Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is actually GREAT! It is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms. The Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing that can be seen from outer space! Can you imagine!
The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland. Its 2900 individual reefs and 900 islandsextend along 2300 kilometersover an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometersof the most vivid colors and the most divers marine life.It has an average depth of 35 meters in its inshore waters while depth of continental slopes reaches on more than 2000 meters on the outer reefs, and it extends over 14 degrees of latitude, from shallow estuarine areas to deep oceanic waters.
The Great Barrier Reef was created in 1975 through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and a large part of it is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and labelled as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Also, the Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.
A full Spectrum of Marine Life:
The Great Barrier Reef supports a huge variety of marine life as around 10 percent of the world’s total fish species can be found within the reef. 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises have been recorded there in addition to more than 1,500 fish species and5,000 species of mollusks living on the reef. 49 species of pipefish and nine species of seahorse have been recorded too, and at least 7 species of frog inhabit the reef’s islands.
In its warm water 49 meters down, 17 species of sea snakes live. Also the reef is the breeding spot for 6 species of sea turtles. Also, saltwater crocodiles live in mangrove and salt marshes on the coast near the reef.
Its beauty and lifeline doesn’t extend only in waters, the Great Barrier Reef is home to 215 species of birds from 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds that visit the reef or nest or roost on the islands. Nearly 1.4 to 1.7 million birds use the reef’s sites to breed.
This reef is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms known as coral polyps. It is about half a million years old but it has never looked the same around years with changing sea levels. The current formation is about 8000 years old.
The land that forms the base of the reef is actually the remains of the sediments of the Great Dividing Range, Australia’s largest mountain range! 13,000 years ago, the sea level was 61 meters lower than its current level so corals began to grow around the hills of the coastal plain which had become continental islands. The sea level continued to rise during warm periods as glaciers melted and most of the continental islands were submerged and the coral remained to form the reefs and cays (the low-elevation sandy islands) of today.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef:
There you can swim, snorkel, dive and sail. The Marine Park is divided into different zones, each has its rules about the permitted and prohibited activities. The barrier reef is worthily a tourism hotspot that attracts nearly 2 million people annually.
In 2006, about 820 operators and 1500 vessels and aircraft were permitted to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to provide ease of access for all people and to enable them to experience the reef and learn about its worldheritage values.
International flights fly directly into Cairns Airport and domestic flights fly onto Hamilton Island or into Proserpinethe Whitsunday Coast or Townsville airports on the mainland. The gateway town for many island resorts in the Whitsundays is Airlie Beach, a 25 minute shuttle bus from Proserpine Airport.