A whole new cast of characters can be spotted over summer on the Great Barrier Reef.
that's because light winds and excellent visibility offer the best conditions for snorkelling and diving.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has posted a picture of the first whale shark arriving in its waters and Cairns-based master reef guide Michelle Barry, who works for the Entrada Travel Group, anticipates there will be plenty more sightings.
"Whale sharks arrive on the Great Barrier Reef before the coral spawn," she said. "You can often see the curious juvenile males."
Summer always brings new characters to the reef as there is an abundance of food.
Turtles return to their nesting grounds from all over the globe.
"I've observed butterfly fish turning into vicious predators in their hunt for cuttlefish eggs, while male seahorses not much bigger than a grain of rice are more easily seen because they are fat with babies," Michelle said.
With water temperatures around 25 degrees in Cairns and the reef over summer, sunsuits can replace wetsuits and you can comfortably spend more time in the water.
Tours depart from Cairns, Port Douglas and Mission Beach, the closest mainland ports to the outer reef. They offer snorkelling, and introductory and certified scuba diving day trips to pontoons, islands, sand cays and offshore reefs, as well as longer live-aboard trips.
For those who prefer to stay dry, semi-submersible and glass-bottom vessels provide popular views of the Great Barrier Reef, while helmet dives are a fun way to get to the bottom of the ocean without getting your hair wet.
Comfortable catamarans also travel to water activity platforms on the outer edge of the reef. The pontoons can be a great way to experience the reef for the first time.
Cairns-based Coral Expeditions has now resumed its seven-night Great Barrier Reef trips aboard Coral Discoverer visiting the remote islands and reefs of the northern reef.
Find out more about Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef HERE