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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef
Stretching along the East Coast of Australia for more than 2,000km’s, beginning at the tip of the Cape York Peninsula all the way down to Bundaberg in the south, this internationally acclaimed World Heritage Park encompasses approximately 348,000 square kilometres. The world’s largest living organism, a place of natural beauty and visible from outer space.
The coral reefs are the result of thousands of years of growth by tiny coral animals called Polyps. Mostly living together in colonies, the Polyps secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton which makes up the base of the reef. A single cell algae that lives in the tissues of the Polyps, and 6000-8000 years of growth have created the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reef, recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1981, is the largest site in the world.
Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling & Scuba Diving
Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island are both well-known diving and snorkelling areas on the reef, but, where is the best place to experience the Great Barrier Reef?
Queensland.com list the places they believe to be the best-snorkelling sites in Queensland. The best place to see the reef is entirely dependant on how much time is available and how you will get there. Driving along the full length of the Queensland coast on our national highway 1 with plenty of time will enable you to experience the reef from many of the towns along the way.
Further north, Lizard Island is 27km off the coast (and 100km from Cooktown), this 1000-hectare national park has 24 stunning sandy white beaches, crystal clear water and unbelievable coral surrounding the island. Snorkelling is superb and easy by simply wading out from the beach.
Mission Beach, south of Cairns, is a great location, miles of sandy beaches. Popular for many years with travellers and with easy access to the Tully River area for rafting adventures too.
The islands of the Whitsundays are famously featured on glossy brochures – almost unbelievable turquoise waters, coral, pristine beaches and bushwalking.
Hook Island is a great base with, arguably, some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Whitsundays or stay on the mainland at (or near) Airlie Beach and visit different islands on day trips.
The town also boasts some great kayaking adventures, Segway tours, indigenous tours and an awesome bit of fun by joining a ‘biker gang’ to see the historical town and ride your own mini ‘Harley’ style chopper!
Great Barrier Reef Tours
Holidays to the Barrier Reef are easy to arrange with a large choice of cruises for snorkelling and reef diving trips available.
Cairns is the best-known city in Far North Queensland. With an international airport and access to the Daintree Rainforest as well as the Reef and Atherton Tablelands, it is an ideal starting point for a journey.
A number of adrenaline pumping activities can be experienced here:
- Bungy Jumping and the Minjin Swing top the list of adventures to make anyone’s pulse run wild.
- “Seeking high-octane adventure during your trip to Cairns? Blast some 30 feet (10 meters) in the air while flyboarding at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef”.
- Whitewater rafting for a day on the famous Tully River has been operating for decades and is fabulous – warm tropical waters combined with rapids and rainforest!
Snorkelling and Dive Trips
The choice of boat trips to dive or snorkel the Barrier Reef is extensive. Depending on what visitors require, some trips are all day and extended overnight trips are available too. Find a full list of available tours here.
Find the best deals on accommodation in Cairns.
A popular destination this island paradise is just 4 km square and only a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns. The island has so much to offer:
- Sheltered waters
- Golden Beaches
- Walks with stunning views and a historic lighthouse
- Swim or snorkel straight from the beach
Get the Best Price on Accommodation on Fitzroy Island
From Port Douglas
Port Douglas is 70 km /40 miles north of Cairns and about 1.5 hours drive from the famous Daintree region. It is full of resorts and offers great boat trips to the reef and local tours.
Find the best prices on accommodation in Port Douglas
More than 1500 species of reef fish can be found, 360 species of hard coral, 500 species of seaweed and 23 species of marine mammals.
It is little wonder that Australia is one of the most popular destinations for diving and snorkelling in the world. Visitors do not need to be able to dive to experience the spectacular colours on the reef, snorkelling is an excellent way to see it as well as glass bottom boat tours.
Who eats what out on the reef? The ecosystem along the reef is a delicate balance of multiple levels of fish and organisms that are co-dependent on each other for survival. From the Reef Shark, all the way down to the tiniest microscopic organisms called Phytoplankton. A simple diagram of the food web can be found here.
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