8 Adventures at the Great Barrier Reef

8 Adventures at the Great Barrier Reef

Jun 4, 2015|Where we travel| by Julia Holbrook-Rasmussen

Of all the natural wonders of Australia, only one can be seen from space. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Great Barrier Reef stretches 2,300 kilometers along the coast of Queensland, curving around the northeast corner of the island-continent. Like many of the species calling Australia home, a reef of this magnitude cannot be found anywhere else in the world. With its scenic beaches, favorable climate, and vast array of wildlife, the reef and its neighboring coastline is a bucket-list destination.

Like an underwater rainforest, the reef is no stranger to biodiversity. The reef supports:

  • 1,625 species of fish, including 1400 coral reef species
  • More than 3000 species of molluscs (shells)
  • 630 species of echinoderm (starfish, sea urchins)
  • 14 breeding species of sea snakes
  • 215 species of birds including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds
  • Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle
  • 30 species of whales and dolphins
  • One of the world’s most important dugong populations
  • 133 species of sharks and rays
  • ….and much more!

With an area the size of Italy, the reef offers thousands of opportunities for discovery and adventure. From resort to tent, yacht to sailboat, the Great Barrier Reef has something for everyone:

1. Snorkeling Magnetic Island
Located just off the coast from Townsville, Queensland, this quaint island is known for breathtaking views at horseshoe bay. With a mask and flippers, witness a sub-surface paradise of exotic fish and vegetation.

2. Seaplane over Heart Reef
Witness the most romantic of coral formations from above in the famous Whitsundays islands. Pristine white sand beaches and crystal clear waters make up the spectacular views from the plane.

3. Speedboat from Port Douglas
Private snorkeling and diving tours are given on 500-horsepower boats leaving from the marina daily.

Photo courtesy of Tourism Queenslan

4. Glass-bottom boat tour Michaelmas Cay
Impressive catamarans leave from Cairns, allowing visitors to behold the wonders of the reef from the comfort of the vessel.

5. Skydive the Whitsundays
A unique way to experience the reef, see it from staggering heights and enjoy the free-fall as experienced tandem instructors manage the parachute

6. Witness Hatching Turtles at Heron Island
From November through March, Heron Island’s beaches are home to hundreds of sea turtle nests yielding hatchling turtles scrambling to the sea. This majestic experience is certainly not one to be missed.

7. Get up Close and Personal with Stingrays at Daydream Island
Visitors can wade into the man-made Living Reef and hand-feed the debarbed stingrays. Experienced marine biologists explain the life cycle of these amazing creatures as well as demonstrate how to handle starfish and sea cucumbers.

8. Whale Watching in Cairns Bay
May through September is the prime season to witness these spectacular creatures in their natural habitat. Dwarf Mike and Humpback whales as well as Bottlenose dolphins are commonly spotted in these waters.

No matter the traveler, the “Land Down Undah” and the Great Barrier Reef are guaranteed to amaze, excite, and bewilder.