Lifestyle & Travel
Jan 31, 2016
The Reef of Colours
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
The Great Barrier Reef is an extremely ancient, enormous host of living things, composed of living coral growing on dead coral dating back perhaps as much as twenty million years. Many generations of dead coral have built themselves into great walls of stone covered in a diverse range of living organisms such as coral, algae, anemones, sponges, fish, worms, starfish, turtles, mollusks, snakes, crustaceans, and an extraordinary array of thousands of species of plants and animals.
We know that Aboriginal people occupied great parts of the Australian continent for around 40,000 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have fished and hunted its waters and navigated between the islands of the reef region.
For large parts of that time, during periods of glacial activity, the area of the Great Barrier Reef was dry with large flat coastal plains. Today, this area is at a depth of less than one hundred meters below sea level.
The marine park stretches over 3000km (1800 miles) almost parallel to the Queensland coast, from near the southern coastal town of Bundaberg, up past the northern tip of Cape York.
The reef, between 15 kilometers and 150 kilometers off shore and around 65 Km wide in some parts, is a gathering of brilliant, vivid coral, providing divers with the most spectacular underwater experience imaginable.
A closer encounter with the Great Barrier Reef's impressive coral gardens reveals many astounding underwater attractions including the world's largest collection of corals (in fact, more than 400 different kinds of coral), coral sponges, mollusks, rays, dolphins, over 1500 species of tropical fish, more than 200 types of birds, around 20 types of reptiles, including sea turtles, and giant clams over 120 years old.
The reef is a breeding area for humpback whales migrating from the Antarctic, and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow), and large Green Sea Turtle. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
Because of its natural beauty, both below and above the water's surface, the reef has become one of the world's most sought after tourist destinations.
In 2006 there were approximately 820 operators and 1500 vessels and aircraft permitted to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park providing ease of access for everyone to experience the Great Barrier Reef and learn firsthand about its natural delights and World Heritage values.
Where to stay
There are many great places to stay on the Great Barrier Reef, with a variety of experiences waiting for you. You could stay on an island, be it a resort like Hamilton Island, or something more isolated and remote such as Haggerstone Island.
There is also a multitude of resorts and hotels in the cities and towns along the coast of the Great Barrier Reef, catering to all types of visitors.