Hastings Reef A Cairns Reef Management Area Jewel
Hastings Reef is the most visited reef in the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef Park.
If you consider only Outer Reefs the only other reef system that comes close to it in the number of visitors is Harding Reef in the Whitsunday Islands.
The reef is located about 55 kilometres from the Port of Cairns, near the continental shelf. Hastings Reef is a crescentic type reef of 1024 hectares (over 2,500 acres). To a Marine Scientist, that sentence says a great deal. For the rest of us, a little explanation
A crescentic type reef is one of five classifications of the reef and one of two considered a mature reef. The name describes the general shape of the reef, Crescent-shaped. The outside curve faces the Coral Sea. The top of the reef is generally flat. Over ten’s of thousand’s of year, the original reef patches cause sentiment that eventually filled the gaps between patches. New coral grew in the build-up area.
From a scuba diver’s point of view, this created two very distinct diving conditions. The windward side, facing the open sea, has walls with beautiful drop-offs to around 30 meters.
The current brings the possibilities of drift dives along the walls. Also, sightings of Pelagic fish are common. Pelagic fish are those who live in deep water away from shore and away from the bottom. Sharks, tuna, mackerel, and barracuda among many others are examples of Pelagic fish found in the Great Barrier Reef Park.
When conditions are rough on the windward side, the leeward conditions will be calmer. The difference in conditions between the two sides can be drastic. The top of the reef varies from about 6 meters deep to about 15 meters and makes for excellent diving and snorkelling. This reef is less effected from coastal conditions than the inner reefs so generally the visibility will be very good.
Hasting Reef Dive Sites.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority who has control of the park has divided Hastings Reef into two segments, in typical government creativity they are Hastings Reef Locality 1 in the north and the Hasting Reef locality 2 for the southern portion of the reef.
A sort of conflicting report, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority states that the northern part of the reef especially the North East and North West portions have the highest coral density and the greater number of visitors. However, there are a higher number of mooring sites in locality 2.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, has created two public mornings which can be used by anyone who makes a reservation to use it. They have also issued twenty-one permits for private moorings.
These moorings are installed, maintained and controlled by private companies, mostly diving companies.
In addition to these sites, there are two areas designated for anchoring. The anchoring location starts 50 metres from the edge of the reef, and many Coral bommies can away from the reef itself.
A Bommie is a slang from Bombora which is an indigenous Australian word to describe the surf created when waves break over a submerged reef. A bommie is a small stand along with reef structure.
Often they are almost cylinder in shape, rising smartly from a sandy bottom, like a tin can.
Between the 23 mooring buoys, 13 km of Reef-line (not sure if that a real word, it underwater so you can not call it shoreline), 2024 hectares of the reef and the anchorage spots there is an almost unlimited number of potential dive sites.
Also, once you are more than 200 meters from the edge of the reef, you have more freedom for anchorages, therefore more diving on bommies.
For an interesting look at the Hastings reef place the following GPS coordinates into your Google earth: 16° 31.673′ S / 145° 59.672′ E, It is one of the private moorings used on the reef, the MV Reef Encounter maintains this one.