Stretching around 2,300 kilometers along the northeastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest living organism. It’s home to more than 600 types of hard and soft corals, together with a staggering array of tropical fish, mollusks, turtles and sharks.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, the Great Barrier Reef is Queensland’s most visited destination, with everything from boat excursions to scuba diving trips and helicopter tours available. But with increasing stresses on its ecosystems and organisms, responsible tourism in the region is become a pressing issue and should be a deciding factor in how you visit the Great Barrier Reef.
Certified scuba divers can join day trips to experience the Great Barrier Reef’s underwater landscapes, with tours led by experienced dive masters and instructors. In addition to the myriad of tropical fish which can be found here, there are many other fascinating marine creatures to observe. Spot rays cruising along the sandy bottoms and eels hiding within rocky outcrops, together with beautiful sea turtles which seemingly float on the currents. You might even encounter larger marine species such as reef sharks which patrol the open waters. Most of them are relatively harmless when it comes to humans, provided you don’t threaten them, and your dive guides are on hand to assist if you do encounter any dangerous predators.
For the uninitiated, you can also join a Discover Scuba day trip where you are taught the basics of scuba diving and then taken out into open water to practice your new skills. If you fall in love with the sport, you can continue training to get your Open Water certification and experience more of the Great Barrier Reef.
There are numerous spots throughout the Great Barrier Reef which offer excellent snorkeling in shallow waters and this is an ideal way for children or those who don’t feel comfortable venturing deeper to experience its marine life. Some of the best snorkeling sites are surrounding remote islands such as Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Islands which can be accessed by boat or scenic flight.
All divers and snorkelers should take extreme care not to touch any marine species or damage the coral reef systems. If you don’t feel controlled underwater, then return to the surface, rather than risk destroying this natural wonder.
If you want to stay dry and get a different perspective on the Great Barrier Reef, then jump into a helicopter for a scenic flight to see just how vast it really is. Or sail through the idyllic Whitsunday Islands which are dotted with luxury resorts where you can soak up the splendor of the region's above water landscapes.