Aussie icons: the Great Barrier Reef
The largest coral reef system in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 2,300km off the coast of Queensland, in Australia. It’s also the biggest living organism on the planet, constructed from billions of individual coral polyps, tiny creatures related to sea anemones and jellyfish and it is so big that it can be seen from space.
“An ecosystem like no other.” David Attenborough
The polyps have no natural colour; they are actually translucent, and the vibrant hues you’ll see underwater come from the algae which live symbiotically inside each polyp, supplying the coral with oxygen in return for carbon dioxide. The algae need sunlight for photosynthesis, which is why coral reefs are found in shallow water. The Great Barrier Reef is made up of 3,000 reefs and some 900 islands, and is an important marine ecosystem, providing a home, and a hunting ground, for a dazzling variety of sea creatures, including many endangered species. Whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks, octopuses and six species of sea turtle live here, along with more than 1,500 species of fish, including the charismatic clown fish, parrot fish and tropical fish-tank favourite, the angelfish.
““Truly one of the most extraordinary places on the planet.” David Attenborough”
The Great Barrier Reef is a truly spectacular sight, both from the air, where you can really appreciate the sheer scale and beauty of this turquoise patchwork set in the Coral Sea, and close up; a trip across the reefs in a glass-bottomed boat is the ideal way of seeing this remarkable wonder of nature, and its colourful residents, without getting your feet wet, or if you want to a more intimate encounter, don a pair of flippers and a snorkel and take a dip in the warm, clear water.
““One of the greatest treasures of the natural world.” David Attenborough”
You can explore the Great Barrier Reef for yourself on a wonderful selection of tours, including our 22-day 'The Best of Australia' itinerary, which includes four nights in Queensland’s tropical Palm Cove and an exhilarating catamaran ride to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. ‘Highlights of Australia’ and ‘Grand Antipodean Odyssey’ will also take you to the Reef, with plenty of time to enjoy this unique environment.
Find out more about our escorted tours to Australia.
Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.
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