Great Barrier Reef | Australia :: Diving the GBR

Arial View of The Great Barrier Reef

Larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing visible from outer space, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is one of the seven wonders of the natural world.

Manali and Terry Holding Hands - Great Barrier Reef

Over 2900 reefs form an outer ribbon parallel to Australia’s north eastern coast, spanning 2300km in length and 80km at its broadest. The reef is estimated to be 18 million years old!

Terry Swimming Through Coral Hole - Great Barrier Reef

Diving here was definitely one of our most anticipated and top things to do from the planning stages of our trip and we were eager to sign up for a three day live-aboard, diving eleven times in this short span.

Terry Posing Without A Mask - Great Barrier Reef

With over 1500 species of fish, 400 types of coral, 500 varieties of seaweed, 4000 breeds of clams, 10 types of sharks and 6 breeds of turtles, we had plenty to see!

Terry On Surface - Great Barrier Reef
When you learn new tricks, it’s hard not to give them a try. Here’s something Terry picked up in Thailand.

Terry Blowing Air Rings - Great Barrier Reef

The last time we had clam chowder, I noticed the restaurant was a little stingy on the clam, so when this big fella was spotted, a couple of thoughts crossed the mind.

Terry and Giant Clam - Great Barrier Reef

Eleven dives didn’t seem enough! Our day would start bright and early (6am) with the cries from the skipper “Dive time guys! The pool is open!” have enough time to barely brush our teeth, get our gear on and jump right on in to wake up! Once we had explored for about 60 minutes underwater unguided, we would come back on board for some hearty breakfast, be briefed again for the second dive and back in the water mid morning. After lunch, we would take a brief nap, dive in the afternoon, come back on board for some cake (yum!), hang out with our fellow divers, eat some dinner and gear up for the night dive! This wonderful diving, sleeping and eating routine didn’t take much getting used to! We enjoyed every minute with the crew and new diving buddies and cherished every moment underwater.

Manali Looking At Coral - Great Barrier Reef

On the reef itself we saw all that we were hoping for including giant sea turtles, many white tipped reef sharks, clownfish (Nemo), blue spotted sting rays, batfish, banner fish, angel fish, lobsters, shrimps, eels, barracudas, sea cucumbers, giant clams, box fish, schools of bump headed parrotfish, maori wrasse, gorgeous corals and so many more! Although we had seen similar species in Thailand, the shear vastness of the reefs made the diving incredible! We would definitely love to dive here some more!

Manali Looking At Coral - Great Barrier Reef

We met some interesting and friendly fellow divers onboard. Lee, from Malaysia was a veteran diver, and hailed from Borneo, home to amazing diving. She was generous about lending out her underwater camera, and had us on the edge of our seats describing the diving in and around Semporna and Sipadan.

Here is Lee up on the surface following a dive.

Lee On Surface - Great Barrier Reef

We also became good friends with two New Yorkers, Stan and Barak, NYC firefighters. Barak works part time as a flight attendant, and Stan seems to make a convincing “partner”, yielding many opportunities for cheap international travel. Stan was also one of the funniest people we have met in a long time, and it was great hang with some countrymen. When you are on vacation, you want nothing to do with things that resemble your life back home, but when you are gone as long as we have been, you relish such opportunities.

Here’s Stan enjoying his dive.

Stan - Great Barrier Reef

Barak taking in the sun beneath the waves.

Barak Taking In The Sun Underwater - Great Barrier Reef

A group shot of Stan, Barak, Manali and Terry.

Manali, Terry, Stan and Barak - Great Barrier Reef

Although not nearly as intimidating as the 2 meter bullsharks we observed in Thailand, frequent visits by White Tip Reef Sharks, always brought us to attention. Watching the way a shark moves in the water, and in the wild particularly is an amazing experience. One of the divemasters would take down a plastic bottle, and roll it between his hands, creating a crackling sound that he swore attracted the sharks. He warned us, “Just don’t do it too much.”

White Tip Reef Shark - Great Barrier Reef

White Tip Reef Shark - Great Barrier Reef

White Tip Reef Shark - Great Barrier Reef

White Tip Reef Shark - Great Barrier Reef

White Tip Reef Shark - Great Barrier Reef

On the second day, as we were moving to our afternoon dive location, the skipper called out that we had company. We were delighted to find a large school of Dolphin escorts leading the way, and doing so in a very theatrical way. They appear so friendly, you have a compelling urge to jump into the water and give them bear hugs. Maybe next time.

Dolphins Swimming Along Boat - Great Barrier Reef

Dolphins Swimming Along Boat - Great Barrier Reef

Dolphins Swimming Along Boat - Great Barrier Reef

Dolphins Swimming Along Boat - Great Barrier Reef

We didn’t quite appreciate Clownfish in Thailand, most likely because there were so many of them to be found. At the Great Barrier Reef however, they seem to be more of a rarity, and a gem to behold. They are such cute looking fish, and “Finding Nemo”, really does justice to personify that characteristic. Their relationship with the anemone is also fascinating, threatening to sting potential predators, but somehow identifying their valiant protector and resident Clownfish. Amazing!

True Clown Fish (Nemo) - Great Barrier Reef

True Clown Fish (Nemo) - Great Barrier Reef

True Clown Fish (Nemo) - Great Barrier Reef

Clown Fish - Great Barrier Reef

Sea turtles were often out and about, and this is the first time were able to observe them feeding!

Sea Turtle - Great Barrier Reef

A myriad of other life exists on the GBR, as you can see for yourself below.

Parrot Fish - Great Barrier Reef

Maori Wrasse - Great Barrier Reef

Little Blue Fish - Great Barrier Reef

Fish In Coral - Great Barrier Reef

Coral Plume - Great Barrier Reef

Coral Macro - Great Barrier Reef

Blue and Orange Piper Fish - Great Barrier Reef

Bat Fish - Great Barrier Reef

Manali Patel Bettendorf
Manali Patel Bettendorf
Manali+Terry are world travelers with a passion for exploration, learning new things and connecting with people of different cultures.


  1. awesome guys! hope you are enjoying NZ too! if you get a chance you should dive there too…i didn't have the time but i heard it was amazing 🙂


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