February 16, 2023
5 mins Read
Welcome to Wonder Reef, the world’s first buoyant reef system, floating just off the Gold Coast. Think of this as Avatar but underwater: a fusion of art, science and engineering. And there’s nothing else in the world like it.
Wonder Reef is a series of nine structures that are built for certified scuba divers’ enjoyment, with multiple species of coral and other marine life, plus plenty of unique features to keep things interesting. With two companies – Queensland Scuba Diving Company and Gold Coast Dive Adventures – running dives on Wonder Reef, as well as the option to dive it yourself with a permit and a buddy, now is the ideal time to discover what is sure to become one of the Gold Coast’s most popular attractions.
Wonder Reef is absolutely unique; there’s nothing else in the world like it. It’s the world’s first buoyant reef, and it’s Australian-designed and Queensland-built.
Still, you’re probably wondering: what actually is it? Wonder Reef is a series of nine sculptures that hang in the ocean off Main Beach, just north of Surfers Paradise. The structures were designed, in part, by artist Daniel Templeman, who was inspired by the concept of a hot air balloon rising in the sky. Each sculpture is attached to the ocean floor at a depth of 30 metres via 72-tonne concrete foundations, and they float in the water 22 metres up. The sculptures can move with the energy of the ocean, creating what looks like a giant kelp forest.
This is an extraordinary feat of engineering, the result of 15 months of complex technical analysis and detailed design by Aussie company Subcon Blue Solutions, with the aim of creating a “hanging garden” for divers to enjoy.
Of course, divers don’t just come here to see feats of engineering wonder. They come to view fish, coral and other marine life, which is what Wonder Reef is designed for.
These nine sculptures represent the creation of 32,000 cubic metres of new reef habitat in a previously barren seabed. Right now the reef is still in the very early days of development, having only been transplanted with coral fragments from living reefs in December, but its evolution is something divers will be able to track, with different marine life visible every time they enter the water.
Already, however, the nine structures of Wonder Reef have attracted dozens of marine species, including Queensland grouper, goldspotted rockcod, crayfish, octopuses, and even clown fish (more popularly known as “Nemo”).
The Wonder Reef creators envisage turtles, dolphins and larger predators calling the area home in the future. These hanging gardens will also host soft, branching and plate corals, which will provide food and shelter for yet more fish species.
These are regenerative structures, designed to withstand cyclonic waves up to 18.5 metres high, as well as aiding in marine ecosystem research.
The experience for certified scuba-divers here is already exceptional, and will continue to improve as the reef system develops and more marine life is attracted. Wonder Reef is designed for divers of all levels, with features at eight metres (at the top of the structure), 18 metres (at its base), and 30 metres (where the structures are anchored to the ocean floor).
This is a vertical drop dive with something new to look at every metre, including plenty of swim-throughs to explore, and even an underwater landing platform from which to grab a photo and preserve the memory of an amazing experience.
Best of all, Wonder Reef is easily accessible, as it’s about 2.5 kilometres off Main Beach, which itself is just off the Gold Coast Highway. You could go for a dive here in the morning and be checking out any of the Gold Coast’s myriad attractions in the afternoon.
Wonder Reef is the latest addition to the Gold Coast Dive Trail, a series of what is now 11 world-class dive sites to explore in the area. These sites include the Scottish Prince wreck, a vessel replete with whisky bottles still on board, just minutes by boat from Wonder Reef; the wreck of the Aquarian, a fishing trawler that’s regularly surrounded by schools of guitarfish; and natural reefs including Kirra, with its soft corals, cuttlefish and Moray eels, and Nine Mile, with plenty of grey nurse sharks to check out.
As you may have gathered, these incredible experiences are for certified divers only – although there’s good news on that front. The Gold Coast has several dive centres that run certification courses, which means you can combine your holiday with developing a new skill. You’ll not only get to experience Wonder Reef and the rest of the Gold Coast Dive Trail, but also the almost infinite number of dive sites around the world.
That’s certainly a win-win.
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Absolutely amazing, I want to get my diving certificate now