The Great Barrier Reef is a site of remarkable variety and beauty on the north-east coast of Australia. It contains the world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. It also holds great scientific interest as the habitat of species such as the dugong (‘sea cow’) and the large green turtle, which are threatened with extinction.
- As the world’s most extensive coral reef ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef is a globally outstanding and significant entity. Practically the entire ecosystem was inscribed as World Heritage in 1981, covering an area of 348,000 square kilometres and extending across a contiguous latitudinal range of 14o (10oS to 24oS). The Great Barrier Reef (hereafter referred to as GBR) includes extensive cross-shelf diversity, stretching from the low water mark along the mainland coast up to 250 kilometres offshore. This wide depth range includes vast shallow inshore areas, mid-shelf and outer reefs, and beyond the continental shelf to oceanic waters over 2,000 metres deep.
- Within the GBR there are some 2,500 individual reefs of varying sizes and shapes, and over 900 islands, ranging from small sandy cays and larger vegetated cays, to large rugged continental islands rising, in one instance, over 1,100 metres above sea level. Collectively these landscapes and seascapes provide some of the most spectacular maritime scenery in the world.
- The latitudinal and cross-shelf diversity, combined with diversity through the depths of the water column, encompasses a globally unique array of ecological communities, habitats and species. This diversity of species and habitats, and their interconnectivity, make the GBR one of the richest and most complex natural ecosystems on earth. There are over 1,500 species of fish, about 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusk, and some 240 species of birds, plus a great diversity of sponges, anemones, marine worms, crustaceans, and other species. No other World Heritage property contains such biodiversity. This diversity, especially the endemic species, means the GBR is of enormous scientific and intrinsic importance, and it also contains a significant number of threatened species. Attime of inscription, the IUCN evaluation stated "… if only one coral reef site in the world were to be chosen for the World Heritage List, the Great Barrier Reef is the site to be chosen".
How To Get There:
- International flights fly directly into Cairns Airport, while domestic flights fly onto Hamilton Island or into Proserpine (on the Whitsunday Coast) or Townsville airports on the mainland. The gateway town for many island resorts in the Whitsundays is Airlie Beach, a 25 minute shuttle bus from Proserpine Airport.
Top Things To Do On The Great Barrier Reef:
- Cruise Michaelmas Cay: Visit the Great Barrier Reef in style on board Ocean Spirit, a 32 metre (105 foot), high-performance catamaran. It sails daily from Cairns to Michaelmas Cay. You can dive and snorkel the reef among the turtles and colourful fish, lie on the deck and soak up the sun or enjoy a glass-bottomed boat tour. Michaelmas Cay is also home to more than 23 species of seabird and is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Seaplane Over Heart Reef: Create the perfect romantic surprise for a loved one by flying over the world-famous natural wonder, Heart Reef. This scenic flight is just one of the tours offered by Air Whitsunday and GSL Aviation, with the white silica sand of Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island also on the menu.
- Cruise The Agincourt Reef: Quicksilver Cruises will take you on a journey to the renowned Agincourt Reef, a jewel-like ribbon reef on the very edge of the Great Barrier Reef. From the spacious activity platform you can snorkel, dive and helmet walk in an underwater world filled with a kaleidoscope of colour and brilliance.
- Sail The Whitsundays: It's hard to beat the romance of sailing through the Whitsunday Islands. Think spectacular sunsets, clear moonlit nights, secluded beaches and pure air. You can sail, swim, snorkel and dive at sheltered anchorages such as Blue Pearl, Butterfly and Hook Island bays. Visit Whitsunday Island and walk the pure white, silica sands of Whitehaven Beach. Visit Sailing Whitsundays for more information.
- Trek The Thorsborne Trail: Along the eastern coast of Hinchinbrook Island, an untouched tropical paradise on the coast between Townsville and Cairns, is the four-day, 32 kilometre (20 mile) Thorsborne Trail traversing cloud-cloaked mountains, jungle-like rainforest and pristine beaches. See a panorama of wildlife, from butterflies and birds to crocodiles, turtles, dugongs and dolphins. Book a permit in advance – especially to stay in one of the seven camping areas accessed from the trail – then reach the island on a ferry or water taxi from the mainland towns of Cardwell or Lucinda.
- Spot Koalas On Magnetic Island : Just a 20 minute ferry ride off the coast from Townsville, Magnetic Island offers a relaxed tropical lifestyle, 23 secluded beaches, unspoilt nature, abundant wildlife and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. The island's big drawcard is its koala population, living peacefully in the wild throughout the island, up in the treetops both in park areas and more inhabited parts of the island. Take the Forts Walk to reach the best places to see them and enjoy the 360-degree views too.
- Get Up Close To Stingrays On Daydream Island: Wade into the man-made Living Reef on Daydream Island and hand-feed the friendly baby stingrays. Experienced marine biologists will explain the life cycle of these amazing creatures, as well as show you local coral and how to handle starfish and sea cucumbers. Daydream’s 2650-square-metre (28,500-square-feet) Living Reef is home to more than 140 species of marine fish and 83 species of coral.
- Witness Turtle Hatchings At Heron Island : Snorkel right off the beach or scuba dive 20 sites just minutes away by boat from Heron Island. It takes only 20 minutes to walk around Heron, and you can enjoy both sunrises and sunsets over the water. Turtles lay eggs and hatch here between November and March and both events are quite life-changing to behold, especially considering their ecological importance.
- Relax In Airlie Beach: The coastal village of Airlie Beach is a vibrant town filled with palm-fringed beaches, waterfront parks and alfresco dining restaurants. You are sure to instantly warm to its bohemian charm and carefree ambience. Queensland's warm, tropical climate means winters at Airlie Beach are very mild and you can enjoy water activities all year round.
- Skydive Above The Whitsunday Islands : You’ll take home bragging rights and lifelong memories when you see the Great Barrier Reef from this mind-blowing perspective. Skydive into one of the most picturesque drop zones in the world and experience the greatest reef thrill there is. The experienced tandem instructors will handle the parachute, so all you have to do is enjoy the incredible view.
- Sleep On The Reef : Pro Dive Cairns’ three-day liveaboard dive and snorkelling cruise is ideal for adventure seekers. The custom-designed dive vessels take guests to a choice of 16 exclusive dive sites and offer a vast array of marine environments for divers and snorkellers to explore. You can also take part in two-night dives, offering a unique chance to see marine life that you would never see during the day.
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Area: 347,800 km²
- Date of Inscription: 1981
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|Address||Great Barrier Reef, QLD, Australia, Great Barrier Reef, , Australia|