Unique Things to See and Do at The Great Barrier Reef
- Snorkel at Magnetic Island
- Seaplane over Heart Island
- View the turtles at Townsville’s Reef HQ Aquarium
- Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef
- Sleep over night on a luxury catamaran
- Learn about stingrays at Daydream Island
The Diversity is Astounding!
Planning a trip the reef is an excellent idea, but where do you start? The reef is over 2300km long and includes much more than just coral reefs. Although it’s the coral that made it famous, other marine habitats include breeding grounds for migratory birds and green sea turtles. In the shallow areas you have mangroves, seagrass, sponge gardens and sandy beach lines to explore.
The diversity in species is truly astonishing. Here is a quick snapshot: 30 species of whales and dolphins, 133 species of sharks and rays, 630 species of starfish and sea urchins, 215 species of birds and 14 breeding species of sea snakes. And they have dugongs! Dugongs have been nicknamed “sea cows” of the ocean for their voracious seagrass grazing ability and they are more closely related to elephants than any other marine mammal.
Zones and Activities at the Great Barrier Reef
There are many places along the coast that offer different types of activities. The whole reef is considered a multi-use marine park and has been segmented into different zones. Popular areas are Cairns, Hinchinbrook, Shoalwater Bay and Whitsundays. There are thousands of areas you can venture into, but keep in mind that there are some areas you cannot. For example, Raine Island is one of the most heavily protected islands in the world and you need a special permit to even approach it. This island is a breeding ground for many species including green sea turtles and the red footed booby.
At the north end visit the popular tropical paradise of Thursday Island where you can learn about the Torres Strait Islanders – one of the oldest living societies. Farther down the coast, closer to Cairns, there is the popular destination of Magnetic Island, famous for angling for blue marlin, wahoo, and mahi-mahi tuna. Plus this is a great spot to view Koalas.
For those really eager to scuba dive as much as possible, consider going on a live-aboard boat. You can get in as many as 4 dives in a day, including night dives and access to some really remote areas. They are a little bit pricier than day excursions, but what you will see and experience will blow the other trips out of the water!
Did you know…?
The Great Barrier Reef is over 2300km long!
Did you ALSO know…?
The Great Barrier Reef is a collection of marine life that consists of over 3000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and approximately 150 inshore mangrove islands.
Getting to The Great Barrier Reef
There is no direct way to get to the reef. If you are travelling from other parts of the world, flying into Brisbane then Cairns is the easiest, or fly to Sydney or Melbourne and then connect to Hamilton Island or Prosperine (Whitsunday Coast). From there you can catch seaplanes or water taxis to your island destination. Several resorts will offer tailor made packages that can include helicopter tours, day tours, diving charters, whale watching tours and more.
Most of the information found in this article was gathered from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website
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