Whitsunday Islands, Queensland
Type of dive: Reef
Access: Boat only (Live aboard)
Minimum qualification: Open Water
Depth: 6-40 metres (20-130’)
Visibility: 15-40 metres (50-130’)
Water temperature: 24°C (76°F) – 29°C (84°F)
Best time to visit: All year (Can be windy February/March)
Snorkelling: Yes, beautiful coral gardens!
Airlie Beach, a quaint tourist town half way between Brisbane and Cairns in far north Queensland, is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and some great diving.
The picturesque archipelago consists of 74 continental islands, undersea mountain tops, most of which are uninhabited. Some of the uninhabited islands are accessible and are great bush walking destinations.
The island group got its name from the Whitsunday’s Passage named by Captain Cook on his 1770 discovery voyage of Australia. He thought it was the day of the Whitsun or Pentecost feast but it was actually simply Monday being prior to the establishment of the International Date Line!
The Whitsunday Islands is Australia’s most popular sailing holiday destination. Famous for Whitehaven Beach and its resorts on Hamilton Island, Hayman Island and many others.
Bait Reef is located on the edge of the Coral Sea, 65 kilometres (40 miles) from Airlie Beach in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It’s a great example of the breathtaking diversity of the reef’s marine life.
There are 600 types of soft and hard corals, more than 100 species of jellyfish, 3000 varieties of molluscs, 500 species of worms, 1625 types of fish, 133 varieties of sharks and rays, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins living in and around the Great Barrier Reef. What a list!
The trip out to Bait Reef through the islands is absolutely spectacular. Some of the dive charter vessels are motor-yachts thereby combining diving with a fantastic sailing experience.
South East Bait Reef is best as it is protected from the seasonal cyclones, which come in from the north. Divers can experience spectacular coral-encrusted walls and shallow, untouched coral gardens in pristine condition due to the isolated location.
Aside from the spectacular wall reaching the sand at around 40 metres (130’), there are underwater caves, canyons and swim throughs.
The fish life is plentiful, large schools of bait fish attract pelagic fish such as giant trevally, weighing up to 20 kilograms (40lb), in schools of 50+ fish.
There is nothing more exhilarating than to be inside a huge silver fish spiral!
Resident reef sharks, coral trout, huge schools of sweetlips and fusiliers, plus beautiful clown fish are all abundant at Bait Reef.
Invertebrate life includes spectacular nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, sea stars, giant clams and colourful Christmas tree worms.
Many species of turtle can be encountered, along with manta rays and humpback whales on their regular seasonal visitors.
Night diving on Bait Reef amongst the giant trevally is absolutely mind blowing. These awesome fish literally hunt small fish lit up by underwater torches, right over the diver’s shoulder.
Bait Reef is truly one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most under-rated dive locations.
Copyright C 2015 Steve Sinclair
Other great dives to do while you are there:
Manta Ray Drop Off, Stepping Stones, Drop Zone, Seaflight Bommie and Wally’s Wall.
Phone: (+61) 427 123 773