Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system, composed of roughly 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands, that stretches for 2,600 kilometers (1,616 miles). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, which encompasses in the northeast region of Australia. A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space and is sometimes referred to as the single largest organism in the world. In reality, it is made up of many millions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. The Great Barrier Reef was also selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981 and is often considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Due to its vast biodiversity, its warm, clear waters, and its accessibility, the reef is a very popular destination for tourists, especially scuba divers and snorkelers. Many cities along the Queensland coast offer boat trips to the reef on a daily basis, and several continental islands have been turned into resorts.

The research outcomes funded by the CRC Reef Research Centre estimates the age of the present, living reef structure at 6,000 to 8,000 years old, formed upon coral "skeletons" dating back half a million years. The structure houses a huge array of ocean wildlife, ranging from whales to mollusks. Over 200 species of birds (including 40 species of waterbirds) live on the Great Barrier Reef as well, including the white-bellied sea eagle and the roseate tern.

30 species of whales, dolphins, or porpoises have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef, including the dwarf minke whale, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, and the humpback wahle. There are also large populations of dugongs which live in the reef area. Six species of sea turtle come to the reef to breed – the green sea turtle, the leatherback sea turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, the flatback turtle, and the Olive Ridley. At least 5,000 species of mollusks have been recorded on the Great Barrier Reef, including the giant clam and a variety of nudibranches and cone snails. 14 different species of sea snake and more than 1,500 species of fish live on the reef, including the clownfish, red bass, red-throat emperor, and several species of snapper and coral trout. Additionally, the Great Barrier Reef consists of about 400 species of corals, both hard and soft varieties, and houses 15 species of seagrass. The abundance and variety of wildlife found in the Great Barrier Reef is truly astounding.

 

JOURNEYS trips that include the Great Barrier Reef:

Discovery Down Under

JOURNEYS also offers trip extensions to a number of Great Barrier Reef Island resorts.

 

Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Barrier_Reef

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