What is the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef to go scuba diving?
The Great Barrier Reef is what gave me the bug for scuba diving. It was where I did my very first dive. It’s spectacular! After all it’s one of the Seven Wonders Of The Natural World.
Whilst you can dive year-round on the Great Barrier Reef, the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is between June to October. In June the water temperature is 24°C (75°F) through to 30°C (86°F) in October. The best month for all round diving is October because it's warm, there's less chance for rain and the visibility is good. Plus it's not too busy with other tourists.
The waters are warmest in December, January, and February, and coldest June through August. The peak wet season is January through March, when it can get uncomfortably humid. If you want to see Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke Whales July and August would be your best bet. The best way to experience everything, including night diving, is on a liveaboard. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest of all marine parks to scuba dive. It's a great place for both experienced divers and beginner scuba divers to enjoy.
What is the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef
If you want to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef you can do this all year round. But of course there are best times to visit to get the most out of your scuba diving.
Between the months of June and September you have the opportunity to see Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke Whales on the Great Barrier Reef.
There's also plenty that goes on and different times of the year when you are more likely to see certain creatures and be witness to certain events.
If you would like to see breaching Humpback Whales, these can be seen on the Great Barrier Reef between June and September. But Humpbacks aren't the only whales to visit this region. In June through September you can see the Dwarf Minke Whales too.
The Great Barrier Reef is the only place where you get to snorkel with this not so dwarf creature standing in at over 8 metres (26+ feet) in length.
The Great Barrier reef is home to such a huge diversity of marine life. It's home to over 1,500 species of fish, over 400 types of coral. More than 180 shark and ray species together with a healthy population of sea turtles too.
Can you go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef?
Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef has got to be one of the best places in the World to dive. It's one of those bucket list places. It's on my 'return-to-list' place, as writing this article has made me realise how wonderful it is.
You get to see the biggest coral reef in the world and the abundance of sea life that lives there.
Probably one of the richest places on the planet for sea life. You see small fish through to larger fish like sharks and rays, including the infamous Manta Ray. But then there's also the chance to see the biggest fish of them all, the Whale Shark.
You don't have to scuba dive to enjoy this beautiful place, as you can also see it snorkeling too. Or why not do both. If you scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef from a liveaboard (To discover how to book a liveaboard trip to the Great Barrier Reef, click this link), you can snorkel in-between your dives.
You can dive from January through to December, but some months are better than others. The best months are from June to October as these are the months when there's less rainfall, it's less humid and the water is at its clearest.
However, be aware of the south trade winds in the months of July to September, as the waters become choppy in these months.
Here's a review of each month in the season to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef...
January: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
January is the wet season and very humid and there's a chance of cyclones, plus it's stinger (jellyfish) season. But very few jelly fish are seen out on the reefs where scuba diving and snorkelers go. The end of turtle nesting season, but the start of turtle hatching. Water visibility can be affected if there's bad run-off, but this mostly doesn't affect the outer reefs. Good time to see Manta Rays. Suggest you wear at least Lycra protection in case of jellyfish.
Water Temp: 29°C (84°F); Air Temp: 31°C (88°F); Exposure suit: Lycra; Weather: Hot, humid with rainfall (possible tropical cyclones); Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Mixed; Cyclone: Possible
February: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
A continuation of the wet season with very high and uncomfortable humidity. Still stinger season, so although jellyfish are rarely found on the reefs, a minimum of Lycra protection is recommended. Turtles are still hatching at this time, so you may be able to see the turtle hatchlings at some point on your trip. This is still cyclone season, but the seas are calm. Visibility can be affected by run-off, so a liveaboard dive trip may be the best option. Still a good time to see Manta Rays.
Water Temp: 28°C (82°F); Air Temp: 30°C (86°F); Exposure suit: Lycra; Weather: Hot, humid with high rainfall (possible tropical cyclones); Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Mixed; Cyclone: Possible
March: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
Last month of turtle hatching. Still the wet season and humidity is still high, with the risk of cyclones. However, the seas are calm and the waters are warm. The water temperature is still above 27°C (81°F), but as there are still jellyfish around a Lycra body suit is still the minimum body protection recommended. Still a good time to see Manta Rays at North Stradbroke Island where they congregate to mate. Black Tip Reef Sharks give birth in March and come closer to the shoreline.
Water Temp: 27°C (81°F); Air Temp: 29°C (84°F); Exposure suit: Thin westsuit; Weather: Hot, humid and still expect high rainfall; Sea State: Calm; Visibility: Mixed; Cyclone: Possible
April: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
Although April is still officially the wet season, the rainfall is lower. Still humid and a continuation of stinger season. Air temperature is still above 27C (81F). Sea state is calm, but there's still the chance of a cyclone in this month. You may consider switching to a thin wetsuit as the water temperature has dropped to 26C (79F). Some consider this one of the best months to go. A tip is to look out for nudibranchs, which are colourful creatures and great to see.
Water Temp: 26C (79F); Air Temp: 27C (81F); Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Hot, humid with minimal rainfall; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Mixed; Cyclone: Possible
May: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
The wet season has ended so there's very little rain in May. It's one of the cheapest times to fly to Australia too. There are still jelly fish around the coasts, but this is the last month of stinger season. The air and water temperature is roughly the same at around 26°C (79°F), so I recommend a thin wetsuit for body protection. May is the first possibility to see Humpback Whales, but some suggest you'll not see them until June. It's also a good time to see a proliferation of Manta Rays at Lady Elliott Island (Named home to the Manta Rays).
Water Temp: 26°C (79°F); Air Temp: 26°C (79°F); Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Warm, minimal rainfall; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Mixed; Cyclone: Possible
June: What to expect at the Great Barrier Reef
June is the beginning of the best water visibility on the Great Barrier Reef, but is also the time when the temperature has dropped too. I recommend a slightly thicker wetsuit to keep you warm in the 24°C (75°F) waters. June is the first month to see Dwarf Minke Whales (8 metres (26 feet) in length), although some say July is the first month. The Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where you can snorkel with these beautiful creatures. The Humpbacks are still around too - so a Whale double whammy!
Water Temp: 24°C (75°F); Air Temp: 24°C (75°F); Exposure suit: Wetsuit; Weather: Cooler, rainfall negligible; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: No
July: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef?
July is a good month for the magnificent Humpback Whales, and the Dwarf Minke Whales are still around too. Water visibility is good, but this month sees the start of the southerly trade winds. This can create choppier sea conditions and may require travel sickness medication, if you are susceptible to sea sickness. The water temperature has dropped to just 22°C (72°F), so a thicker wetsuit is required. This is especially true as the air temperature is not much better at this time of the year either.
Water Temp: 22°C (72°F); Air Temp: 23°C (73°F); Exposure suit: thicker wetsuit; Weather: Cooler, rainfall negligible; Sea state: Choppy; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: No
August: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef
Another great month for the Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke Whales. A month with good visibility, but also choppier seas as the south trade winds will still be blowing. The water is getting warmer, but is still only 25°C (77°F), so a wetsuit is required for exposure. August is another great month to see the Manta Rays at Lady Elliott Island.
Water Temp: 25°C (77°F); Air Temp: 22°C (72°F); Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Warm, rainfall negligible; Sea state: Choppy; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: No
September: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef
Time for great visibility, but the southerly trade winds are still likely to be around in September. The last chance of an opportunity to see Humpback Whales and Dwarf Minke Whales. The Humpbacks have had their calves in the warmer waters off from Cairns. In late September they begin their long migration back down south to the rich Southern Ocean to feed through the winter. You may be lucky to see Migaloo the white Humpback and possibly Migaloo Junior.
Water Temp: 27°C (81°F); Air Temp: 23°C (73°F); Exposure suit: Thicker wetsuit; Weather: Warm, rainfall negligible; Sea state: Choppy; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: No
October: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef
October seems to be voted the best month to go to the Great Barrier Reef by most. There are no stingers (jellyfish), it's warm being around 26°C (79°F) with the water temperature at around 30°C (86°F). There are not too many visitors in this month either and the south trade winds have stopped. The sea state is calm with great visibility. The Manta Rays at North Stradbroke Island start to congregate to mate in October. Turtles begin to mate close to the islands, before the females return to the place they were borne to lay their eggs, which starts in November.
Water Temp: 30°C (86°F); Air Temp: 26°C (79°F); Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Warm rainfall negligible; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: No
November: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef
The stingers are back and the weather is hotting up. This is the start of turtle laying season when they climb out of the water onto the many islands around the Great Barrier Reef. November is the start of the cyclone season, but the sea state is mostly calm and there is good visibility. November is also regarded as one of the better times to go before the start of the wet season. The outer reef coral spawning can occur in November or December, a once a year occurrence so you'll be very lucky to see this phenomenon. To see the coral spawning will involve a night dive. The only way to night dive the Great Barrier Reef is to dive from a liveaboard boat (Click this link to discover how to book a livaboard, to dive the Great Barrier Reef).
Water Temp: 31°C (88°F); Air Temp: 26°C (79°F) Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Warm, minimal rainfall; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: Possible
December: What to expect on the Great Barrier Reef
December is the hottest month and the start of the wet season on the Great Barrier Reef. It's also the second chance to see the coral spawning if you are extremely lucky. As already explained this phenomenon happens at night, so a night dive would be the time to see it. To have an opportunity to see it you need to dive from a liveaboard dive boat (Click this link to find out more and book a trip of a lifetime). The Titan Triggerfish are also breeding and can get quite aggressive at this time, with a nasty bite so be careful.
Water Temp: 32°C (90°F); Air Temp: 27°C (81°F) Exposure suit: Thin wetsuit; Weather: Warm and more humid, increased rainfall; Sea state: Calm; Visibility: Good; Cyclone: Possible
Why is the Great Barrier Reef so special?
The Great Barrier Reef is so special because of its size, it covers an area the size of Germany. But not only that, it's the shear number of corals, fish and other underwater species that congregate there too.
However, the reef is not made up of one continuous reef, but is instead made up of over 2900 reefs and 900 islands.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef structure and marine park in the world. It's so large that it is visible from space (As per the the image).
Australia are very lucky to have this fabulous scuba diver's paradise on their doorstep. But does the Australian Government view it this way?
The Australian Government don't seem to view it as 'so-special'
It would appear that the Aussies are not looking after the Great Barrier Reef as well as they should. There have been arguments raging over the controversial Adani's coal mine in Queensland.
The potential affect on the corals are many-fold from this coal mine in Queensland. The first is from the increased affects of global warming.
The Great Barrier Reef has already been badly affected by this so far, with much of the reef already badly bleached.
The coal is to be shipped to India and used to generate electricity. It's well known that coal is one of the worst culprits for CO2 emissions. Therefore having an impact on Global Warming. The contributing global warming affect will impact the whole world, not just the Great Barrier Reef.
However, there's a more immediately impact on the coral reef itself.
The direct impact to the corals comes from increased shipping activity in the region, dredging of the channels for the ships to pass through, which causes silt, and there's dust pollution that could also affect the clear waters that coral reefs need to live.
Governments around the world never cease to amaze me with the decisions they make. It looks like the Australian Government is no different to the rest.
Perhaps it would be a good decision for you to go sooner rather than later, as it maybe that in a few years to come this amazing abundance of life may not be around to see. That thought makes me sad.
Where do you fly into to go to the Great Barrier Reef?
The best place to access the Great Barrier Reef is from Cairns. Cairns and its airport is in the territory of Queensland, which is a three hour flight north of Sydney (2,465 kilometres or 1,532 miles).
It's possible to fly to Sydney or any other major city first and then catch an internal flight on either Virgin Blue or Jetstar to Cairns.
Are there any sharks in the Great Barrier Reef?
People often ask if the are any sharks on the Great Barrier Reef. The answer to this question is yes and in abundance too. In fact you can see over half of all the known shark species on this huge reef complex, which in total is around 370 species in the world.
The sharks you may see include the large Tiger Shark, which feed on the plentiful sea Turtles in the region. You may also be lucky to see hammerhead sharks.
However there's more chance to see the various forms of reef shark. Reef sharks are the most commonly seen shark in the region and include the White-Tip Reef shark, the Black-Tip Reef shark and the Grey Reef sharks.
Other sharks include the unusual bottom dwelling Wobbegongs, as pictured above. Plus you may be lucky to see the largest of them all, the Whale Shark. There are also Manta Rays to be seen, which belong to the shark family of cartilaginous fish.
In addition to the Mantas you can see the beautiful Eagle Rays, with their trademark long tail and eagle-like head and spotted backs. Plus another spotted shark species, the Leopard Shark.
In fact The Great Barrier Reef is a scuba diver's shark dream, as although there are never any guarantees of what sharks you may see, or if you'll see any sharks at all, you have one of the best opportunities to see such a wide variety in one place.
This really friendly baby whale shark takes an interest in scuba divers in this amazing footage.
Do crocodiles live in the Great Barrier Reef?
It's unlikely you'd ever see a Saltwater Crocodile on the Great Barrier Reef. However, Saltwater Crocodiles (Salties) live in the waters and along the coastline of Queensland, in the Mangrove and salt marshes.
For example, in this article in Australian's Courier Mail: "The 24-year-old crayfish diver on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has captured hours of extraordinary footage of himself swimming up close with deadly saltwater crocodiles, sharks, and snakes." However, he spends his time in the far north in Cape York.
Australia dive liveaboards the best way to experience the Great Barrier reef
Probably the best way to experience the Great Barrier reef is by liveaboard. You'll have more opportunity to scuba dive and you'll get to dive sites that are out of reach of the day boats. Experience the outer Great Barrier Reef and enjoy the magic of the life and wonders you'll discover.
To find out more about Australia liveaboards on the Great Barrier Reef, please follow either of the following links:
I hope you enjoyed this article about what is the best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef…
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Have fun and be safe!