Dive the Ribbon Reefs.


Ribbon reef - a long, narrow, possibly winding reef, usually associated with an atoll lagoon

Ribbon Reefs form along the edge of the continental shelf in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef extending from Cooktown to eastern Torres Strait, a distance of 670 kilometres. In some places, the outer edge is so suitable for coral growth that the reefs grow high and form narrow walls.

This string of long narrow reefs, also known as the Northern Reefs, lies about 60 miles north of Cairns. The almost unbroken barrier formed by the Ribbon Reefs is made up of ten distinct reefs, with passages between them. Some of these channels are deep enough for ships to pass though, and the individual reefs have been identified simply as Ribbon Reef #1 through to Ribbon Reef #10, from south to north.

The Ribbon Reefs run parallel to the Queensland coastline and offer a huge range of stunning dive sites. These reefs are visited by fewer operators than locations on the Outer Barrier Reef closer to Cairns and POrt Douglas, and as such are in pristine condition. Due to open-water conditions, the outside of these reefs are rarely dived, most charter boats travel up the sheltered inner side of the reef; however, some spectacular wall dives are possible along the outer edges. The inner side of the Ribbon Reefs have lush coral gardens and many spectacular pinnacles swarming with fish.

Four day liveaboard dive trips to the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole start at just $990 plus reef taxes, and depart from Cairns several times a week.

Dive the Ribbon Reefs.Cod Hole, named after the groups of huge - but friendly - potato cod that live there, is one of the best known dive sites in the Ribbon Reefs. But other significant sites include: Pixie Pinnacle, The Temple of Doom, Challenmger Bay, Dynamite Pass and North Horne at Osprey Reef, each with their own exceptional array of marine flora and fauna.

Click to open an interactive map of the Great Barrier Reef, showing the location of Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs. NOTE: WHEN THE MAP OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW, YOU WILL NEED TO CLICK ON THE MAP AND DRAG DOWN TO FIND COD HOLE AND THE RIBBON REEFS AT THE FAR NORTH OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF.

This string of pristine Ribbon Reef offers a variety of excellent dive opportunities. Coral pinnacles and dropoffs attract large pelagic fish and a wide variety of marine life, and visitors to this unique region will find superb scuba diving at Cod Hole all year round. Liveaboard dive trips depart to the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole from Cairns several times a week.

Due to the distance from the popular embarkation points of Cairns and Port Douglas, liveaboard dive trips to Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs are usually four or five days, and offer anywhere from 10 to 14 dives. Getting to Cod Hole from Cairns usually involves an overnight boat trip, but it is possible to fly one way or the other, transferring at either Cooktown or Lizard Island. Some companies offer a low level scenic flight at either the begining or end of your Cod Hole liveaboard as a standard inclusion.

Besides the potato cod that gave the famous Cod Hole its name, divers will likely see Maori wrasse, red bass, emperor and a plethora of other marine life including anemones, whitetip reef sharks, giant clams and feather stars.

Its remote location makes for excellent dive conditions, since the area around the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole is out of the reach of the many day boats that leave from Cairns and Port Douglas, and is therefore much less heavily visited. The reefs are not disturbed by human presence, and also visibility is said to be consistently better than areas of the Great Barrier Reef that are closer to cities and farmlands.


During the winter months (particularly June and July) dozens of Dwarf Minke Whales migrate to the area of the Great Barrier Reef around Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs. Cairns diveboat operators offer dedicated Minke Whale trips between May and July.

Only recognized as a unique species of whale as recently as the 1980's, these cousins of the minke whales have a distinct color pattern, and reside exclusivley in Southern oceans.

Dive the Ribbon Reefs.Snorkellers who are approached by these curious and friendly creatures may find the tag 'dwarf' to be a misnomer, as these giant mammals can still weigh up to five tonnes and reach nearly eight metres in length. It may be reassuring to keep in mind that Dwarf Minke Whales are toothless and feed on krill, and small fish and crustaceans.

The Australian Government has in place a strict set of guidelines, within which all whale watching operators must conduct their activities. For more information about government regulations concerning whale watching, please click here.


Cairns underwater camera rental.Unless you have your own dive camera, you will need to rent a digital underwater camera from Cairns to capture your once in a lifetime experience of scuba diving the Ribbon Reefs or swimming and snorkelling with Dwarf Minke Whales.

Disposable underwater cameras offer poor results, and once the high cost of processing is included, are far more expensive per photograph than renting a top quality digital underwater camera. It is usually possible to rent a digital underwater camera on board the dive boat, but they can be expensive and are not always good quality.*see comparison below

The most economical option is to have your digital underwater camera delivered to you before your departure.

'Cairns Unlimited' digital underwater camera hire have been renting digital underwater cameras in Cairns since 2007. Prices - including delivery and a free DVD - start at under $29 per day on a four day trip (much less than you would pay on board!) and drop to just $25 per day on a seven day trip. That is for a top-of-the-range 14.7 Megapixel Canon Powershot G10, with dedicated underwater mode, Canon's patented 'Image Stabilization', Macro mode for sharp closeups... and enough memory to take over 1000 high resolution photos, not to mention high quality video with sound!
One of the leading operators of Cairns liveaboard dive trips to the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole offers underwater cameras for hire through a third party company for $150. The camera is a 10 Megapixel Canon Powershot A1000, a budget priced 'entry level' camera which retailed new at just $199, and - according to Canon's own website - does not feature a dedicated underwater mode. For just $124 for the same period, you could have a powerful 14.7 Megapixel Canon Powershot G10 or the latest realease Canon Powershot SX280HS with full HD video and 20x optical zoom... or the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition with a selection of mounts. Or for just $20 more, you could rent the top of the range Canon Powershot G15.
FEATURE 'rent on board' Shop in town CAIRNS UNLIMITED
Underwater mode No Yes YES (OF COURSE!)
Full manual option No No YES, MOST MODELS
RAW mode option No No YES, MOST MODELS
Zoom 4.0 x optical 3.8 x optical 5X TO 20X OPTICAL
Batteries AA Low capacity lithium HIGH CAPACITY LITHIUM (plus emergency spare)
LCD screen 2.5" 2.7" 3.0"
Retail price when new $199 $199 $599
Price for five days hire $150 $165 $124 (MOST MODELS) TO $144 (ADVANCED)
Avoid disappointment... book your DIGITAL UNDERWATER CAMERA RENTAL now!