Hardy Reef Great Barrier ReefOne of the most often asked questions we receive is “Where are the best spots on the Great Barrier Reef for scuba diving and/or snorkelling?” Given the huge number of potential destinations in the reef – many nestled among the dozens of islands and off-shore locations that can be found throughout the Reef’s roughly 2600km length – it can often be difficult when planning a holiday or dive trip to narrow it down. We’ve consulted with multiple experts who have been diving all of the Great Barrier Reef’s hot spots for decades and gotten their opinions and advice to hopefully help make your decision that much easier. Q: Where, in your opinion, are the best diving or snorkelling sites in the Great Barrier Reef?  A: “We utilise Sand Cays located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine park for snorkelling as we have found that they are not visited by many large boats or loads of tourists. Because of this they are kept quite pristine.” – Za Harricharan, SkySafari Australia  A: “Hardy Lagoon, inside Hardy Reef, which is best at allow tide. It’s situated 35 Nautical Miles offshore from Airlie Beach.” – Lauren Ward, Air Whitsunday  A: “Knuckle Reef and Hardy Reef are both excellent sites for snorkelling and diving. Hundreds of different types of fish as well as hard and soft coral thrive at these outer reef sites, making them great for marine life viewing. It is common to see tusk fish, cuttlefish, moray eels, barracudas, unicorn fish, surgeonfish, angelfish, gropers, Maori Wrasse, feather stars and much more! Bright coloured anemone, parrotfish turtles and reef sharks also make up the range of species seen at the Hardy and Knuckle Reef sites.” – Amanda Pelham, Marine Tourism Management So what else makes Hardy Reef in particular so popular for diving?

Hardy Reef

A suspended oceanic lagoon, Hardy Reef is a section of the Great Barrier Reef that sits around 60km from Airlie Beach’s Shute Harbour that’s perhaps most famous for its iconic “Heart Reef” – a heart-shaped area of coral that has become something of a symbol of the area at large; however unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the long term) it’s a protected area that is off-limits to divers. That’s not to say it’s the only highlight of Hardy Reef, however; far from it, as the ecosystem of this area is teeming with life, with shallow waters that are ideally protected from any harsh ocean conditions. Hardy Reef is also the ideal place in the Great Barrier Reef for first-time divers as the protected conditions make for calm waters, while the relatively shallow depth required – the majority of marine life can be seen anywhere between 1 to 12 metres below the surface – means that those first-timers who may be battling nerves will also likely have an easier time here. It’s also even shallow enough to stand with the water only at waist-level, making it a great destination to practice breathing techniques before taking the plunge. Numerous tours and scenic flights run regularly from Port Douglas and Airlie Beach to Hardy Reef throughout the year, with prices and durations all over the spectrum depending on how much you’re looking to spend. Many also offer packages during the off-peak seasons that can drop the prices substantially.