Ribbon Reef And Osprey Reef

ribbon-reefs - liveaboard

Scuba Dive liveaboard

In the scuba diving fraternity, certain dive sites and diving locations have gain a level of respect that even those who have never dived there, knows about the sites.

Australia has their fair share of sites that meet this group.

One of the best known dive sites in the world is Cod Hole located in the equally famous Ribbon Reefs.

Advance divers often dive the Osprey reefs as a part of the Ribbon Reef dives and report the best diving on the world.

Diving The Ribbon Reef And Cod Hole

The Ribbon Reef is ten narrow reefs with a small passage between each of them.

The first location simply called Ribbon Reef #1 is  about 60 miles north of Cairns (view Ribbon Reef #2 on Google earth 15° 34.450′ S / 145° 46.780′ E) reaching to close to Lizard Island National Park at Ribbon Reef #10. (14° 39.815′ S / 145° 39.844′ E) 55 miles away.

Except for a few dive boats from an Exclusive Resort on Lizard Island all diving done on the Ribbons are by Liveaboards.

The ribbon reefs are barrier reefs however they differ from the standard barrier reef in many ways, each making them unique and enhances the attraction for divers.

The ribbon reefs have built up vertically more than a normal barrier reef. This and the closeness between the individual reefs has resulted in few breaks between them.

Few of the breaks are safe for all shipping and on some even there is enough depth, the width of the passage makes them a danger. The breaks between the reefs are often dramatic forming Coral walls.

Depending on the tides direction and the current these walled passages can be a perfect wall dive, great drift dive or a potential hazardous situation even for advance divers.

They provide the passage for large pelagic species into the inner reef and tuna, mackerel, sharks, rays and turtles can be found on most dives around the passages.

The most famous dive site in Australia is Cod Hole located on Ribbon Reef #10.

Ron and Valerie Taylor found the site in 1971however kept the location a secret.

They used the site as the location of many of their award-winning photographs and documentaries.

In the early 1980s commercial fishing was devastating the Potato Cod that were found along the Ribbon Reefs.

The Potato Cods are the largest member of the Groper family with 2 meter long and 90kg adults being common. The Taylors used their images and documentaries to fight for legislation protecting the Potato Cod and to make Cormorant Pass (now known as Cod Hole) a marine protection zone.

They were successful and it also awoke interest in the Ribbon Reefs as a diving destination.

Diving on Cod Hole, you may feel that you picked up a third dive buddy.

Potato cod are very curious and will often follow divers around to see what they are doing. Some diver operators offer fish feeding demonstrations under a special permit.

While the Potato Cods are always there, they seldom travel anywhere in their lives, they are not the only attraction on Ribbon Reef #10. A Marine Scientist a part of Catlin Seaview research project that surveys coral reefs around the world note in a recent survey that the coral found on ribbon reefs #9 and #10 were the largest he had seen of a number of different species.

At Cod Wall, the point where the passage meets the open sea is a 45 degree slope noted for it coral and the number of Queensland Cod and Maori wrasse, also near 2 metre long fish, that stay in the area.


With a 55 mile long length of reef, one side dropping to 1,000 to 2,000 meters and the other a 30 to 50 meter deep lagoons with many smaller reefs and outcrops, the number of potential dive sites are unlimited.

On the ribbon reefs themselves are a dozen different sites. Steve’s Bommie on Ribbon Reef #3 often makes list of the best sites for photography.

It is often said that this site requires two dives, because on the first dive you are so in awe of the pelagic species and tremendous coral gardens you do not see the other things that can give you that award-winning photograph.

Diving The Osprey Reef

The Osprey reef is a Coral Sea reef located some 70km beyond the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

The reef rises up from a depth of more than a 1,000 meters to places where it is just a few meters under the surface. With fresh supplies of nutrient rich deep waters the marine life is impressive.

A wide variety of corals, sponges and other marine life exist on the reef. Sharks are some of the main attractions on this site. They are so numerous that counting them is impossible.

The Osprey Reef is known in the scientific community as the best location to study sharks in the wild with a wide variety of species often found on the reef.

Most Liveaboards that visit the reef will have two full days of diving and also have a unique night dive.

Ribbon Reef  And Osprey Reef Liveaboards

Very few Liveaboards do the Osprey reefs and the Ribbon Reefs.

The leading ones are Mike Ball’s Spoilsport and the Spirit of Freedom, both of these excellent vessels sail from Cairns of seven day itinerary that may be split into a three or four day segments separating at Lizard Island.