1. The Pinnacles (Hook Island)
Some of the best snorkelling to be had in the Whitsundays, just off the western beach. Coral cover is nearly solid, mostly staghorn, with only a few sandy patches. The quality of the corals diminishes the further east you go. Fish life is medium in size and average in quality, manta rays common in cooler months, May to September. The site is open to northerly winds and swell from strong south-easterlies. Visibility 3-15 metres.
2. Bait Reef
There are various sites at Bait Reef that will provide excellent snorkelling.
At the Southern Face shallow waters are dominated by flat terrain completely covered by hard corals with the odd sand patch. Large turtles, manta rays and some pelagic fishes such as mackerel and barracuda are often seen cruising along the drop-off. Visibility is around 12-30 metres.
The Stepping Stones are a unique feature of Bait Reef. They are made up of 18 or more flat-topped coral pinnacles lined up in a row along the south-west side of the reef. Each pinnacle rises from a depth of 15-25 metres and stops within one metre of the surface. The pinnacles are circular in shape and have vertical sides. Each of the stepping stones is completely covered with coral of all varieties – huge plates on top, soft corals and gorgonian fans on the sides, and vary in size from 15-50 metres in diameter. Small colourful tropical fish swarm around the tops of the stones, large wrasse, sweetlip, cod, trevally, trout and others cruise the canyons, ledges and caves at depth. Manta rays are common from May to September. Visibility is around 10-20 metres.
Other sites at Bait Reef include Manta Ray Drop-off which is home to an excellent coral garden but is very prone to current and Gary’s Inlet which has very good shallow coral at the edge of the inlet. A 100 metre swim to the east at high tide is a beautiful shallow, unnamed lagoon with a couple of resident reef sharks.
3. Henry’s Bommie (Fairey Reef)
Henry’s Bommie reaches from 12 metres to near the surface. The site boasts good coral cover and clouds of tropical fish. Excellent snorkelling with minimal current. Visibility is around 10-20 metres.
4. Little Fairey Inlet (Fairey Reef)
Excellent snorkelling along the wall of the inlet. Swimming along teh wall of the inlet brings you in contact with very good fish life including brightly coloured angelfish, cod, trout and sweetlip. Some current at the opening of the inlet. Visibility 10-20 metres.
5. Tina’s Arm (Fairey Reef)
This is one of the prettiest sites on Fairey Reef and provides excellent snorkelling. Very good coral cover including large porites coral and gorgonian fans. Prone to currents so best to visit at slack water. Visibility 10-20 metres.
6. Alcyonaria Point (Hook Island)
Excellent coral and fish life, especially along the shallow ledge that runs along the point to Flat Rock. Plate corals dominate the shallow waters. Current can be a problem, particularly at mid-tide. Anchorage difficult due to drop-off. Exposed to northerlies and strong south-easterlies. Visibility around 3-15 metres.
7. Butterfly Bay (Hook Island)
Best snorkelling to be found along the western reef ledge deep into the bay. Bottom consists of coral cover with large patches of coral rubble and silty sand. This popular bareboat anchorage offers coral outcrops with shallow walls. Many small, colourful fish. Best of the bommies is found deep in the centre of the bay, though difficult to locate at high tide. Tidal currents can be a problem as one moves away from the bay edge towards the centre. Visibility around 2-10 metres. Diving depth 5-12 metres.
8. East Reef (Hayman Island)
A very pretty shallow dive and snorkel with excellent shallow coral. Coral cover dominated by large plates, creating numerous small canyons and ledges which make for interesting exploration. Plenty of small, friendly fish. However, access to the site is difficult due to its exposure to wind form every direction and to currents. A site for calm days at slack tide. Visibility around 5-15 metres.
9. Saba Bay (Hook Island)
Good coral cover in shallow water, dropping off to scattered bommies at 7-12 metres. As with Mackerel Bay, this is another popular dive site during northerly winds which can be better at some times than others depending on visibility. The northern end of the bay is studded with numerous small bommies in relatively shallow water, dropping down to 10-15 metres with scattered bommies among the coral rubble and sand. Plenty of shallow canyons, ledges and swimthroughs. The fish are small- to medium-sized and in good numbers. Visibility is adversely affected by tide. Best diving during neap tides. Exposed to southerly winds. For snorkelling, there are interesting bommies on both sides of the bay.
10. Cateran Bay (Border Island)
The coral is relatively shallow making for easy snorkelling at this site. Reef dominated by large beautiful plate coral. Inside the bay current is minimal, however beware of strong currents at the entrance, particularly of the north west tip. Visibility 2-12 metres.