Cod Hole And The Ribbon Reef Liveaboards
In just about every individual sport there is a location that is awe inspiring. A surfer talking about the riding the big waves of Hawaii, a skier talking about Killington Vermont or the mountain climber telling of his climb up the Matterhorn or K2 will have fellow participates listening and envious. The same thing happens in scuba diving and one of the locations that warrants that type of rapt attention is Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs. Over 20 years ago Cod hole was put on the world map by Photographers Ron & Valerie Taylor. The images they took of the friendly Potato Cods and the vibrant reefs impressed divers and non-divers alike.
What To Expect In The Ribbon Reefs
Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs are north of Port Douglas and run to around Lizard Island. Lizard island itself is a prime diving location. The Ribbon Reefs cover a distance of about 55 miles. There are ten reefs that make up the ribbon. Each one is large and is much longer than it is wide. They are barrier reefs siting in most cases on the edge of the continental shelf. In front of the reefs the water is hundreds of meter deep. Behind the reefs the water can be 30 to 40 meters deep. The bottom is often sandy and rising from the sandy bottom are isolated reefs and Bommie. Many of these are famous in their own rights. Following the path of the Ribbon Reef gives a variety of dive sites that is not likely matched anywhere else in the world. You have what is for all intent and purposes a 55 mile long wall dive. The different reefs provide locations where you can dive on the flat surface of the reef, each at a different depth. The sandy floor behind the reefs host numerous scatter reefs at different depths and many massive pinnacles and Bommie that reach nearly to the surface. These locations draw all sorts of marine life to them.
Cod Hole, on Ribbon Reef 10, as mentioned is perhaps the most famous dive site in the ribbons. The stars of this dive site and the reason it first became famous are the Potato Cods that live here. A Potato Cod, so named because the molted color of its skin and its shape looks like a potato, is the largest member of the grouper family. 2 meters in length and 100 kilograms is not uncommon while an average size one will still likely weight in more than a diver. Most of the dive operators will do a controlled fish feed with the cods that will bring them right to you, not that they really need encouragement. The cods are very friendly and like to look over your shoulder as you dive to see what you are doing. The section of the reef where the Potato cods are found is flat and shallow. The site also has a terraced reef stepping down into deeper water. Here you can see numerous types of pelagic fish pass by. At times, you may even see a line of Queensland cod facing the currents mouth open taking in the rich nourishment.
There are a number of pinnacles/ Bommie that are also well known dive sites. Pixie Pinnacle is an example. It is a Bommie that rises from about 30 meters to about 5 meters deep. One of the interesting points of the Pixie is as you start coming up you can see the difference each level has. Different types of coral and marine life. The many little nooks are hiding places for many different marine life. Lighthouse Bommie is a similar experience with a different array of marine life, start at the bottom and swim around it angling up slightly as you do.
Visiting Cod Hole And The Ribbon Reefs
There are not as many vessels going to the Ribbons as there are to the outer reefs. At least a three day trip is necessary. A few boats leaving out of Cairns travel to the outer reef near Hasting or Saxon reef for a day of diving, then overnight relocate near ribbon reef 1. They spend the day diving at the lower ribbon reefs and over night head back to the outer reefs, for another day of diving before back to Cairns.
What may be a much better choice are the itineraries offered by the Spirit of Freedom and the Spoilsport of Mike Ball. These two companies offer seven day voyages that travel from Cairns to Lizard Island and return offering diving in both directions. It is also possible to split the trip into either a 3 day or 4 day fly-dive with a transfer by air at Lizard island. These arrangements give great variety of reefs over the course of the Liveaboard. The outer reefs are very nice dive sites but they do not offer the variety and isolation that the upper ribbon reefs do. Nor do they offer the possibility of wall dives. These two dive operators also stand out in other ways. In 1969, Mike Ball was among the first to offer the live aboard concept and was the first to introduce purpose built twin hull Liveaboards. The company is the most awarded Liveaboard operator in the world and Mike ball himself was the first Liveaboard operator to be inducted in the Scuba diving hall of fame. The Spirit of Freedom is also a frequently awarded company and was recently voted the best Australian Liveaboard by subscribers of Dive Log Australia.
If you want to experience a dive trip that will be a highlight of your diving life and make you the envy of other divers then select a Ribbon Reef Liveaboard by either Spirit of Freedom or the Spoilsport.