Opal Reef is a coral reef located on the Great Barrier Reef. It is one of the main reefs you can visit from Port Douglas. Located on the outer reef, it has a spectacular concentration of underwater life. Above the corals and the drop off, there are a multitude of tropical fish, and sometimes also turtles, rays or sharks.

Whitley sergeants at Opal Reef
Numerous Whitley’s sergeants (abudefduf whitleyi) are found above Bashful Bommie reef drop off.

How to reach Opal Reef snorkeling spots?

Opal Reef can be visited during boat tours from Port Douglas. Several local tour operators offer day boat trips to Opal Reef, usually with 3 snorkeling stops in 3 different parts of the reef. The crossing from Port Douglas to the reef takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. The price of the tour, which costs around 250AUD per person, includes lunch and the snorkel equipment loan.

Opal Reef snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Opal Reef

You will enter the water from the boat, via ladders or the rear platform, where you can sit to equip yourself. Stinger suits are recommended (loan included in tour price).

Opal Reef snorkeling exploration

Opal Reef is almost 6km long. There are a dozen snorkeling spots along the reef, the most famous of which being the Blue Lagoon, Mojo, Bashful Bommie, Ray Ban and Beautiful Mooring. Operators generally can’t confirm prior to departure which spots will be visited: depending on the sea conditions, the crew often choose where snorkeling will take place once they arrive on the reef.

Snorkeling with green sea turtle at Opal Reef
Sea turtles (here, a green sea turtle at the Blue Lagoon) are commonly sighted at Opal Reef.

All specific spots, located on the inner side of the reef, have the same profile. A shallow reef flat (↕1.5-2m), often very damaged, leads to a drop off more or less steep towards deeper sandy beds (↕3-10m). On the drop off, the corals are better preserved, especially at Mojo and the Blue Lagoon. The underwaterscape is mainly made of branching corals, tabular corals and porites. The possibilities for observing underwater life are endless. Whitley’s sergeant, sixbar wrasse, rabbitfish and butterflyfish are found at the edge of the reef flat. In deeper areas, groupers, angelfish, and snappers are abundant. Here and there, we can meet several different species of clownfish in their sea anemone, particularly at Bashful Bommie spot. Randomly, you could also come across sea turtles, bluespotted ribbontail ray, and even for the luckiest, the fabulous Maori wrasse.

Steephead parrotfish at Opal Reef
A steephead parrotfish (chlorurus microrhinos) at a cleaning station, waiting whilst bluestreak cleaner wrasse (labroides dimidiatus) remove parasites from his gills and scales (picture taken at the Blue Lagoon)

Restaurants and accommodation at Opal Reef

Opal Reef is located about 50 kilometers off Port Douglas. All day trips to the reef include lunch and snacks.



 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaGreat Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Maximum depth30ft/10m on the drop off
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • LifeguardYes, snorkelers are watched from the boat
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsDay tours from AUD 250pp., all inclusive
  • Public toilets & showersOn the boat

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.