Ribbon reef – a long, narrow, possibly winding reef, usually associated with an atoll lagoon

Ribbon Reefs form along the edge of the continental shelf in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef extending from Cooktown to eastern Torres Strait, a distance of 670KM. In some places, the outer edge is so suitable for coral growth that the reefs grow high and form narrow walls.

This string of long narrow reefs, also known as the Northern Reefs, lies about 60 miles north of Cairns. The almost unbroken barrier formed by the Ribbon Reefs is made up of ten distinct reefs, with passages between them. Some of these channels are deep enough for ships to pass though, and the individual reefs have been identified simply as Ribbon Reef #1 through to Ribbon Reef #10, from south to north.

The Ribbon Reefs run parallel to the Queensland coastline and offer a huge range of stunning dive sites. These reefs are visited by fewer operators than locations on the Outer Barrier Reef closer to Cairns and Port Douglas, and as such are in pristine condition. Due to open-water conditions, the outside of these reefs are rarely dived, most charter boats travel up the sheltered inner side of the reef; however, some spectacular wall dives are possible along the outer edges. The inner side of the Ribbon Reefs have lush coral gardens and many spectacular pinnacles swarming with fish.

Live aboard dive trips to the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole and depart from Cairns several times a week.

DIVE THE ribbon reef cairns

Cod Hole, named after the groups of huge – but friendly – potato cod that live there, is one of the best known dive sites in the Ribbon Reefs. But other significant sites include: Pixie Pinnacle, The Temple of Doom, Challenger Bay, Dynamite Pass and North Horne at Osprey Reef, each with their own exceptional array of marine flora and fauna.

Click to open an interactive map of the Great Barrier Reef, showing the location of Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs. NOTE: WHEN THE MAP OPENS IN A NEW WINDOW, YOU WILL NEED TO CLICK ON THE MAP AND DRAG DOWN TO FIND COD HOLE AND THE RIBBON REEFS AT THE FAR NORTH OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF.

This string of pristine Ribbon Reef offers a variety of excellent dive opportunities. Coral pinnacles and dropoffs attract large pelagic fish and a wide variety of marine life, and visitors to this unique region will find superb scuba diving at Cod Hole all year round. Liveaboard dive trips depart to the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole from Cairns several times a week.

Due to the distance from the popular embarkation points of Cairns and Port Douglas, liveaboard dive trips to Cod Hole and the Ribbon Reefs are usually four or five days, and offer anywhere from 10 to 14 dives. Getting to Cod Hole from Cairns usually involves an overnight boat trip, but it is possible to fly one way or the other, transferring at either Cooktown or Lizard Island. Some companies offer a low level scenic flight at either the beginning or end of your Cod Hole liveaboard as a standard inclusion.

Besides the potato cod that gave the famous Cod Hole its name, divers will likely see Maori wrasse, red bass, emperor and a plethora of other marine life including anemones, white tip reef sharks, giant clams and feather stars.

Its remote location makes for excellent dive conditions, since the area around the Ribbon Reefs and Cod Hole is out of the reach of the many day boats that leave from Cairns and Port Douglas, and is therefore much less heavily visited. The reefs are not disturbed by human presence, and also visibility is said to be consistently better than areas of the Great Barrier Reef that are closer to cities and farmlands.