At almost 350,000 square kilometers, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef in the world-large enough to be seen from space. Located off the coast of Queensland in Australia, the reef is made up of around 900 islands and 2900 individual reefs.
The Great Barrier Reef is facing one of its biggest threats yet, and is at risk of being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. There are many different factors that are contributing to this, including the over fishing of sharks due to the exportation of shark fins for soup in Asia, which has a detrimental effect throughout the reef. Global warming has also led to increased temperatures in the region, which has bleached large amounts of the coral. If you want to explore the Great Barrier Reef, head there soon.
The Great Barrier Reef is famous for the diversity of its many species and habitats which make it one of the most complex ecosystems in the world. In the Reef you’ll find over 400 different types of soft and hard coral, and over 1500 species of fish, as well as sharks, turtles, whales, and dolphins.
The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is in winter, from June until November. This means you won’t need to wear a stinger suit as it won’t be stinger season, and the weather will be warm without the oppressive heat and frequent rainfall of summer.
Captain James Cook was the first person to record the reefs existence, so if you’re interested in learning more about the discovery of the reef and his clashes with the Indigenous Australians, head to Cooktown where you’ll find the James Cook museum.
For an incredible view of the reef, and a great photo opportunity visit Lizard Island. Climb to the top of “Cook’s Look”, which is the highest lookout on this part of the reef. This is where Captain Cook stood after repairing his ship as he worked out a safe way to get back out of the reef.
This is the place to go if you’d like to lie on a beach made of fine white sand before swimming out into the reef and snorkeling. Keep an eye out for the many giant clams in the area, as well as the parrot fish that hang out here.
Lizard Island is a National Park so you can camp at Watsons Bay, or if you’re in the mood for some luxury stay at the Lizard Island Resort which is one of the top hotels in the world.
Along the Northern part of the reef are the Ribbon Reefs, which are simply numbered from one to ten. These reefs are in the most pristine condition as they are harder to get to and visited by far fewer tour operators. This is where you’ll find some of the best diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and visibility is also better than other places in the reef as well. To visit the Ribbon Reefs your best bet is to take a liveaboard dive trip. The Coral Princess has a great trip over four days which offers snorkeling and scuba diving throughout these reefs.