The Cod Hole

The Cod Hole is located on the Great Barrier Reef, Ribbon Reef #10, just north of Cooktown. The Cod Hole is one of the best dive sites in the world and is named after and famous for the Giant Potato Cod (Epinephelus tukula) that resides there. Cod Hole diving on the stunning Ribbon Reefs is extraordinary as the friendly Giant Potato Cod swim and interact with scuba divers. The Cod Hole on the Great Barrier Reef is 40 meters deep and easy to scuba dive. Accessible by liveaboard or a day trip from Lizard Island, the Cod Hole is found on the Northern Great Barrier Reef, reaches 40 meters deep, and is an exciting and easy scuba dive.

The Cod Hole

A true scuba woman I am on the very high dive platform of Mike Balls’ liveaboard boat the Spoilsport. I look across to my dive buddy, my son Josh as I put my regulator into my mouth. I listen as the resonance of my breathing changes. Hands on our masks and regs we are about plummet into the Cod Hole. My giant stride is perfect as I make the leap into the water. I often wonder if I close my eyes when I stride into the ocean. A giant potato cod chilling under the custom-built Spoilsport answers the question for me, my eyes are wide open.  Calmly waiting for scuba divers this giant potato cod follows us down to 15 metres. We won’t have to go searching for the cod.

Two divers performing a giant stride off the back of a dive boat
Giant stride into the Cod Hole

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Ribbon Reefs

We are on the Ribbon Reefs, in the Great Barrier Reef marine park, Australia. On the northern end of Ribbon Reef number 10 to be exact, home of the world renown dive site The Cod Hole.  The Cod Hole Great Barrier Reef, is only accessible by liveaboard as it is simply too far away from Cairns or Port Douglas for a day trip.  If you are fortunate enough to be staying at the very exclusive Lizard Island resort, the Cod Hole is approximately 50 minutes away and a Cod Hole dive day trip is more than possible.

The Ribbon Reefs north of Cairns are a collection of coral reefs spanning approximately 100km from Lizard Island and Cooktown to the edge of the continental shelf. The Ribbon Reefs are a great symbol of how varied life on the Great Barrier Reef can be. Diving the inside of the Ribbon Reefs is good all year round with excellent visibility, virtually no current and amazing diversity.  We are doing a Mike Ball liveaboard, more precisely a Dwarf Minke Whale expedition. The dive sites range in depths from 40 metres to 3 metres.  The inside Ribbon Reefs are suitable for advanced and open water scuba divers as well as snorkelers.  On our trip more than half the guests are non-divers. 

A SCUBA WOMAN upright with a giant potato cod as big as her swimming in front of her EMPTY NEST DIVER
A scuba woman and giant potato cod

Cod Hole Dive

The Cod hole dive is on the second day of our Mike Ball liveaboard trip.  The previous day we were very fortunate to encounter Dwarf Minke Whales at Lighthouse bommie spending several hours in the water with them. The Minkes were the big attraction for this liveaboard, the Cod Hole a close second.

Giant Potato Cod at the Cod Hole
Giant Potato Cod at the Cod Hole

I am so excited to see these giant potato cods. I always get a thrill out of the magnitude of our underwater world and dive for the experience and enjoyment.  I am not a selfie taker on land and never take a camera with me diving as I like to be in the moment.  I must confess; I have bought a GoPro for this dive trip.  I really want a cool photo of me with a giant potato cod. My first time using the GoPro was with the Dwarf Minke Whales.  As a senior diver who is not tech savvy, I have discovered I can just point and video, without detracting from my experience.  I am impressed with my footage and can take stills from the video. I have seen so many fantastic photos of giant potato cod with scuba divers. I am excited to go scuba diving and want to capture the potato cod size compared to a scuba diver.

A SCUBA WOMAN with Giant Potato Cod
Senior Scuba Diver and Giant Cod

Mike Ball Liveaboard

Pre liveaboard I was nervous about diving the Cod Hole.  I imagined a deep hole with strong current. It couldn’t be any further from the truth, barely any current and depths ranging from 3 metres to 36 metres it is an easy and fun dive.  We are there in winter to see the Dwarf Minke Whales, and the water is a pleasant 26 degrees, though I believe it can get as low as 22 degrees. The giant cod aside, the Cod Hole is a pretty dive site.   


Giant Potato Cod

Our interactions with the giant potato cod are amazing. Not at all phased by scuba divers the cod swim alongside us. I move out of the way as an enormous cod swims directly at and around me. Sanctioned feeding of the giant potato cod is allowed, and they are certainly hoping the divers will provide an easy meal for them.  Mike Ball choose not to do so, taking down a container filled with fish heads to attract the cod. It works and the giant potato cod are rewarded at the end of the dive when the contents are emptied into the sea. One cod is very interested in the container of fish and unbalances our guide and knocks him into reef. The giant cod size is massive, bigger than me, giant potato cod grow up to two metres in length, black spots marking their skin shiny and smooth.

The Cod Hole

Originally named Cormorant Pass, the Cod Hole was first discovered by Ron and Valerie Taylor in 1971. The Taylor’s kept the dive site secret for some time and fought to have the area and the giant potato cod protected. The Cod Hole is now deemed a “sensitive location” by the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority. Originally inhabited by 25 cod, there are now only a few. The decline in numbers is of concern and gives me pause for thought. I would hate to think scuba divers have contributed to the decrease in numbers. It is yet another reminder for me to become more aware of and involved in marine conservation.

Giant Potato Cod the Cod Hole 
Giant Potato Cod

Mike Ball have Advance Ecotourism accreditation. I feel comfortable Mike Ball expeditions are committed to environmental best practice and conservation.  Everything I see on board attests to that. Dr Alistair Birtles a lead researcher of the Dwarf Minke whales is also travelling with us. He is a wealth of knowledge on all things marine and a staunch conservationist. It is evident everyone on board the Spoilsport are environmentalists and advocates for ecotourism.

Cod Hole Diving

Thanks to my GoPro I am able to stay in the moment and get my photos with the giant cod.  He really is the master, and I am awed in his presence.  He is a substantial fish, bigger than me. I am dwarfed in his presence and admire the thickness and sleekness of his body. At the Cod Hole my entire focus was diving with giant potato cod, I really hadn’t thought past that.  The Cod Hole also offers picturesque reef diving, with striking swim throughs and multicolored Acropora corals. As always, I am amazed by the beauty and diversity of the marine life underwater. Things obviously grow big at the Cod Hole. I can imagine myself being digested by the giant clam residing there. The giant clam has grown so big it is now wedged between two coral bommies, it could easily fit me inside its’ shell. The giant clam has both male and female parts and fertilize their own eggs. Known to live to 100 years and weigh up to two hundred kilos this one must be close to both, it is colossal.  Despite my fears of being eaten by the clam they actually feed on plankton.  

A  SENIOR SCUBA WOMAN  diver  excited by giant potato cod EMPTY NEST DIVER
A scuba woman, a scuba Josh, a Giant Potato Cod

Cod Hole Dive Site

On the opposite end of the size spectrum, Josh and I are hoping to see a pygmy seahorse, which hides at depth, on this dive trip. The tiny little seahorses grow between 1 ½ and 3 cm. They give birth to live young, with the male carrying the eggs in his pouch for two weeks.  The cute little babies are only 2mm long. The Cod Hole is our first opportunity to see a pygmy seahorse. They are known to camouflage on the coral fans at 30 metres but manage to evade us. If only this senior scuba woman had thought to take her glasses.


A great dive site, we also see flowery cod, grey reef sharks, trevally, parrotfish, large Maori wrasse, sweetlips, coral trout, puffer fish, barracuda, and lionfish.  The large Maori wrasse give the giant cod a run for their money, they too are huge and iridescently beautiful.

Giant Potato Cod and Coral The Cod Hole Ribbon Reefs EMPTY NEST DIVER
Giant Potato Cod

Giant Potato Cod

Returning to the Spoilsport at the end of the dive a giant potato cod is waiting patiently under the Spoilsport in the hope of receiving the bucket of fish heads.

If you too are wanting to experience the wonders of Cod Hole diving and the Ribbon Reefs both Mike Ball Dive Expeditions and Spirit of Freedom operate liveaboards from Cairns and have Advanced Ecotourism Certification by Ecotourism Australia.

The definition of ecotourism adopted by Ecotourism Australia is:

“Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.”

For more information on the Dwarf Minke Whale Project

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Published by emptynestdiver

Learning to dive in my fifties has been a great adventure, I am a senior scuba diver but young at heart.

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