The reef is the breeding ground for a large number of the fish in the Pacific Ocean. It has coral of all types and the fish population changes depending on the season. Just after the breeding season you will find millions of tiny fish all huddled around the coral. If you look around, you will see things you've never seen before. One one dive I was watching a few newly hatched fish next to a nest of other fish eggs.
The diving on the GBR is quite shallow in general. While it seems that every dive operator seems to be doing deeper and deeper divers, its nice to know that here they have a hard time finding any place under 20 meters.
If your flight arrives late in the afternoon, go to Paddy's Reef Teach at 6:15 pm and then head north in a rental car. On a backpacker budget you can get a tour bus round trip for about $90.
Most dive operations are out of Cairns which has an international airport. I consider Cairns to be the worst beach town in the world since it has no beach :-) They now have is a fake beach they call a lagoon. Its a typical quiet resort that grew too big too fast and is now too trendy. Its a good place to catch a boat out of there or even as a base for day boats. The boats tend to do day dives and there are many of students. The trip from Cairns to the reef is from 1/2 hr to several hours depending on the speed of the boat and the destination. In choppy seas the trip can be quite long. There are some boats that do three day or longer trips and there are some boats that stay out for months at a time but ferry passengers using the day boats.
The dive masters you find on the student boats will all be freshly certified and if you're an experienced diver you may find it quite annoying.
On one trip, our first dive was in water that was no more than 5 meters deep. It makes it hard to do the "deepest dive first". The dive master knew the rules but just picked the spots in the wrong order. The second dive spot didn't have much above 5 meters.
Before you dive out of Cairns Australia, you should go see Paddy Colwll's presentation Reef Teach and you will get more out of your dives.
There are two dive operations out of Cape Trib. One is Rum Runner and they have a nice boat and a good crew. They are much more more mature than the crews out of Cairns and have been there for years.
You will also need to visit Jungle Surfing which is the best way to see the tops of the rain forest. You can find out more at the chemist.
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