In 2009 we spent 5 months sailing up and down the Great Barrier Reef. We made about 60 dives. We dived from Lady Musgrove to Townsville again in 2010.

Diving was good but, overall, we weren't hugely impressed compared with many other places we've dived in the Southwest Pacific.

The best diving is north of Cairns and we spent 6 weeks at Lizard Island, a beautiful island that Mike Ball's Spoilsport and some other liveaboards visit. Although the diving on the Ribbon Reefs is very good, the strong winds we experienced limited our dive opportunities quite severely.

Further south the weather was kinder but visibility was poorer and early in the season the water was actually cold! (5mm wetsuit cold !!!!!).

The Great Barrier Reef has quite large tidal ranges. In the middle - around the Whitsunday Islands - the range can be up to maybe 15 feet. This means that reefs offer limited shelter for anchoring. At low tide they may be awash, but at high tide they offer no resistance to ocean swells. Consequently, reef anchorages are tenable only in calm conditions - say, 10-15 knots of wind or less.

In stronger winds one must be anchored behind an island or mainland point. However, islands out among the reefs are few and small - too small often to give enough shelter. There was no diving or snorkeling near the mainland because the water was muddy and contained crocodiles!

So, until we reached Lizard Island, which is big enough to provide good shelter, we visited the reef in calm conditions and returned to the mainland when winds rose. Unfortunately, as we traveled north, and diving improved, the trade winds became stronger and more consistent.

Finally, at Lizard Island, in a month of residence we got out to the outer reef exactly twice!

Interestingly, when we travelled all the way south to Bundaberg, our last call was Lady Elliott Island - effectively the southern end of the Barier Reef. At the end of the season, diving there was excellent. Good visibility, not cold, lots of fish. Quite different to the conditions in that area when we set off!

Again, in 2010, we spent time at both Lady Elliott and Lady Musgrave Islands. We found the diving there to be much better than it was during our first visits.