetlip, cod and trout and enormous Maori Wrasse can all be encountered here. Divers of all ability levels can find something appealing at Hastings Reef, with a number of outstanding swim-throughs and coral caves on offer.
Article created by Torrens Luxury Collection, Gold Coast Australia. For more Luxury Yachting articles and blogs just go to www.torrens.yachts/blog or contact us on 1300 148 648.
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