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Finding Nemo – Great Barrier Reef

Nemo is famous. Thanks to the world of animated movies, this brave little fish has been beamed into homes globally, and few people would fail to recognise his distinctive orange body and white stripes.

However, did you know that Clownfish are just one of several Anemonefish you may see on a visit to Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef? 12 species of Anemonefish inhabit Australian waters. All can easily be seen snorkelling or diving. On Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef you can find Nemo and his friends.

All Anemonefish share one common trait, they live in sea anemones. Sea anemones require sunlight for photosynthesis and for this reason, they are generally found in clear, shallow waters. These soft bodied organisms have stinging cells in their tentacles, which the Anemonefish protect themselves from with a mucus body covering.

Sea anemones vary in size, as does the population of Anemonefish that may inhabit them, growing anywhere from one pair to several fish. All Anemonefish communities are dominated by a large female, who shares her home with smaller males.

Interestingly, Anemonefish are one of the few fish species that hatches as a male, but can turn itself into a female if circumstances require. This is known as Protandrous Hermaphroditism. If the female in the colony dies, then the dominant male becomes the female. In turn, a smaller male will become the dominant male of the sea anemone home.

Anemonefish eggs are laid in or near the anemone, and tended by the adults. Juvenile Anemonefish are adorable and move very fast! In fact, just one day after hatching, these cute little critters can move 9.5 body lengths per second – making them faster than most Olympic swimmers! If you are lucky enough to see one, you will be mesmerised by its beauty and speed.

We have spent many days and dives exploring Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef and the northern Ribbon Reefs. In our travels we frequently come across five different types of Anemonefish: Clown, Pink, Clark’s, Black and Spine-cheek Anemonefish.

With their distinctive and unique colouring, each of these Anemonefish is delightful to watch as they dart in and out of their sea anemone homes.

Clown Anemonefish

Clown Anemonefish

Pink Anemonefish

Pink Anemonefish

Clark’s Anemonefish

Clark’s Anemonefish

Black Anemonefish

Black Anemonefish

Spine-cheek Anemonefish

Spine-cheek Anemonefish

One More

One More

Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) are definitely the most recognisable, thanks to Nemo. These little orange fish have three white vertical bands, bordered in black, and grow to around 11cm (4.3 inches). Strangely, these are the Anemonefish you are least likely to see when visiting Cairns’ Great Barrier Reef, we’re not sure if it’s due to their popularity with aquarium owners, or just general distribution.

Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion) are the ones we see most frequently, often living in the most magnificent sea anemone homes. Growing up to 10cm long, Pink Anemonefish have a light pink/orange body, with a white stripe running down their back and either side of their face and white tail.

Clark’s Anemonefish (also known as the Great Barrier Reef Anemonefish) is another one we see quite a lot off Cairns. Its colouring is similar to the Clown Anemonefish, having an orange body, but with only two vertical white stripes bordered in black and a white tail. Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii) grow to around 12cm long.

Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus) have a large white, vertical stripe separating their orange head from their black body. Fins are generally light orange and the white stripe appears luminous against the black body. Apparently some examples of this species can lack the white stripe altogether, although we have never seen this ourselves.

Spine-cheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus) are perhaps the most interesting to look at, with their ‘fluffy’ fins coming out of their faces, belly, back and tail. Body colour varies from dull to dark red and it’s considered one of the most aggressive of the Anemonefish species. Spine-cheek Anemonefish also have thin white vertical stripes running down their bodies.

The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 1,600 fish species and we see something new on each and every visit.


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Selected Tours

Sunlover Cruises

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Outer Reef Pontoon at Moore Reef, with lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat and semi-sub tours, underwater observatory and more.
Lady enjoying the water-slide at Moore Reef.

Silverswift Dive & Snorkel

Only Cairns Great Barrier Reef day tour to visit 3 different reef sites in one day! Part of the Quicksilver Cruises fleet. Comfortable, high speed catamaran. Up to 5 hours at the reef.
Silverswift At The Reef

Quicksilver Outer Great Barrier Reef Cruises

The Ultimate Great Barrier Reef Cruise - Quicksilver Cruises provides the only Port Douglas Great Barrier Reef pontoon tour, departing Marina Mirage daily. Can snorkel and dive, Semi-Submarines & Underwater Observatory.

Sunlover Arlington Reef Half Day Tour

Great day tour for people of all ages. Visit Arlington Reef Pontoon see the Outer Great Barrier Reef in half a day. Includes Snorkeling, Underwater Observitory and BBQ Lunch.

Fitzroy Island Ferries

Fitzroy Island Resort Ferries have convenient departure and return times from Cairns to Fitzroy Island, making this great for a full day tour of the Island. Depart Cairns 8:00am, 11:00am and 1:30pm.

Great Adventures: Green Island – Full Day

Great Adventures offer two departure (8.30am - 10.30am) and return times (2.30pm - 4.30pm) for their full day tours. Flexible option, suitable for families.

Frankland Islands

This dive and snorkel reef day tour departs from Deeral, which is 40-minutes south of Cairns, and visits the Frankland Islands group which is surrounded by fringing reefs.
The Frankland Islands Group of Islands.

Deep Sea Divers Den: Sea Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included.

Down Under Dive: Evolution

Well priced Great Barrier Reef day tour, including BBQ lunch. 5 hours on the reef at 2 reef sites. Free guided snorkelling tours, introductory and certified diving. Brand new boat (December 2015).
Down Under Dive Evolution

Passions Of Paradise

Australian Tourism Award Winner. Daily dive / snorkel trips to Paradise Reef on 25m brand new sailing catamaran. Free scuba demonstration & guided snorkel tour. Hot / cold buffet lunch.
The Passions of Paradise boat Cairns Australia

Deep Sea Divers Den: Reef Quest

Value for money Great Barrier Reef day tour. Visits 2 reef sites. Perfect for snorkellers, certified divers and those wanting to try an introductory dive. Buffet lunch included. New boat (Dec 2015).

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Cruises

Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel offers a great value for money option for people to join a large stable boat that spends 5 hours at a beautiful reef location. Free guided snorkel tour, glass bottom boat tour and marine presentation.
Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Boat at the Great Barrier Reef.

Ocean Free Sailing Reef Cruise

Unique Cairns to Green Island sailing day tour. Max number of guests = 35. Snorkelling & diving plus time on Green Island. Buffet lunch + morning and afternoon tea included. Friendly crew.
Scuba diving Green Island

Seastar Cruises

Seastar provides daily dive and snorkel tours to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef. Up to 5 hours at the reef and 2 guided snorkel tours included.

Reef Experience

Cairns' only fully inclusive day tour, including: city transfers, trip to Great Barrier Reef, 6 hours on reef, 2 reef locations, meals, free scuba dive, marine biologist presentation & equipment.
Fully inclusive Great Barrier Reef day tours with Reef Experience

Tusa Dive T6

Tusa Dive provide quality Great Barrier Reef snorkel / dive day tours on one of Cairns' newest reef day boats, T6. Up to 5 hours on the reef, visiting 2 locations. Great service - all meals included.
Tusa at the Reef

Ocean Freedom

Locally owned & operated. 5 star service. Up to 6 hours snorkel / dive time at 2 Great Barrier Reef locations. Best reef tour lunch in town. Friendly crew, glass bottom boat tour & much more.
Ocean Freedom the quickest Great Barrier Reef day tour dive in Cairns

Ocean Spirit Cruises – Michaelmas Cay

Ocean Spirit Cruises provide a luxury sailing catamaran to Michaelmas Cay. This trip is suited to swimmers, snorkelers and families. Often Sea Turtles are seen from the beach. All meals included.

M.V. Reef Kist – Cairns Dive Centre (Island Diver)

Great value one of Cairns cheapest day boats to the Great Barrier Reef. Full day snorkeling visiting 2 x Reef Locations. Includes lunch and all snorkel gear.
Cairns Dive Centre

Poseidon Snorkel and Dive

Poseidon provides daily tours from Port Douglas to the Agincourt Ribbon Reefs, visiting three (3) separate reef sites. Suitable for divers and snorkelers.

Aqua Quest Dive Port Douglas

Aqua Quest provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting Agincourt Reef, St Crispin Reef, and Opal Reef. Nitrox available on board.

Reef Magic – Marine World

Up to 5 hours at the reef. Outer Great Barrier Reef pontoon with fabulous coral gardens. Meet Wally! Lots of inclusions: snorkelling, glass bottom boat, semi-sub, underwater observatory and more.
Reef Magic Outer Reef Scuba Diving

Great Adventures: Outer Reef

Leaves later than most (10am) and provides up to 3 hours at their outer reef pontoon. Enjoy the sun deck, underwater observatory, semi-submersible and many optional extras.
Great Adventures

Silversonic – Port Douglas

Silversonic provides daily reef tours departing from Port Douglas and visiting the ribbon reefs at Agincourt Reef. 5 hours at reef and up to 3 dives.

Great Adventures: Green Island & Great Barrier Reef

This is the only Cairns day tour to combine time on Green Island with a visit to a Great Barrier Reef pontoon. Best of both worlds. Suitable for snorkellers and divers.
Great Adventures Green Island & Reef Package

Do you need help choosing?

Can't decide? We have personally been on every Cairns reef and diving trip. We can help you choose the best tour, to suit your experience and budget.

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