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Opal Reef

Updated Tue 23 Jul 2019


Opal Reef is found on the Outer Great Barrier Reef and is best visited from Cairns. It takes about an hour and a half to reach from the shore and sits on the edge of the continental shelf. It’s a huge reef with many individual reef sites with each offering a unique experience. Different currents and coral formations provide homes to a variety of fish and other marine animals, meaning what you will see will depend on which site you visit! Tour providers choose the best sites based on the conditions of the day, ensuring you are able to have the best experience possible and enjoy the reefs at their best.

Opal Reef is an especially great reef for snorkelling as it has clear water and great visibility, and has protection from prevailing winds, giving you ideal weather a majority of the time. The crescent shape of the reef provides protection, allowing you to enjoy your time in the water and feel less of the push and pull of the wind and waves.

You may visit sites such as Rayban, Mojo, Blue Lagoon, South North Opal, Sandbox, New Seagull, Bashful Bommie, Beautiful Mooring, Plato, Southside, East South Opal, The Gap, North West Opal or Long Bommie during your time on Opal Reef and get to see a huge variety of marine animals!

Things you may see on Opal Reef:

Fire dartfish

Fire dartfish are a unique looking fish found on some parts of Opal Reef. It’s small and sleek with a white head which fades into a red/brown lower body and has a huge yellow dorsal fin (it’s most notable attribute). They are mostly seen close to the ocean floor above a pile of rubble, which they are extremely quick to dart into! They only reach a size of about 9cm and are often spotted in pairs. If you can manage to grab a photo of these guys, it is a great feat, as they often shoot back into their burrows when they see you!

Sea Fans

Sea fans, also known as gorgonians, are a species of soft coral that can see seen around several sites at Opal. The sea fans at Opal many be small, but still, give you a beautiful image and backdrop while beneath the waves! They grow upwards in a fan-like shape, adding a pop of colour in a unique shape! They often host several smaller reef inhabitants, so be sure to look closely if you come across one.


There are several species of anemonefish on Opal Reef, including the true Clownfish (which most people know as ‘Nemo’ fish); a small black, orange and white fish made famous in the Pixar movie ‘Finding Nemo’. Found in several colours and shapes, you can spot an anemonefish inside of their host anemones, darting in and out in family groups. They are dominated by one large female, who usually lives inside their anemone with several smaller males. They are a treat to see and can be found on most reef site in Opal Reef and make for a great photo subject!

Sixbar angelfish

You can easily identify the sixbar angelfish by the six vertical black bars that run along its sides! Paired with an accompanying white bar and yellow body, the angelfish has a thin flat body and is almost always seen in pairs. These angelic fish mate for life and are mostly seen with their mates as they make their way around the reef.

Check out Opal Reef for yourself by joining a boat tour and making your way to the Great Barrier Reef. Ask our friendly travel agents which tour is right for you and start the adventure of a lifetime.

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