Cod Hole is the Great Barrier Reef’s most famous dive site and is named after the huge potato cods that have become rather friendly towards divers. Located at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef on Ribbon Reef #10, Cod Hole is a photographer’s dream dive site with giant cods that sit eagerly waiting to have their photo taken.
Having been hand-fed by divers for over 20 years, the cods practically line up when boats come in. Weighing up to 60 pounds and measuring up to 8 feet long, they act like puppy dogs waiting for a treat from a diver. Cleaning stations are also found throughout the site and a patient photographer can see a wide-open mouth of a potato cod.
Although famous for its cuddly cods, this dive site has lots more on offer. Many of the Great Barrier Reef’s favorite underwater creatures can also be seen here.
Anemones carpet the coral shelves, schools of bumphead parrotfish can be seen in the shallows, turtles, whitetip sharks, and maori wrasse all live among the healthy corals and large gorgonians of this site. Tall coral ridges in the shallows make for interesting topography that can make for creative use of light. Whether you like it big or small, Cod Hole has it all.
Wide-angle lenses are a must for the cods, as they are large and you can get very close. A fisheye or wide-angle lens will also be good for the large schools of fish that can be common, napoleon wrasse, sharks, and the good visibility allows for wide-angle reef shots. If you’re shooting with a compact camera, it’s best done with a wide-angle wet lens to provide more coverage.
There are plenty of macro subjects at the site as well: nudibranchs, small reef fish, and lacy scorpianfish have been reported, so if you have more than one dive at the site, much macro can be done as well.
Tips and Techniques
There are many cods of different sizes at the site and some dive operations feed the cods making a chaotic rush of fish to the divemaster with food. Once the food is gone, the fish settle a bit and it’s best to approach slowly and usually most of the large ones will let you get close enough to touch. Mouth-open shots can occur at cleaning stations and during yawns, which just requires spending a lot of time with one fish. For these shots, take extra care to place your strobes as close as possible to illuminate the inside of the mouth without lighting up too much backscatter.
Cods are not fed on some dives or by some operations, so if you are interested in feeding behavior, check ahead to see if that will happen. Non-feeding dives tend to have more calm cods with more opportunity to get close while they are still or in cleaning stations.
Planning Your Trip to Cod Hole
When: Year round.
Subjects: Potato cods, large schools of fish, maori wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, whitetip sharks, gorgonians, and nudibranchs.
Equipment: Wide angle for the potato cods and fish schools. There are opportunities for macro at the site as well.
Who to Go With: Mike Ball regularly visits the site on multi-day trips.
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