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Norman Reef

Updated Mon 06 Jun 2022

Snorkeller swimming with a sea turtle

Lying 80km North-East of Cairns, Norman Reef is a renowned and pristine snorkel and dive spot in the Outer Great Barrier Reef. Situated North of the larger Hastings Reef and in between Spur, Onyx and Saxon Reef, Norman Reef is the furthest northern reef often visited by boat tour operators. 

Protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park rules, this Planar type reed has seen the formation of new coral growths and lagoons over the centuries. With a large expanse of coral gardens, Norman Reef is still considered one of the best underwater photo spots in the Great Barrier Reef with its stunning colours, biodiverse marinelife, great visibility and pristine conditions. For avid scuba divers, Norman reef is home to a selection of caves, swim-throughs and even a small wreck. Don’t forget your GoPro at this incredible, vibrant snorkel and dive site!

Norman Reef Corals 

With an array of drop-offs, shallow coral gardens and marvellous fringing reef segments, Norman Reef is home to some truly beautiful hard and soft corals. You will see vast expanses of branchy Staghorn corals, stunning coral outcrops and bommies with incredible yellow, orange, purple, pink, blue and multicoloured corals! An unbeatable feast for the eyes, the kaleidoscope of vivid corals really is something of a dream at Norman Reef.

Yellow, Pink and Purple Coral with yellow tropical fish

Norman Reef Marinelife

Due to the biodiversity and health of Norman Reef, many marine creatures are found within this special dive and snorkel spot. Jump in and spy brightly coloured nudibranchs, manta rays, moray eels, turtles and an abundance of fish at the bustling section of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef!


These colourful creatures are weird and wonderful favourites of the reef and are often spotted at Norman Reef. Nudibranchs aren’t your average mollusc, with an array of bright neon and luminescent colours seen on their gill-like appendages and bodies. While striking, they are relatively small so keep your eyes out for them when diving down to the sandy seafloor.

Three blue, orange and green coloured nudibranchs on a coral rock

Sea Turtles

A majestic and marvellous sight to behold on your reef adventures, sea turtles are common around the stunning nooks of the Great Barrier Reef such as Norman Reef. Spot a green turtle swimming gracefully through coral gardens or swim alongside them at this biodiverse site.

sea turtle swimming through blue waters

Hawkbill Turtles

Norman Reef is also a popular spot for the endangered Hawkbill turtle. Often found in a section of Norman Reef called Turtle Bay, Hawkbills often used this quiet, lush underwater spot as a sanctuary.

Moray Eels

Moray Eels are occasionally found swimming through the long seagrasses and coral gardens of Norman Reef. With long, slithery bodies, colourful patterns and impressive jaws, these marine creatures may not be the prettiest sight to see, but are sure a natural wonder of the reef!

PAle yellow and black patterned moray eel underwater

Maori Wrasse

These big blue wonders of the ocean are often seen making their way through and nibbling on the vibrant corals of Norman Reef. Growing up to over 2 metres, these luminescent, shimmering fish are friendly and simply beautiful creatures! Don’t forget to turn your GoPro on as soon as you see one of these majestic swimmers.

Maori Wrasse with blue, green and yellow colours swimming with snorkellers

Bronze Whalers

The Bronze Whaler, a type of reef shark with a bronze shimmer, is often found around Norman Reef. An astounding, naturally wonderful sight to see during your dive or snorkel, the bronze whaler swims slowly and peacefully along the sandy seafloors. While not usually aggressive, treat all sharks with caution and a respectful distance while snorkelling and diving.

Tropical Fish 

The glorious array of colourful corals and anemones in the reef is a paradise for a vast number of tropical fish such as spangled emperors, drummers, fusiliers, clownfish, angel and red bass… just to name a few! Light up your sights while vibrant schools of fish swim around you and your snorkelling buddies in Norman Reef!

Orange and white striped clownfish in pink anenome

Manta rays

Without a doubt, manta rays are one of the most impressive animals you may encounter on the reef. They can reach up to 7m in width and can be spotted cruising around the Great Barrier Reef, a behemoth in size and large in personality, occasionally even breaching the surface of the water! They are related to stingrays, but unlike their cousins, they spend their time in the open water, rather than hiding beneath the sand! Also unlike stingrays, manta rays do not have a barbed tail and are completely harmless to humans.

Manta Ray underwater photo from Cairns Aquarium


Cuttlefish are a type of cephalopod and are related to squid, octopus and nautiluses. They can change colour and alter their shape to blend in completely with their surroundings, meaning oftentimes, they are hard to spot! However, they can be seen making their way around the reef darting from one shelter to the next - and if you are lucky enough to see one, pay attention to the way it looks as it could change at any moment as it moves around! These masters of disguise are particularly great at camouflage, altering their appearance in just one second. 

Dwarf Minke Whales

If you visit Norman Reef during the winter months, you may encounter a dwarf minke whale! They are often spotted at Norman Reef and are very curious about snorkelers and divers, often venturing close to the reefs. Minkes are a type of baleen whale and have no teeth, so are not a threat to humans in terms of diet and hunting. All the same, it’s best to keep your distance as they are large mammals, reaching up to 8m in length! They are only around for a few months of the year before they migrate back down south.


There are several types of groupers found on the Great Barrier Reef and within Norman Reef. Nortiously unafraid of people, they are often known for swimming straight up to their newfound company as snorkellers and divers who explore the reef. This can be scary for some as they can grow to be huge (up to 400kg in some species) but don’t worry - they are harmless to people and make for a great experience! 

Grouper with black, blue and grey patterns swimming face close up

Head on out to the Cairns Great Barrier Reef to snorkel or dive the wonderful Breaking Patches today! Get in touch with our friendly travel experts to book your vessel out to the Reef.

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