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15 interesting facts about The Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Truly a firm spot holder on any travellers bucket list, The Great Barrier Reef has seriously so much more to offer than meets the eye. If the vibrant reef scenes of Finding Nemo got you good, trust us when we say seeing it in real life is enough to bring a tear to even the driest eye – even if it is under a snorkel mask. So, scroll on dear globetrotter, and dive into these 15 fun and interesting facts about The Great Barrier Reef.

1. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure

Who would’ve known that Nemo’s home is the world’s largest coral reef system? And by a long way, too! It stretches over 2,300 kilometres (1,430 miles) along the northeast coast of Australia. In fact, the reef is so huge it’s bigger than Tasmania and Victoria, two whole Aussie States, combined. While you’ll find a third of the world’s coral here, you’ll also find some of Australia’s most diverse and even ancient wildlife.

2. The Great Barrier Reef is the only place on earth where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet

One of the most interesting facts about The Great Barrier Reef is that it wraps around the stunning Wet Tropics, known as the oldest rainforest on the planet. These places are like havens for rare critters and ancient plants that make the whole area feel downright magical. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site brings attention to the cultural significance of the reef to the Indigenous Australian communities, who have a deep spiritual and ancestral connection to this extraordinary natural wonder.

Their traditional knowledge and practices contribute to the understanding and preservation of the reef’s ecological balance. The Great Barrier Reef has outstanding universal value as an ecosystem of unparalleled ecological significance – and the UNESCO World Heritage Site title only solidifies this.

3. The Great Barrier Reef is home to the most diverse marine life on the planet

Australia’s epic Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate hotspot for an insane variety of ocean dwellers. We’re talking over 1,500 different fish species, a whopping 411 types of hard corals, and more invertebrates and marine mammals than you can shake a snorkel at. From colourful clownfish to majestic sea turtles, this place is a bustling metropolis for underwater critters. And let’s not forget about the stunning coral gardens – they’re like an underwater cityscape bustling with activity.

The Great Barrier Reef isn’t just a hotspot; it’s a whole ecosystem supporting an intricate web of life. It’s like a vibrant, bustling neighbourhood where everyone’s got their role to play in keeping things in balance. This reef is not just a tourist attraction; it’s a living, breathing marvel of nature you’ve got to see to believe.

4. The Great Barrier Reef is without a doubt the best snorkelling in the world

Renowned as the ultimate snorkelling paradise, it’s no surprise that the largest coral reef system in the world offers an unrivalled underwater spectacle. With crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral gardens teeming with diverse marine life, it’s a snorkeler’s dream playground. Glide alongside majestic sea turtles, spot colourful fish darting through the coral maze, and witness the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage Site from a whole new perspective.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned snorkeler, the Great Barrier Reef promises an unforgettable aquatic adventure that will leave you breathless—both figuratively and literally.

friends scuba diving in the great barrier reef, australia

Image source:Contiki

5. The Reef is a breeding ground for endangered sea turtles

The Great Barrier Reef isn’t just a scenic spot – it’s a lifeline for endangered sea turtles. This natural wonder of the world is like a VIP maternity ward for these cool creatures. Several species of marine turtles like green turtles, loggerheads, and more, actually depend on this sprawling reef as their go-to spot for some serious nesting and raising families. Turtles have come to lay their eggs here for millions of years.

6. The Great Barrier Reef is visible from outer space!

Believe it or not, the sheer size and vibrant marine life of the Great Barrier Reef creates a spectacle so grand that astronauts orbiting our planet can spot it from outer space. But it’s not just its immense size that catches the eye from space; it’s the riot of colours and the bustling underwater world within it. You can see on pics from space that the whole coast has a glow that can be seen lightyears away.

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7. The Great Barrier Reef doubles as a bustling highway for whales during their incredible migration

Every year, the Great Barrier Reef becomes a spectacular thoroughfare for humpback whales on their epic migratory journey. These graceful giants travel through the pristine waters, blessing this UNESCO World Heritage Site with their majestic presence. Observing this annual journey feels like having front-row seats to a live masterpiece, with humpback and minke whales navigating this breath-taking expanse of ocean. It’s an awe-inspiring spectacle, showcasing the natural marvels within this mesmerizing marine landscape.

Great Barrier Reef in Australia

Image source:Contiki

8. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat

The Great Barrier Reef is up against a slew of challenges, and it’s a tough fight out there. Climate change takes centre stage as the main threat, with rising sea temps and pollution putting the coral at high risk of bleaching and, sadly, dying off. But it’s not just Mother Nature – tourism also plays a part. Some visitors accidentally harm the reef by touching and leaving trash, while the chemicals from sunscreen and other pollutants mess with the waters, adding to the reef’s woes.

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9. But, there is hope for it’s return!

Keeping the Great Barrier Reef safe is a big deal for the Aussie Government and nature buffs. And there is good news! Steps are in motion to safeguard this natural wonder of the world. They’re cutting sediment runoff and using high-tech labs to grow sturdy corals away from the reef. Once they’re good to go, these corals get planted back in the wild, boosting the reef’s resilience.

Luckily, tourism isn’t just trouble for the reef — it’s part of the fix too. With over 2 million people visiting each year, the Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s ultimate hotspot, bringing in a cool $5-6 billion annually. And guess what? That cash flow fuels reef protection efforts big time. More love for the reef means more folks determined to keep it kickin’.

10. The winter months are actually the best time to visit the Reef

Thinking of hitting the reef in summer? Watch out for a couple of downsides: scorching temps and those pesky (and super dangerous) jellyfish. From November to May, stinger season’s in full swing, so you might end up having to stick to enclosed swim zones. But here’s the hack: winter’s cooler without the jellyfish hassle. You’ll enjoy comfy temps both in the air and water — no danger on the horizon.

11. There are 900 islands surrounding the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef boasts a huge collection of islands, around 900 to be exact. Among them, Green Island stands out as a real gem. Just a 45-minute jaunt off Cairns, it’s a hotspot for reef explorers. This island’s history spans 6,000 years, hosting a thriving ecosystem of native plants and animals—a dream for nature enthusiasts. But here’s the kicker: it’s the lone coral cay with a flourishing rainforest perched atop it. That unique feature makes it a haven for marine and land flora and fauna, blending diverse habitats in one stunning spot.

12. There are 17 species of sea snakes, and more than 1500 species of fish that call the Great Barrier Reef home

Dive deep into the mesmerizing realm of the Great Barrier Reef, a jaw-dropping underwater wonderland boasting a kaleidoscope of life forms. Picture this: 17 different species of sleek sea snakes, gracefully slithering through the vibrant coral gardens, showcasing their unique patterns and quirks in their aquatic playground.

Hold onto your snorkel because that’s not all! Brace yourself for an underwater fiesta featuring more than 1,500 species of fish. From the funky colours of the clownfish to the grandeur of the humphead wrasse, the reef’s got it all.

13. Corals create their very own sunscreen

Even Nature in Australia has ingenious solutions to combat the harsh rays of the sun. Enter the fascinating world of coral sunscreen — a dazzling display of nature’s brilliance.

As the sun beams down into the crystal-clear waters, corals unleash their unique defence mechanism. Emitting a mesmerizing fluorescent glow, these remarkable creatures produce their version of sunscreen. This radiant shield serves as a protective layer, shielding the delicate polyps from excessive sunlight, much like a natural form of SPF. This ingenious adaptation not only ensures their survival but also adds to the mesmerizing beauty of the underwater world, so it just had to make it on our list of the most interesting facts about The Great Barrier Reef.

14. Keep your eyes peeled for these masters of camouflage

Octopuses, the underwater chameleons of the reef, are like the Houdinis of the sea! They possess an incredible talent for morphing their colours and textures to seamlessly blend into their surroundings. These concealment experts effortlessly vanish into their environment.

Meanwhile, frogfish reign supreme as the ultimate camouflage artists of the reef. These crafty creatures are the true masters of disguise, transforming themselves into sponges, corals, or even algae-covered rocks. Patiently biding their time, they lie in wait, perfectly blending in until the opportune moment arrives to ambush their unsuspecting prey. It’s like witnessing nature’s very own undercover agents in action, showcasing their remarkable skills in the intricate game of hide-and-seek beneath the waves.

15. It’s actually a bit of a trek to get out to the Reef

In the world of coral reefs, the thriving underwater wonderlands aren’t always just a stone’s throw away from the shore. For reef-goers excited to explore, here’s a heads-up: the journey to these dive sites might be a bit of a voyage. Brace yourself, as that boat trip could clock in anywhere between a solid 45 minutes to a lengthy 2 hours before you’re diving into the action.

Pro tip: if it’s a blustery day, keep those travel sickness pills handy! Trust us, you’ll thank yourself later for the foresight. But hey, worry not about the logistics — opt for a Contiki adventure, and consider it all sorted. With Contiki, you’ll sail smoothly into your reef adventure without the hassle. It’s all about making the most of your underwater escapade, struggle-free!

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Keen to explore?

Like the sound of exploring some of the best diving locations in the world? Go for the Dive to Adventure trip to scuba dive the Heritage-Listed reef. You’ll reside on a Dive Boat right on the reef for 3 days and fill said days with 11 dive opportunities, including a guided night dive for those feeling brave. Throw in included food, all equipment supplied, and veteran dive instructors to keep an eye on you and you’re all sorted!

Love the sound of exploring but not super red hot about diving deep? Enter the Snorkel to Adventure trip. Same top-tier vibes, same 3 days spent on the reef, except you’re snorkelling the shallower reefs rather than diving deep into the blue. The sites you’ll visit have been selected for their quality of coral, marine life, and great visibility.

Always had that urge to plunge into the depths? Well, why not turn that desire into reality at the stunning wonders of the Great Barrier Reef with our Learn to Dive Trip? Picture this: a chance to embark on the PADI ‘Open Water’ dive course and score your diving license combined with an immersive journey where you’ll not only learn the art of diving but also explore the mysteries of the ocean’s realm. You’ll stay for 2 nights in a Hostel and then 2 nights in Dive Boat right on the reef – talk about the best of both worlds. This isn’t your typical training session. With expert instructors guiding your every move, you’ll delve into the intricate world of underwater marvels. From unravelling the secrets of coral reefs to experiencing the sheer magic of the ocean’s depths, this course is a ticket to unlocking a whole new dimension of adventure.

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