Home to about 400 types of corals and as many as 1,500 types of fish, the Great Barrier Reef generates billion of dollars from the tourist industry. By far the most popular activities are snorkeling and scuba diving, but you can also fish, explore the national parks or take a day trip to one of the islands.
Location and Geography
Great Barrier Reef is located in Coral Sea, off the east coast of Queensland, in NE Australia. It comprises about 3,000 reefs and 900 islands, stretching over an area of 344,400 sq km / 132,974 sq miles. Getting to the Great Barrier Reef usually means flying into Cairns and then going out from there, although there are a few other popular options.
In 1981, Great Barrier Reef has been selected as UNESCO World Heritage Site, while CNN labeled the barrier as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Great Barrier Reef can be seen from the space, being the world’s biggest structure made by living organisms. There are about 400 types of coral, 1,500 types of fish and 4,000 types of mollusk. It’s the habitat of important species on the brink of extinction, such as dugong (“sea cow”) and large green turtle.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
A large part of the site is protected by The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It helps to limit the impact of human use, mainly due to over fishing and tourism.
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Extending from Cape York to Bundaberg, Great Barrier Reef allows the tour operators to offer a lot of destinations for the travelers. The most biologically diverse region of the Marine Park is located from the tip of Cape York to just north of Lizard Island. The Cooktown and Ribbon Reefs Region is renowned for the Ribbon Reefs, while Cairns and Port Douglas area includes Green Island, a very popular destination for day trips.
Fishing is popular mainly in the Hinchinbrook Region and Mackay Region.
Because the water is very clear, the area is especially popular among scuba divers. Among the preferred areas we can list: Townsville Region –home to the Wheeler Reef and for the Yongala shipwreck -, Far North –the most biologically diverse area- and Mackay Region. Snorkeling is also very popular among tourists.
The archeological sites attract a lot of visitors in the Whitsundays. However, the area is also popular for the wide variety of marine life it supports, including dolphins, dugongs and humpback whale.
Capricorn Coast area is home to dugong and five species of marine turtles. Here you can also see some of the most interesting birds that permanently inhabit the area or migrate here regularly due to the diverse and abundant marine life.
Tourists can also enjoy nature in one of the National Parks, such as those on the Brampton Island or South Cumberland Island, located in the Mackay Region.
Boat tours and cruises are also offered. You might want to take a day trip to one of the islands or spend several days exploring the entire area. Helicopter tours or glass bottomed boats tours are also popular among tourists.