Great Barrier Reef – why a unique natural attraction is dying
A unique ecosystem, the world’s most interesting natural attraction and the largest coral system in the world – all this is about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Its area is more than 34 million hectares, it is about the size of such a country as Germany. Millions of tourists from all over the world come to see this natural wonder. This amazing ecosystem attracts not only travelers but also scientists, photographers and divers. The Australian economy generates more than $6 billion a year from the use of the Great Reef. Unfortunately, climate change and human activities have caused the Reef to gradually die. The national government, environmentalists, and conservation organizations are trying to remedy the situation and save the world’s largest coral system. Below are photos of this unique underwater world and a brief description of it.
Where is the Great Barrier Reef
The GBR is located in the Coral Sea. It stretches for 2 thousand km 500 meters along the coast of the Australian continent(northeast). The distance from the Reef to the mainland varies, in some places up to 300 km, in some places up to 30 km.
How to get there:
The islands are usually reached from two cities, Cairns or Brisbane . Brisbane is easily accessible by air from Melbourne and Sydney. According to tourist reviews, there are mostly dead reefs near Brisbane. This is why many people prefer to fly to Cairns, although it is farther and the flight is more expensive.
The reef is 30 km from Cairns, Brisbane and other coastal towns. It is easy to find water transport to one of the islands in any of these towns.
If you are interested in more than just the Great Reef and want to see Australia, you can get from Sydney by rental car. The cost of renting a car, depending on the class of the car from 25 euros a day. The distance from Sydney to Brisbane is 900 km.From Sydney to Cairns – 2 400 km.
History of the Great Barrier Reef
The GBR dates back to a time when Antarctica and Australia were one continent. Millions of years ago, the continent was washed by cold waters unsuitable for the reproduction of polyps. Gradually, the microbes moved to the warmer part of the continent that was more suitable. This process coincided with a change in water levels and active tectonic processes, with the result that Australia became a separate continent and shifted into the tropics. Conditions most suitable for the reproduction of coral polyps were formed.
The Great Reef began its formation 25,000,000 years ago; it consists of many layers, each of which took 10,000 years to create. The most active period of reef growth is the last 8,000 years. The formation of the reef continues today. Younger reefs are up to 20 meters deep and are placed on top of older formations.
Europeans first learned about the Great Reef after English navigator James Cook visited Australia.On the sailing ship “Endeavor” he sailed through the narrow strait between the mainland and the Great Reef. It was not an easy voyage – a difficult fairway, lack of maps, shoals and underwater rocks and so 1,000 km. It was not without damage. The ship was punctured and some of her cargo and guns had to be thrown overboard. Thanks to this, the Endeavour made it to shore.
This is interesting. The cannons and other items discarded from the “Endeavour” were raised from the bottom in the 1970s. Today they are preserved in a museum. One of the cannons has been installed on Greene Island.
From the time of Australia’s discovery to the present day, hundreds of ships have been wrecked in the area of the Reef. The last of them perished already in the XX century. Even the place names here are rather pessimistic – Tormented Bay, Cape Bede.
The first sailor who was able to sail along the entire reef from the land side was Charles Jeffreys in 1815. This area was fully explored and mapped only in the 40s of the XIX century.
In the 70’s an oil tanker sank, only by sheer luck it did not lead to the death of the reef and its inhabitants.
Description of the reef
Ridge of reefs and islands occupies a huge area, according to Wikipedia – 348,698 square kilometers.
Over millions of years, parts of the coral reef have become islands, although much of it is still hidden underwater today. Some sections rise above the surface of the ocean at low tide.
In order to preserve this unique natural attraction, a National Park was established in 1979, which covers more than 5,000,000 hectares. The main purpose of the park staff is to protect the fauna and flora. The park is listed by UNESCO .
The Barrier Reef consists of separate formations, there are almost 3,000 of them. They vary in size. The smallest from 0.01 square kilometers, the largest up to 100 square kilometers. They are surrounded by over 500 barriers.
This is interesting. The coastal waters around the Great Reef are up to 35 meters deep. The outer reefs are up to 2,000 meters.
The GBR is 10% of the planet’s coral reef area.
Who created the Barrier Reef?
The BBR has creators: coral polyps, small living organisms. It is thanks to them that over hundreds of thousands of years, such a unique and large-scale natural structure appeared. Coral polyps have a calcareous hard shell. These shells and form corals, for this there must be a lot of them. This process is still going on today, although it is difficult to notice. Coral growth is slow. At about 5 cm per year.
Flora and fauna
The MDB is a complex and huge ecosystem. It is not only coral reefs, but also fish, animals, algae, polyps. More than four hundred species of corals live within the Great Reef. They come in soft and hard, and vary in color and shape.
The GBR is home to crabs, crayfish, lobsters, sponges, actinia, starfish, and sea urchins. The ichthyofauna in the Great Reef area is enormous – 1,500 species of fish live among the corals. About 500 species are reef fish. They are distinguished by their bright colors. Interesting and their names – clown fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish, sea dogfish, etc. Sharks, moray eels, stingrays and many other fish and sea creatures are found here.
The waters near the reef are inhabited by whales, whale sharks (the largest), dolphins, sea cow. Large sea turtles come to the South Reef islands to breed.
This is interesting. Turtles lay their eggs on beaches in dug holes, then fill them up and swim away. Baby turtles dig themselves out and try to get to the sea on the beach. Few of them succeed, and most of them die. Predatory birds begin to hunt the little turtles. They grab the babies, which do not even have a shell, and carry them away. Only a small fraction of the little turtles survive, and manages to get to the saving water.
You can find here blue-bellied octopus, which, despite its small size (15 cm), are lethal for humans. One octopus contains a poison that can cause the death of more than 20 people, it paralyzes the victim, and the person remaining conscious can not move
More than 200 species of birds live on the BBR.
But the vegetation on the islands of the reef is not so diverse, only 40 species.
Why Australians protect the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Reef ecosystem is quite vulnerable. Scientists and environmentalists have long been sounding the alarm. Panicked publications appear in the press about the demise of the GBR. Journalists tend to exaggerate the danger, although the state of the reef is indeed alarming. Factors leading to the death of corals include:
- Climate change. Climate change causes corals to bleach, ocean waters to change salinity. Bleached coral colonies stop growing and collapse easily.
- Human activities. Terrestrial waters enter and pollute the ocean; urban sewage is especially destructive. Poaching takes a serious toll, as everything in such a complex ecosystem is interconnected. The decline of one species, leads to serious changes.
- Sea stars are the “crown of thorns.” Their numbers have increased dramatically due to a decline in the numbers of newt snails. These snails are the natural enemies of starfish. Their shells were a popular souvenir for tourists, so they were collected by the thousands. When there were fewer of them, the coral-eating sea stars multiplied in huge numbers. They are destroyed by hand.
- Tropical storms. Were it not for the problems listed above, the coral reef would regenerate itself within a few decades after hurricanes.
All of the above factors affect the Reef’s ability to recover. But the Australian government, environmentalists and volunteers are not going to watch whether or not the Reef itself can cope with the problems that have arisen. Programs have been developed to save the natural landmark, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has been established, and commercial and non-profit organizations are providing money to carry out the necessary activities. Thousands of volunteers from around the world come to Australia to help save this unique natural site.
More than 2,000,000 tourists visit the Reef and its islands every year. The place especially attracts snorkelers. You can dive in any season, but the most favorable time is March – June. Here will feel comfortable and beginners and experienced divers. Diving is the main type of tourism in the Big Reef region.
Description of some islands
Heron. It is considered the best resort for divers. Those who want to make an underwater trip come here and enjoy the beauty of the reef. The island is surrounded by white sandy beaches. Getting to the island is easy by helicopter or boat from Gladstone. Visitors to the island are offered shallow-water hikes, clear-bottom boat rides, night diving, and fishing.
Dunk. The island is ideal for romantic and family vacations. It is very beautiful – a dense tropical forest with exotic birds and butterflies. Tourists are offered horseback riding, snorkeling, fishing.
An expensive resort with a high level of service. You can sunbathe and swim on one of 24 beaches. It is on this island is the most popular place for snorkelers – CodeHole. Guests are offered to visit the Clam Garden, the Research Center, restaurants, tennis courts, a tour of the reefs.
Gamelton. The island is kid-friendly and known for its boutiques.
A private island loved by honeymooners and lovers. It has everything you need for a vacation. Numerous restaurants where you can try exotic dishes. Excellent conditions for diving and other sports activities.
What else to see and do
Beach lovers are advised to stay in the part of the Great Reef, located 30 km from the mainland. Here you can swim all year round. Good beaches are on Trinity Beach, Palm Cove and Port Douglas. There are places where swimming is prohibited because of jellyfish. Touching these sea creatures can get poisoning, and it is difficult to see them in the water. Swim only in wetsuits and in fenced areas.
But not only on the beach you can spend time, tourists are offered to visit several interesting attractions.
- The Daintree Park will appeal to wildlife lovers. A variety of flora and fauna, waterfalls, gorge, aboriginal village – all this will give a lot of impressions.
- Cairns. This place is called the gateway to the Barrier Reef. Here you can visit the Rasse River NP, a nature reserve, rain forests, and waterfalls. There is a cable car that offers stunningly beautiful views of the surrounding area.
- Wurunuran Park. This park is millions of years old.
- Park “Ebenange-Swamp” amazes with a variety of birds.
Popular excursions to the coral reef Agincot, Aboriginal theater, hot air balloon rides. Here you can feed a shark, see huge turtles and crocodiles, rare birds and unlike anything else coral jungle.
All tourists who want to go scuba diving are divided into several categories. The group at risk are the elderly and those who are poor swimmers. They are only allowed to dive in life jackets and accompanied by a partner. The boats have a defibrillator to provide first aid if necessary.
- The Great Barrier Reef is visible from space.
- The natural attraction consists of 3,000 coral reefs and 900 islands.
- From 1985 to 2012, half of the corals of the Great Reef died.
- In 2008, part of the Great Reef weighing 5 tons was transported to the United Arab Emirates.
- The project “Reef 2050 Plan” was developed, in which the Australian government has already invested 2 billion dollars. The goal of the project is to create the conditions under which the Great Reef will stop dying.
- Each visitor to the Reef (except children under 4 years old) pays a fee of $6. This money goes toward protecting the Reef’s ecosystem.
- The BBR provides jobs for 64,000 people.
Millions of tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef each year. They are attracted by the deserted beaches, small secluded islands and the opportunity to find themselves in a scenic underwater world that is unrivaled in scale and diversity on the planet.
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Is a trip to the Great Barrier Reef worth the money and effort?
Going to Australia to see coral and count how much it costs in terms of both money and experience.
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef on our planet. It is located in the northeastern part of Australia, its length is about two and a half thousand kilometers. The reef is the largest formation on Earth that was created by living organisms. It can be seen both from a plane and from space. Tens of thousands of Australians are employed thanks to nature’s unique creation.
Why travelers go to the Great Barrier Reef
The main activity on the reef is scuba diving and snorkeling. Large sections of the reef are no deeper than five meters, so snorkeling is just as popular. Here, followers of Jacques-Yves Cousteau enjoy the underwater world to the fullest. Cruises are also common in this part of the Pacific. The size of the Great Barrier Reef allows you to admire the aesthetics of the coral kingdom for a long time. While traveling in Australia and New Zealand, it is impossible not to swim to the biggest reef. It is one of the top 10 wonders of nature, so a separate category of tourists go here to get the invisible mark of a visit.
You can dive with your equipment and with rented equipment on the ship. Almost all operators provide an opportunity to take a diving course with diving equipment and at the end get a certificate of international standard. If you have a one-time desire to dive with an oxygen cylinder at your back, a personal instructor and equipment will be at your service.
There is no season on the Great Barrier Reef – it’s always warm
It’s always warm here, so the dive season lasts all year round. Summer in the Southern Hemisphere begins in December. In the spring and summer, large sea turtles come closer to the shore, making for a high tourist season. Air temperatures reach plus 35 and water temperatures reach plus 28. In the list of sunscreen must be a cream with SPF protection of 50 or higher.
Australia is the world’s first country in the number of deadly animal species. From November to May is a period of proliferation of poisonous jellyfish. To avoid having to call a helicopter rescue, the crew on the ship will offer a protective wetsuit. We have to agree. My visit to the reef was in November (the last month of spring). Two dives of 30 minutes each went like steaming milk, not a single jellyfish was detected.
How to get to and navigate the Great Barrier Reef
To begin with, if you’re not an avid diver, flying to Australia just for the reef doesn’t make sense: the costs won’t be justified. A single flight (minimum one change of plane) will cost 50-60 thousand rubles. Let’s agree that you are already in Australia, let’s say you rented a motor home, drove from Sydney to Melbourne and back, as I did. And so the question became: to fly to the Great Barrier Reef or not? Let’s calculate the budget.
Option 1: Universal
The best way to get to the reef is from two cities: Brisbane and Cairns. Brisbane is much closer to Sydney and Melbourne. The flight will be half cheaper. But the important thing is that tourists say that there are dead reefs concentrated off the coast of Brisbane. Given that factor and the time available, I chose Cairns, a city on the very north of the east coast. The climate here is subtropical and the air is very humid. You can save money on domestic flights if you keep an eye out for sales and get your tickets a few months in advance.
I decided on the flight at the last minute, there were no problems with seats, but it cost me 15 thousand rubles – roundtrip from Sydney to Cairns. That’s taking into account the fact that there are “ticket for a dollar” deals! The hostel in Cairns (as well as in Brisbane) costs about a thousand rubles a day, there are also cheaper. Lodgers change daily. Having eaten at a communal dining table today, tomorrow you may not see a familiar face. Hotels and hostels are concentrated along the coastline, near the main pier. The town is small, everything is within walking distance.
You should understand that even if you booked a private plane, it landed right on the beach and here you run out barefoot to the water, you will not see anything. You still have to swim to the reef. Cairns, Brisbane and others are the cities closest to the reef. The Great Barrier Reef is about 30 kilometers offshore. From there, yachts, ships and boats at local piers come into play. The choice of carriers is wide, for all tastes.
Surely you know the feeling when you, for example, are walking down the Las Vegas Strip, the main street of Las Vegas, in the general flow, here and there you are stepped on the heels, you are systematically checking to see if your purse is there. Stopping in such a stream is an unprecedented luxury that will result in a collision. Or the moment when you want to hold in the palm of your hand the Eiffel Tower or the Egyptian pyramid, but are forced to stand in a 20-minute line, because such an opportunity may no longer exist. And then it turns out that that Chinese guy with the selfie stick got in the frame after all. Out of these considerations, I opted for a secluded Pacific voyage. A small boat with 20 tourists and four crew members Reefday Flipper .
I was pleased with the friendly atmosphere, the feeling of pristine sailing. The booking was confirmed after the application on the website, and the payment was made on boarding. The cost of such a voyage was A$149. For each Australian dollar I pay about 50 rubles, which equals about 7,000 rubles in the Russian currency. This is the average price of a day trip to the reef. The ship sails from the pier about 07:00, returns at 17:00.
Option 2: by car from Sydney to Brisbane
If you’re interested in Australia itself, you’re sure to visit Sydney, a metropolis that has repeatedly been recognized as one of the most comfortable places to live. The distance from Sydney to Brisbane is about the same as from Moscow to St. Petersburg. In principle, you can rent a car and get there in a day. On the way I recommend swimming and surfing on the beaches of the Gold Coast, the paradise part of the east coast. You can drop the car off in Brisbane and get back by water or air.
Option 3: Fly over the reef in a helicopter or plane
A helicopter or small plane ride over the reef is of particular interest. Reach the towns near the reef by one of the methods described above. Then there are several ways to get over the reef. The first is to take off directly from the town:
From Cairns with Reef Free : costs start from $219, but there are several different options and locations
From Brisbane with Reef Free : cost starts from $929, but there are several options too.
Study the reef map carefully , make sure you are not taken to the ones closest to shore. They are less scenic.
The second option is to fly from the water or an island near the reef. This option is usually cheaper. You sail a yacht or boat to the reef, near which there is a floating helicopter station. These are usually points where several different liners come in, and here you also have the opportunity to scuba dive or just snorkel, look at the reefs without getting your feet wet, from the glass transparent bottom of the floating platform and, of course, take pictures. One such operator in Cairns is The Tour Specialists.
Floating helicopter stations are not common in Brisbane. The first time I flew a helicopter under Ryazan and the second over the Grand Canyon. We’ll put the first one down, but the second, in contrast, is like a movie. These are the sensations that last for a long time. I am sure that flying over the Great Barrier Reef is no less exciting and little comparable adventure. The length of the reef plays the first role here, the uniqueness of flora and fauna completes the picture. Personally I would fly to Australia again just for such a flight. The understanding comes on your return.
Option 4: Cruise
In this case it is not necessary to get to the cities close to the coral wonder. Rather, on the contrary, it is better to come from afar. Cruise ships mostly set sail from Sydney. The average duration of a voyage is seven days, but there are also two- or three-day cruises. Some of the itineraries go from the coasts of New Zealand and Asia. If you’re traveling alone, this is a suitable opportunity to spend time in the company of new acquaintances. Here are some Russian-language sites where you can book a cruise: Metropolis Cruises and Dreamliners .
Plus, there are several Australian resources. It will be a lot cheaper to order on local sites, since middlemen and commission are excluded. If you’re not afraid of English, here are a couple of interesting suggestions: Cruise Away and Carnival.
If you have the time and finances, you can stay in one of the luxury hotels on the coral islands. For example, Heron Island is considered one of the most picturesque for diving.
You’ve probably already heard that the reef is dying out. According to various estimates, about two-thirds of the corals are now extinct. Visually, this is reflected in the color of the coral: it is losing some of its richness and brilliance. This extinction is occurring because of global warming caused by human activities. Biologists are not coping, and the prognosis is disappointing.
Another option for close contact with nature is volunteering. The topic of health improvement on the eastern coast of Ozzie country does not lose its relevance. Every now and then you see headlines like “School kids raise clownfish to save Great Barrier Reef” on the front page of local newspapers. Another way to get up close and personal with the reef is to volunteer to save the World Heritage Site.
There is a registration fee for long sessions – you have to pay to participate in the environmental program. The fee depends on the length of the program. On average, two weeks will cost 700 Australian dollars (35,000 rubles). You will have to get to the volunteer camp somehow, then food and accommodation will be provided. There will be two days off per week and free time after 5pm. Conservation Volunteers Australia’s one stop site for volunteers .
The trip to the Great Barrier Reef cost me about as much as one week’s room rental in Sydney. I stayed with friends, and then I could fly to the reef on the money I had freed up. That’s about 25 thousand rubles. Accordingly, if you do not have good acquaintances in Australia, then seriously consider couchsurfing, it’s free.
If you’re still that avid diver, the math is simple. It’s optimal to fly straight to Brisbane airport, since it’s international. The flight from Moscow will cost 50-60 thousand rubles round trip. You’d better book your ticket in advance, i.e. four to six months in advance. Visa to Australia is worth special attention (Vinsky forum provides comprehensive information). Hostel is inexpensive: 2-3 thousand rubles for a couple of nights. A one-day swim to the reef and back is about 7 thousand rubles. Total budget for transportation and accommodation will be about 70 thousand rubles.
Great Barrier Reef will gladly receive tourists with different needs. There is a unique variety of nature. Sharks, rays, turtles, rich flora and fauna in one photo. How does it feel? And that’s without deep diving.
Is it worth going to Australia for the Great Barrier Reef? If that’s how you put the question, the answer is unequivocally yes. If you are an experienced diver, you do not need my advice, you all crystal clear. Divers who have seen the world say that the reef is superior to the Maldives, Seychelles, Galapagos and Hawaii. For those who have never seen the big reefs, it will be an exhaustive experience that is not embarrassing to talk about in the company of seasoned adventurers.
If you’re looking for something new and not much interested in diving, there are a number of great places that will give a lot of good emotions without visiting far away Australia. One of them is the Red Sea. In most rankings it is one of the top three places to dive. I checked it out on my own experience. The Museum of Underwater Art in Cancun, shipwreck graveyards, a number of European underwater hotels and more.
Postcards from Australia take about three weeks to arrive, they are very nice to receive! If you still have questions about the reef, you can contact the author Andrei Kolesnikov at [email protected], read his website Zikky.ru and subscribe to instagram @zikky_pikky.