Bug EyedA mantis shrimp eyes the camera from its protective burrow in the reef. The creature is neither a shrimp nor a mantid, and is actually a marine crustacean. The mantis shrimp got its odd name because of their resemblance to both praying mantis and shrimp.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is filled with nonstop underwater action, making it a veritable playground for scuba divers of all levels. As the world's largest reef system, the GBR stretches 1429 miles along Australia's east coast and covers an area of more than 134,000 square miles. With such a massive natural habitat, the GBR is overflowing with all manner of marine life: The area's teeming ecosystem boasts approximately 380 species of coral, 2000 species of fish, 4000 species of mollusks, 500 species of seaweed and six out of seven of the world's sea turtles.
Best of all, because the GBR offers moderate depths and clear, calm waters, it's an excellent spot for both novice and advanced divers to explore. It has warm water year-round with average ocean temps in the mid-70s in winter and low 80s in summer. The waters surrounding the numerous reefs and islands that make up the GBR are also relatively shallow with maximum depths around 60 feet. However, the reefs of the Coral Sea in the northeast region of the GBR have deeper dive sites, with some walls dropping to a thrilling 300 feet and beyond. The average visibility at most dive locations runs between 80 and 150 feet, so you're sure to have a cystal-clear view of all the action.
If you're planning a dive trip to the GBR, here are seven dive sites that you should definitely check out:
Must-Dive Spots on the Great Barrier Reef
1. Challenger Bay, Ribbon Reefs
Plentiful trevally and surgeonfish and other schooling species congregate over these shallow, hard-coral gardens in the Ribbon Reefs, which also offer stellar night diving with plentiful noctural activity.
2. Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs
The friendly potato cod that gave this site its name are so fearless — and huge — that they make outstanding models for underwater photographers.
3. Around the Bend, Osprey Reef
Typically experienced as a drift dive, this one begins with a popular manta cleaning station before culminating over a coral grotto that’s flush with an overabudance of cool macro life.
4. Steve’s Bommie, Ribbon Reefs
Rising from the deep to very near the surface, this pinnacle offers abundant corals and marine life of myriad variety, including stonefish, frogfish and leaf scorpionfish.
5. Acropolis, Ribbon Reefs
This lush plateau is thick with healthy hard corals, from plate to antler, and many others, along with plentiful schools of colorful reef fish that live among them.
6. Lighthouse Bommie, Ribbon Reefs
During the summer months, this pinnacle is popular with migrating minke whales that stop to play from June to July, not to mention a collection secret macro finds.
7. Snake Pit, Ribbon Reefs
This isolated patch of reef is home to olive sea snakes — lots of them — plus interesting invertebrates such as giant clams, sea stars and a wide variety of wildly decorated nudibranchs.