There are many different ways to explore the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef. Boat rides, scenic flights, snorkelling and so on – the list is almost endless.
For people who really want to get up close to the Reef and truly immerse themselves in this marine world (and we mean that quite literally), a great option to discover the Reef is scuba diving.
Scuba diving allows you to spend long periods underwater, where you will be able to observe the incredibly diverse and majestic Reef. There is no other way to get quite as close to the marine wildlife, and if you’ve always wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef, it’s a pretty special way to do so.
Here at Fitzroy Island, we actually offer a number of different diving tours and programs for all sort sorts of experience levels. So, whether you’re an experienced diver or you’re thinking about trying it out for the first time, keep reading to learn more about diving, the Great Barrier Reef, and what you can do on Fitzroy Island.
Your scuba diving questions answered
If you’ve never dived before, or you’ve never been to the Great Barrier Reef before, chances are you have some questions. To help you get prepared, we’ve rounded up some of the most common questions people ask us about scuba diving and the Reef.
So, let’s dive into it!
1. What is scuba diving and how does it work?
Chances are you’ve seen scuba diving on tv shows or movies, but those who are not overly familiar with it and how it works, let us give a bit of an overview.
So, the word scuba actually stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, which basically means a device that allows you to break underwater.
The way it works is that you are aided by tanks that are filled with compressed air, a regulator (which helps to reduce the tank air pressure, making it breathable), and a hose that carriers the air to your mouth, you can spend extended periods of time swimming underwater without having to worry about bobbing up to the surface for air. In addition to this equipment, you usually need to wear a wetsuit, as well as a mask and weights or a buoyancy control device, as it can be difficult to reach depths as the human body does float quite well.
2. Is scuba diving hard to learn?
When it comes to learning how to scuba dive, we won’t lie, there is a lot to take in. You learn both the theoretical and practical side of it, including the effects of water pressure and safe practices. However, it is a common misconception that it is exceptionally difficult to learn, and that’s probably because from the outside, the equipment can look a little intimidating.
Scuba diving involves floating, kicking and breathing as the three main skills you’re using when you’re in the water. And while the idea of breathing underwater can take some getting used to, in your introductory diving lessons, you have the chance to practice this skill.
You don’t even need to be the strongest swimmer to scuba dive, but it is great if you’re comfortable in the water. If you’ve snorkelled before, you will be familiar with wearing a mask, fins and using a snorkel.
So, even if you’re a little bit scared or intimidated, don’t let that stop you – when you’re on Fitzroy Island, you get to dive with PADI certified divers who are there to ensure you’re safe.
3. Is there an age limit for scuba diving?
The age restrictions around diving will vary depending on where you are doing it, however here at Fitzroy Island, we have a minimum age of 12 years old for Introductory divers and dive courses, and a minimum age of 10 years for certified divers.
While there is no upper limit on who can scuba dive, people over the age of 45 doing a PADI dive course, or anyone over the age of 65 doing any dive will need to have medical clearance from a physician confirming that they are Fit To Dive.
For kids aged between 8-12, we offer a program called the Bubblemaker, which gives kids a chance to use diving equipment in the safety of our dive pool, as well as explore shallow waters with a PADI professional.
4. Do I need to get certified to go scuba diving?
No! You can dive without being certified. We’ve got diving programmes that are aimed at people who want to give diving a go, but don’t want to take the plunge into certification. Our program is called Discover Scuba Diving, and people over the age of 12 are able to participate in this one. We also offer this course in our dive pool or at the beach.
If you are a certified diver but haven’t had a dive in more than 6 months, you can take a refresher course with us to sharpen up your skills, so you’re ready for whatever the open waters throw at you.
5. How deep do you dive?
The depths with which you will dive will vary by destination, however, if you’re diving on the Great Barrier Reef, you’re unlikely to dive deeper than 25m. You’re more likely to spend your time in depths of 10-15m because the coral of the reefs need sunlight to grow and survive.
6. How big is the Great Barrier Reef?
Well, it isn’t called the Great Barrier Reef for no reason. Covering an area of more than 344,000 square kilometres, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world.
It is made up of around 300 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and around 150 mangrove islands. It is actually larger than the United Kingdom, Switzerland and the Netherlands all combined.
The Great Barrier Reef is also one of the natural wonders of the world and in 1981 it was World Heritage Listed because of its natural unique attributes and its environmental and scientific importance.
7. What can you see at the Reef?
So, of course you’re going to see the intricate mazes of coral gardens that make up the Reef system – and in addition to these colourful coral gardens and 600 different types of corals, you’re also going to see a whole lot of marine animals and plants that call the Reef home.
There are more than 1500 different kinds of fish that live in the Reef, as well as more than 100 different varieties of sharks and rays, over 30 different kinds of dolphins and whales, more then 3000 different mollusc varieties, over 100 species of jellyfish and you might even spot a sea turtle.
While it’s not guaranteed that you will see all of these marine animals, you’re bound to see some, and it’s incredible having the chance to observe them in their natural habitat.
8. When is the best time of year to dive at the Great Barrier Reef?
The Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s year round tropical weather means that any time of year is great for a visit. Each season offers different rewards.
Water temperatures rarely drop below 24 degrees Celsius in winter and can be as warm as 30 degrees Celsius in summer.
Between June and November you might get to witness Minke and Humpback whales migrating, and in November, this is when the Coral Mass Spawning event usually takes place, which can be a spectacular sight to see.
Even when it’s the wet season, which usually runs from around December to April and sees an increase in rainfall, scuba diving is still great. That’s because the rains usually occur in the afternoon or evening and the Reefs you dive in are usually unaffected by the rainfall.
Basically, any time of year you visit, you’re going to have an amazing experience.
9. Are there sharks?
Yes! There are many different species of sharks that live in the Great Barrier Reef region. The most common varieties are small species and are no threat to you when you’re diving. And it’s an amazing experience to see them in their natural environment.
If you’re worried about Australia’s most well known shark, the Great White, they tend to avoid the warm waters of tropical North Queensland, spending their time instead, in the colder waters of the Southern Ocean.
10. Are the Jellyfish dangerous?
When you’re diving, swimming or snorkelling, particularly during jellyfish season, which is from November to April, you should wear full body coverage, like lycra bodysuits.
While jellyfish are usually not too prevalent at Fitzroy Island or on the Reef, it is definitely better to play it safe.
Fitzroy Island Scuba Diving Tours and Options
So, if you’re ready to give scuba diving a go for the first time, or you’re a certified diver looking to discover the majesty of the Reef, let us tell you about some of the diving options you’ve got at Fitzroy Island.
· The Bubblemaker Program
This one is for kids between 8-12 to who want to learn about scuba diving. They get the chance to use real equipment in the safety of the dive pool at Fitzroy Island.
· Discover Scuba Diving
This is a great introduction into scuba diving for those over 12 who want to give it a try but aren’t or are not looking at getting certified.
· Refresher Course
This one can be done in either the dive pools or from the beach and is aimed at those who are certified divers but haven’t been out for at least 6 months. The aim is to refresh your diving skills.
· Certified Ocean Dives
If you’re certified, you can head on out on an ocean dive at one of the reef dive sites, like Sharkfin bay, Double J or 3 trees. You’ll be able to explore the depths of the Reef with a PADI certified guide.
· Learn to Dive Open Water Courses
This course is actually the first level of scuba certification and involves a highly trained PADI instructor teaching you how to scuba. It’s a great relaxed and supportive learning environment!
· Equipment Hire for Certified Divers
If you’re certified and ready to head out, you can hire equipment and access the waters of Fitzroy Island from the beach (soon there will be a dive boat option too). To hire equipment, you must have a current dive certificate and have dived recently and/or regularly.
Not only are there lots of diving options available on Fitzroy Island, but there are also a whole heap of other water sports you can give a go, as well as plenty of activities to keep you occupied on the island. And the huge range of accommodation options available on the island means that anyone and everyone can enjoy the beauty of Fitzroy Island and the Great Barrier Reef.