When I first got to Australia all I knew is that I wanted to go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef; I didn't know how, when, or from where. As we know, the Great Barrier Reef is big. Like, huge, in fact. There are almost 3,000 different reefs along the coast, each one offering different experiences at different price ranges, depending on the boat you take.
The first thing to consider is how serious you are about diving. If you just want to go out and see some reef and some Nemo's, a one day trip will be fine.
If you want to get a bit more serious with your diving and see lots of marine life, deeper reef dives and even go on some night dives, consider spending a couple nights out on a boat. Because you've got more time, you'll go on a variety of dives on different reefs that are farther away from the coast. This is ideal.
The Coral Sea and Osprey Reef
If you want to get really serious, consider a trip to the Coral Sea and Osprey Reef. This is where you'll find the best diving in Australia (some would say the world). Unfortunately I never made it there but it was on my top list of things to do.
Many boats also do a shark feed where they dump loads of fish-heads in the water while you sit and watch the sharks ravenously demolish every last bit of seafood. Some of my friends have seen it and have said it's the best thing they've ever witnessed.
Wreck Dive on The S.S. Yongala
If you'd like to go on a wreck dive, the S.S. Yongala has been voted as the best in Australia as well as one of the top wreck dives in the world. To be honest, I can't say I enjoyed the dive that much. The visibility was low and the current was high. There wasn't a whole lot of marine life around and I really couldn't see much.
After comparing my review with others, though, I seem to be the only one who gave it a big negative. Everybody else seemed to love it. Maybe I caught it on a bad day. You'll need to be certified as an Advanced Diver (or Adventure Open Water) as the depths can reach up to 30 meters (100 feet).
You can make it to the wreck from either Townsville or Ayr, but don't plan on spending too much time in either of those towns. There's not much to do.
Scuba Dive for Free
If you're on a budget and would like a multi-day trip for free (no joke), get on board as a Hostie. You'll stay in the staff rooms and, for the small price of washing dishes and making beds all day, you get to dive for free.
It's tedious work but well worth it. As of now, the only company I know of that will allow this is Deep Sea Divers Den in Cairns. Here you can go on OceanQuest or Taka, each one taking you to some outer reefs and then some WAY outer reefs, respectively.
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