The Great Barrier Reef is an enormous hub of living things which is comprised of a diverse range of living organisms such as coral, fish, algae, starfish, anemones, worms, sponges, turtles, molluscs, snakes, crustaceans, and an incredible array of thousands of species of plants and animals. It is one of Australia’s most impressive natural landmarks and because of its natural beauty, the Great Barrier Reef attracts tens of thousands of travelers from far and wide who want to get a taste of this incredible destination first hand.
Undeniably, the Great Barrier Reef never ceases to amaze us, and there is a lot more about this magnificent reef that most people don’t know.
If you are one of the thousands of tourists planning about traveling to see the Great Barrier Reef, then you’re on the right page as we have prepared the most comprehensive list of Great Barrier Reef facts that will blow every traveler’s mind. This list will equip you with all the information you need such as where to locate the best places to see the Great Barrier Reef and some of the great things you must see and do on your visit.
Great Barrier Reef Facts
- The Great Barrier Reef is a famous tourist destination with over 2M visitors annually.
- Tourism to the reef generates around AU$5-6B per year.
- The Great Barrier Reef is an amazing family-friendly holiday destination.
How Big Is The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef stretches more than 300,000 square square kilometers, covering just north of Bundaberg to the most northern tip of Queensland, called Cape York− making it the world’s largest reef system. To illustrate how huge the Great Barrier Reef is, the reef is larger than Victoria & Tasmania combined and it is bigger than the United Kingdom, Holland, and Switzerland combined.
- The Great Barrier Reef is comprised of over 2,900 individual reefs.
- The Great Barrier Reef has more than 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometers.
- The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space.
- The Great Barrier Reef is approximately the same area as Italy, Germany, Malaysia or Japan while it is roughly half the size of Texas.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Life: What You Will See
With more than 1500 species of fish, 6 turtle species and over 4000 types of mollusc, the Great Barrier Reef area offer some of the greatest marine life diversity in the world.
- There are around 30 species of whales, porpoises, and dolphins have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef.
- Over 1,500 fish species live on the reef.
- There are at least 330 species of ascidians on the reef system.
- About 215 species of birds, including 22 species of seabirds and 32 species of shorebirds, visit the reef or nest or roost on the islands.
- Around 17 species of sea snake live on the Great Barrier Reef.
- There are at least 200 species of bird life.
- Six species of sea turtles come to the reef to breed.
- Around 10 percent of the world’s total fish species can be found just within the Great Barrier Reef.
Turtle Rehabilitation Centre
With the crystal clear water and favorable weather condition, watching precious turtles foraged amongst the seagrass is another great way to spend your time in Queensland. If you plan to see these amazing turtles, October is the best time to visit as it is the peak sea turtle nesting season in Queensland.
The world-class turtle rehabilitation center located on Fitzroy Island has now opened its doors to daily tours where travelers can now see the turtles and learn more about them. If you want to get the best experience out of this, consider staying at Fitzroy Island or take a day trip from Cairns.
Best Places To Visit The Great Barrier Reef
Your visit to Cairns will not be complete without allocating some time to experience the majestic beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Several tour operators such as Quicksilver cruises offer Fast Cats departing from Port Douglas for a variety of half day and day tours. Bus trips which usually takes around an hour are likewise available from Cairns while traveling the picturesque Captain Cook highway, featuring some of the most breathtaking coastal views on your way to the Port Douglas Marina.
If you want to get a maximum experience of the largest living structure on planet Earth, Fitzroy Island is just a 45-minute away via boat transfer by the Fitzroy Fast Cat from Cairns. This tropical island would be the perfect getaway as it is surrounded by a reef system that forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The paradise island offers some of the most amazing Great Barrier Reef Tours where you can enjoy your stay by exploring the charm of the reef either by snorkeling, diving or by booking glass bottom boat and semi-submersible coral reef viewing tours.
Home to the majestic 4 Mile Beach and near to Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest, Port Douglas is a sweet holiday town in Far North Queensland that offers the best spots that provide great viewing experience to the Great Barrier Reef.
Port Douglas provides varied options ranging from half day, full day and day sail tours. Quicksilver cruises have Fast Cats leaving from Port Douglas Marina daily and is a short drive or walk from Macrossan Street down to the Marina.
If you’re not confident on getting wet then you can explore the reef from one of the semi-submersible boats, which cruise one meter underwater with no mask required. Other services are offered by Sailaway where a day or half day sails to the Low Isles and the coral cay are available where you’ll be able to explore the island time infused with the reef.
Best Time Of Year To Travel
If seeing the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, it is best to know when is the best time to visit so that you can enjoy your stay and experience. The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is between June to October where the temperature at this time of the year ranges from 25 degrees to 30 degrees and rainfall is very unlikely.
The period between June to August (winter season) brings slightly cooler temperature and lower humidity, making it the tourist season where the average temperature varies from 17.5 to 26°C (63.5 – 78.8°F).
In spring (September to November), the average temperature ranges from 20.5 – 29°C (68.9 – 84.2°F); this marks the end of the dry season as humidity starts to build with the onset of the wet season from December. In November, the reef comes alive with the annual coral spawning.
Threats To The Great Barrier Reef
Due to various natural factors as well as human activity in and around the Great Barrier Reef, this global icon is now in dire strait. About 50 percent of the reef’s coral cover has already been lost, and it has been estimated that it all could be gone by 2050 unless a major action is taken.
- Climate change is perhaps the main threat to the Great Barrier Reef.
- Warmer ocean temperatures put stress on coral and lead to coral bleaching.
- The Great Barrier Reef has been exposed to two major coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002. The coral bleaching in 2002 has a more adverse effect whereby more than 50% of reefs were surveyed to have been affected.
- Sediment, nutrient and agriculture pesticide pollution from river catchment run-off is also affecting the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Poorly managed tourism could be a risk to the reef; fortunately, tourism on the reef is very well managed at the moment.