Australia's Most Pristine Dive Sites: The Ribbon Reefs and the Coral Sea

Overall Rating


Marine Life
Jerome C verified review
Advanced Open Water Diver
50+ dives
3 months ago

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Week on the Spirit of Freedom very nice. Organization at the top Very comfortable boat Excellent cuisine Various dive sites I recommend without any restrictions

Why we love it

Discover Australia's most preserved sites with the Ribbon Reefs and the Coral Sea in this trip starting off Cairns. We love the flexible itinerary of 3, 4 or 7 days and the super friendly liveaboard team. The Ribbon Reefs have an abundance of healthy corals and marine life: colorful tropical fish and giant potato cod while the Coral Sea brings huge schools of pelagic fish and sharks. You'll get to see Lizard Island beautiful Watson's Bay, and maybe even fly over the great barrier reef - what a view!


The dive operator is accredited as an Advanced Ecotourism Operator – the highest eco certification attainable in Australia, and awarded with Climate Action Business, a proof of its on-going commitment to reduce its carbon footprint. It is also involved in monitoring programs such as Reef Health Impact Surveys and it supports Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Who is it for?

For first level divers (for the 3 day trip) to experienced divers (4 day and 7 day trips) who want to see Australia's richest marine life. Non-divers can join and snorkel over the Ribbons Reefs and some of the Coral Sea dive sites.

Prices and Dates
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3-Day Trip: Cod Hole & Ribbon Reefs

MONDAY: first dives on the Great Barrier Reef

  • Pick up from your Cairns hotel at 11am, for a departure of the liveaboard at noon
  • Afternoon Check-out dive and night dive on the great barrier reef
  • Cruising to the Ribbons Reefs

TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY: dive on the Ribbon Reefs

  • Cod Hole dive site
  • Some of the sites may be: Steve’s Bommie, Wonder-wall, Pixie Pinnacle, Two Towers, Lighthouse Bommie, and the Snake Pit
  • Overnight at Watson's Bay: Wednesday night, enjoy a sunset barbecue dinner on the boat deck overlooking Lizard Island

THURSDAY: explore Lizard Island and fly back to Cairns

  • After breakfast, disembark and take the guided walk from Watson’s Beach to Mary Watson’s cottage over Chinaman’s Ridge and back to the air-strip

  • Scenic low altitude flight with a twin-engine light aircraft back to Cairns (60 min flight)

  • Transfer back to your Cairns city hotel

4-Day Trip: Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs & Coral Sea

THURSDAY: fly to Lizard Island and dive the Ribbon Reefs

  • Pick up from your Cairns hotel at around 07:30am
  • Scenic flight up the coast to Lizard Island and embark the liveaboard
  • Departure for Ribbon Reef Number 10, a huge reef with an abundance of spectacular dive sites including Cod Hole
  • Night crossing to the Coral Sea

FRIDAY & SATURDAY: dive on Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea

  • Four to five dives each day with an amazing visibility and fantastic walls
  • Experience one of the worlds most amazing shark dives at North Horn site
  • Overnight travel to the Great Barrier Reef

SUNDAY: more dives on the Ribbon Reefs:

  • Dive at Ribbon Reef Number 3
  • Overnight cruise back to Cairns

MONDAY: breakfast and transfer back to your hotel

7-Day Trip: Cod Hole, Ribbon Reefs & Coral Sea

MONDAY TO MONDAY: 3-Day Trip combined with the 4-Day Trip

  • The 7 day trip is a combination of both trips, offering the opportunity to do up to 26 dives in the best sites of both trips
  • You will start by diving the Ribbon Reefs
  • On Thursday, you will stay in the liveaboard while some other divers may disembark or embark at Lizard Island
  • From Thursday onward you will dive on Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea

  • Transfers to/ from your Cairns city hotel
  • En-suite cabin on a shared basis with daily service
  • Chef prepared gourmet meals – Australian style
  • Australian wine, beer and soft drink with the evening meal
  • 3-Day trip: up to 11 dives and a low level scenic flight – Lizard Island to Cairns
  • 4-Day trip: up to 15 dives and a one way flight – Cairns to Lizard Island
  • 7-Day trip: up to 26 dives

  • The Marine Park Levy: A$25 (about ... EUR) to A$50 (about ... EUR) per person
  • Equipment rental
  • Nitrox Fills
  • Any courses taken on board
  • Tips for the crew
  • drinks outside of the evening meal time
  • Seasickness tablets
  • Any souvenirs purchased
  • International flights and accommodation before or after your trip

Dive briefing!

Marine Life

Recognized since 1981 as a UNESCO World Heritage Area, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 1,500 species of fish, 360 species of hard corals and one third of the world’s soft corals.

North of Cairns and only accessible by liveaboard, the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole hosts big groups of tropical fish, some giant clams, some leafy scorpion fish, some resident Potato Cod, and some pelagic fish.

The Coral Sea and Osprey Reef will take you to dive sites even less explored, where ancient volcanic atolls plummet to thousands of metres below. Expect to see schools of pelagic fish, some reef-sharks, manta rays (from January to October), and colorful soft corals.

Dive Conditions

  • Season: all year round
  • Currents: little currents at the Ribbon Reefs, stronger ones in the Coral Sea
  • Visibility: up to 100 meters (328 ft) in the Coral Sea. May Though August offers the best visibility
  • Water Temperature: January through April: 29° (84°F) , May through August: 24° (75°F) , September through December: 27° (81°F)
  • Depth: shallow dives at Ribbon Reefs and deeper ones in the Coral Sea

Dive Sites

  • The Ribbon Reefs are made of 10 individual reefs, stretching over 200 km. They present a spectacular topography with huge plate corals, pinnacles, channels, caves and canyons, and of course, beautiful coral gardens. You'll get to see some resident Potato Cod at Cod Hole dive site.

  • Further out is the Coral Sea, home to Osprey Reef, a submerged atoll measuring 25 by 12 kilometers (15 by 7 miles). There you will dive on some spectacular walls that go down to a 1000 metres depth (0.6 miles). Expect to have clear visibility, lots of sharks and fish action.

The Team

  • Operation started in 2002
  • 37 meters comfortable boat with 11 cabins
  • 10 staff members of which 5 are dive instructors
  • Dive Courses available on board: Nitrox and PADI Advanced Open Water
  • English-speaking crew, Japanese guide on request

Safety Information

  • Equipment Recommended: 3 to 5 mm wetsuit depending on the season, dive computer, surface marker buoy, and a whistle
  • Insurance: Both dive insurance and travel insurance are mandatory. We recommend DAN Europe that has plans to cover both - ask us for a quote.
  • Nearest Hyperbaric Chamber: Townsville - 450 km (280 miles) South of Cairns
Visas, flights, and more!

Visa Requirements

How to get there

  • The trip starts and finishes in the city of Cairns, Australia
  • You can reach Cairns international airport (CNS) with direct flights from major cities in Australia and Asia.
  • Airlines that fly to Cairns: Qantas, Jetstar, Silk Air, Cathay Pacific


  • Bring reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, rash guard, a sweater or light-weight jacket, and some walking shoes
Only Top
school of fish
At the
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