Lying just a few miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia, is the Great Barrier Reef; the only living thing visible from space and one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
Its total area comprises approximately 133,000 square miles and within that live thousands of different species of marine life. To be more specific, there are around 1500 species of fish, 4000 species of mollusk and 400 different types of coral (both hard and soft). As well as this there are marine animals such as the severely endangered sea-cow (also known as the dudong or manatee) and the large green turtle, which face extinction if the Great Barrier Reef’s climate isn’t protected.
Measures are being taken to preserve the Great Barrier Reef and it has been named as a UNESCO world heritage site as well as one of CEDAM International’s seven wonders of the underwater world too. Whether the efforts of the organizations will prevent damage to the reefs and the endangered species that rely on it we cannot be sure. Global warming and the disposal of effluents are largely to blame.
The Great Barrier Reef has become a huge tourist draw for those who wish to see the world’s largest coral reef, with many opportunities for diving, snorkeling and seeing the reef from the air.
Amoebas and fish may be born and die within a matter of months, but life within the Great Barrier Reef has been going through cycles for many, many millions of years.
It’s estimated that the actual corals that we see today started growing just off the coast of Queensland are around 18,000 years old. However, in order to grow they first needed a basis upon which to attach. This ‘base’ is in fact the skeletons of the corals that came before them and subsequently died due to a huge change in environment such as temperature, sea level or both. These corals that came before the Great Barrier Reef that we know today had been growing on and off for the previous 24 million years, upon limestone rocks that were formed 41 million years prior to that.
One of the most beautiful things about the Great Barrier Reef is the fact reefs before it have come under such harsh conditions that they have died, yet in turn supported their successors. We can see fish, marine life, marine plants and corals live and die each day at the Great Barrier Reef, but we know that this is all part of a continuous cycle. Where it will lead, who knows!
How to Get There:
The Great Barrier Reef has its very own airport (Great Barrier Reef Airport, also known as Hamilton Island Airport) so you can fly there directly, or catch a connecting flight from New York, Paris, Bangkok or from your nearest airport. This brings you to one of the closest islands to the Great Barrier Reef itself and you can take various boats to the area of the ocean where the corals lie.
Depending on how you wish to explore the barrier reef, you may want to research the different types of excursions available. A cruise boat will let you see the reef from above the water, or you could choose a small luxury yacht so you can get a closer look, or a standard boat but one which lets you dive or snorkel.
Where to Stay:
Your best choice for visiting the Great Barrier Reef is probably to stay in a hotel on Hamilton Island, so that you are near both the wonder and the airport. There is regular transport between Hamilton Island and Queensland mainland so you can take day trips there too.
Unfortunately, however, if you are looking for a budget stay then you may wish to stay in Queensland as rooms at Hamilton Island generally start at around $300 (USD). For a mid-range stay, you may wish to try Palm Bungalows, where rooms start at around $270 a night. Or perhaps five-star Beach Club where rooms start at $523.