Australia is home to many natural wonders, including the Great Barrier Reef. The reef system is made up of over 2,900 individual reefs and stretches for over 1,400 mi (2250 km). The Great Barrier Reef is so great that it can be seen from space! Whether you are planning to visit the reef or not, here are a few things about it you might want to know.
Great Barrier Reef Facts
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system and one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. It is made up of over 3000 individual reefs and is home to a wide variety of marine life. The reef is so big that it can be seen from space.
This structure was formed over millions of years as coral grew on the remains of dead organisms. The reef has changed over time as a result of natural processes and human activity.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. It is home to over 1,500 species of fish, 6,000 species of mollusks, and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins. In addition, the reef supports a wide variety of corals, sponges, and other invertebrates.
One of the reef’s many inhabitants
The Great Barrier Reef is also an important breeding ground for many marine species. Each year, thousands of turtles come to the reef to lay their eggs, and the reef is a stopover point for migrating whales. The reef is a vital part of the marine ecosystem, and its health is crucial to the health of the entire ocean.
I wonder who swims faster
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from a number of environmental challenges. These include water pollution, the effects of climate change, and the spread of invasive species. To protect the reef, a number of measures have been put in place, including the establishment of marine parks and the introduction of restrictions on fishing and tourism. However, much more needs to be done to ensure the long-term future of this vital ecosystem.
The reef is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations, with millions of people visiting each year. As a tourist, you can help the coral by minimizing your environmental footprint. Things you can do include:
- Be careful when moving around the coral and use natural sunscreen. The coral is fragile and can be damaged from human contact as well as from the chemicals that humans bring into the water.
- Use eco-friendly companies. Such companies can include eco-certified operators such as Passions of Paradise Reef Tour or eateries that serve eco-friendly local products.
- Choose an eco-friendly accommodation. The region has a large number of eco-lodges. If a lodging business is committed to sustainability, they will make sure you highlight it on any booking page. You can also find entire resorts that make an effort to preserve the ecosystem, including Lady Elliot Island (banned plastic bottles), Elysian Retreat (fully powered by solar panels), and Port Douglas (involved in regenerating a former cane plantation land).
- Engage in non-motorized marine activities.
Things to Do On the Great Barrier Reef
Swim with the dolphins
If you like snorkeling, diving, and swimming, then why not do all of these in the company of dolphins.
Snorkel in the crystal clear water
The water is so clear that you can see the reef and all the fish swimming around even if you’re just floating on the surface.
The Great Barrier Reef is a stopover point for migrating whales, and you can see them from June to November. Humpback and minke whales are the most common, but you might also spot orcas, sperm whales, and blue whales.
A humpback whale
Take a glass bottom boat tour
If you want to see the reef without getting wet, take a glass bottom boat tour. You’ll be able to see the coral and fish up close, without getting in the water. Personally, I would not go for this option.
See the turtles and coral up close
You might see a turtle or two swimming by. The best time to see them is early morning or late afternoon when they are most active.
Kayak through the mangroves
The Mangroves of the Great Barrier Reef are an ecologically important part of the world’s largest coral reef system. These unique trees and shrubs are adapted to thrive in the saline conditions of the coastal environment. Mangroves play a vital role in protecting the shoreline from erosion and provide habitat for a variety of animal and plant species. The roots of mangles help to stabilize the sediments of the sea floor and their tangled network of roots provides a home for numerous fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans. The mangroves also support a thriving community of birds, bats, and reptiles.
Visit the Museum of Underwater Art
If underwater museums are your thing, you may want to visit what is said to be the only underwater museum in the Southern Hemisphere – the Museum of Underwater Art (MOUA). This museum, located off the coast of Townsville, Queensland, is dedicated to displaying and promoting underwater art and sculpture.
Explore the surrounding areas
There are over 900 islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, each with its own unique ecosystem. You can explore rainforests, mangroves, and sandy beaches, or go birdwatching or bushwalking.
Many Great Barrier Reef trips start from Cairns, a tourist city located in the far north of Queensland. North of the city, you can trek Daintree National Park, a place known for its rainforest, beaches, and gorges.
You may want to know that there are around 70 adult crocodiles that live at the Daintree River. Crocodile spotting in the area has been a thing since the 1970s, which means they are pretty used to seeing boats on their territory. That being said, do not, do not, do not try to take a selfie with one. Also, do not try to find a crocodile without being in the company of a reputable certified tour company.
Great Barrier Reef Tours and Accommodation
While exploring the reef, you can dive, swim, visit underwater museums, take a scenic flight, and spend some time on one or more of the nearby 600 continental islands, among others.
There are many boat and cruise tours you can choose from, from single-day trips to extended stays. You can find more information and book a tour or accommodation here.
While more expensive compared to other nearby locations, the resorts located on the islands that are within the reef are the best places to stay. Perhaps an even better option is to stay on a live-aboard boat for a few days.
Nice aerial view
A Few More Things Before You Go
Many would argue that the best way to experience the reef is through underwater masks. A snorkeling or scuba diving expedition will allow you to do just that.
The weather is tropical, which, in lay terms, means warm and sunny. The average temperature is in the range of 73-91 degrees Fahrenheit during summer and 50-70 Fareinhein during winter. Most of the rainfall (75%) occurs between November and May.
Up For Some Diving?
The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble due to human activity; nevertheless, you can still visit it as a responsible tourist. If you are into marine exploration, you will most likely enjoy spending some time at the largest coral reef system in the world.