Thursday,  June 8, 2023  12:10 pm

The Great Barrier Reef: undersea wonder

The Great Barrier Reef: undersea wonder
Up close and personal with a lionfish on the Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit - Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree)
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

There’s a good reason Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is considered among the natural wonders of the world.

The reef, the single-largest structure created by living organisms, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Located in the Coral Sea off of the coast of Queensland, the reef spans 2,300 km along the shores of northeastern Australia, stretching even further than the Great Wall of China.

Cruising the Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit - Tourism Port Douglas and Daintree)

Wildlife hotspot

The reef supports more than 400 types of coral and 1,500 tropical fish species, in addition to other marine life such as seabirds, mollusks and dolphins. Notably, the Great Barrier Reef is also home to the endangered green sea turtle and dugong, also serving as a breeding ground for humpback whales.

There’s a number of different ways for travellers looking to explore the reef up close - with no prior diving experience necessary.

The Scuba Doo and Seawalker experiences allows travellers to plunge beneath the waters for a close-up glimpse by using a special helmet; in the case of Scuba Doo, the helmet is attached to a motorized vehicle which can be propelled underwater.

For those wishing to stay dry, a submarine tour as well as a number of glass-bottom boat rides are also available in the region.

Sustainability is key

The delicate nature of the reef has lead the local travel industry to turn toward making tourism more sustainable, including strict rules for operators and the introduction of fees which go toward the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s research and preservation efforts.

But there are ways to experience this unique region while being mindful of the fragile ecosystem.

Just as awe-inspiring as a dive is seeing the reef from above, with numerous aerial activities offered in the region. Tours by plane are offered by operators such as Air Adventure Australia, which offer the Great Barrier Reef as part of its multi-day packages, while guests looking for a shorter flight can opt for one of the many helicopter tours available.

Furthermore, a unique option is soaring above the reef by hot air balloon, with tours departing daily from nearby Cairns and landing in Port Douglas.

And while mass-market space travel is still a ways off, here’s something to keep in mind – the Great Barrier Reef is so large that it can be photographed by satellites!

The reef as seen from above (Photo credit – Tourism Whitsundays)

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