G’day. I have enjoyed the extreme good fortune to live on the shores adjacent to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) for a little over 15 years. I stopped counting the number of dives I’ve made on this World Heritage listed biological marvel, when the number reached into the thousands. When you’ve been this lucky, it’s easy to forget what a privilege it is to access and utilize the individual reefs of it’s make up. So when one gets the opportunity to visit the less accessible outliers it is indeed a rare treat.
Ashmore Reef is just that, a remote outlier. Located at the northern tip of the GBR, roughly 90nm (nautical mile) SE of Papua New Guinea and 50nm from the entrance to Australia via the Torres Strait, it is a huge North-South oriented lozenge shaped reef with an enormous deep water lagoon, surrounded by healthy, vibrantly colorful and diverse patches of coral habitat. When Clipper Odyssey arrived, on what can only be described as a "brochure day," flat calm sea and crystal clear water, the excitement amongst the staff to get out and scout for snorkeling and diving sites was palpable.
Rarely is it so difficult to choose a location for water sports, but no one area stood out above another. In an age when we hear and read so much about the ill-health of our reefs and oceans it was a joy to see a place so clean and alive. Within minutes we had seen half-a-dozen shark species, some in great numbers, including a solitary but prodigious tawny nurse shark and on the surface we spotted several green turtles. Shortly after the snorkeling and diving activities had commenced, the fish species count was extraordinary and stand-out observations included free-swimming crinoids (feather stars) and copulating parrot fish.
It was my second visit to Ashmore Reef and on the first I declared it to be amongst my top ten dive/snorkel sites in the world. I am profoundly pleased to say that I saw nothing the second time around to change my opinion.