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Great Barrier Reef

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Far North Queensland : Great Barrier Reef
Revision as of 14:29, 26 January 2009 by 94.101.164.1 (Talk)

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The Great Barrier Reef is a coral formation, the largest in the world, located off the Pacific coast of Queensland, Australia. It is home to a spectacular array of marine life and offers awesome diving opportunities.

Regions ASHLEE HUSK

Get in

By plane

Most travellers will arrive in the coastal cities of Far North Queensland, usually Cairns but sometimes Townsville or Proserpine (known to some airlines as the Whitsunday Coast). Transfer to the islands of the reef is then by boat.

In addition, some of the islands of the reef have airports, some served only by short hop flights from Cairns, others from the Australian east coast capitals: Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Operators to these islands have fewer or no competitors on their routes and so these are typically more expensive than flying to Cairns. Islands with airports are Hamilton Island and Lizard Island.

Get around ASHLEE HUSK

See

  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Fitzroy and Green Islands offer glass bottom boat tours on which you can observe the sealife from the comfort of your seat.

Do

Reef Tours

  • Great Barrier Reef LiveaboardsLarge range of Great Barrier Reef liveaboards and Coral Sea dive trips. Great Barrier Reef trips from Whitsunday Islands can be found here.
  • New Horizon Sail and Dive PO Box 5957, Cairns, Qld 4870, +61-7-4055-6130 (, fax: +61-7-4055-6315). New Horizon Sail and Dive operates two classic sailing boats, Santa Maria and Coral Sea Dreaming, to the outer Great Barrier Reef. They allow you to experience the reef in a smaller more intimate affair with a maximum of ten (10) passengers on each trip. The tours are priced from $380 per person for a two day liveaboard and from $540 for a three day liveaboard, all equipment included..
  • Sunsea Cruises Great Barrier Reef Trip Breakwater Terminal, Sir Leslie Thiess Drive, Townsville, QLD 4810, +61-7-4771-3855 (, fax: +61-7-4771-3955). Sunsea Cruises day trip includes morning and afternoon tea, tropical buffet lunch, unlimited snorkeling with equipment, marine biology presentation and glass bottom boat tours. Adults AU$139 per person..

Diving and snorkeling

Wheeler Reef coral

The Great Barrier Reef is a famed diving destination, although divers with experience of the tropics find parts of it overused and damaged.

Most travellers learn to dive in Townsville, Cairns or Port Douglas: all have a very competitive dive industry. Most students prefer to do a two day pool and classroom course, followed by a two or three day liveaboard visiting the reef to the east of Cairns. It's possible to learn with some of the operators that travel to the Coral Sea, but check first about the difficulty of their dive sites. Land based learn to dive courses cost about $500, dive courses including a liveaboard start at about $700.

Some day trips to the reef are available from Cairns and Port Douglas diving operators. These trips involve about 2 hours boat travel in each direction and will cost $170-$200. Most operators do three day liveaboards to the reefs east of Cairns, starting about about $500 for 3 days diving and 2 nights on the boat, meals included. Snorkelers can travel on these trips for reduced prices, but check first about the suitability of their sites for snorkeling. Serious divers generally prefer the five or seven day liveaboards visiting the Coral Sea to the north.

Most boat trips, particularly liveaboards, may be up to 40% cheaper if booked at the last possible moment on standby rates. A certain amount of risk is involved in doing this: you must arrive at the destination hoping that a booking will become available, you need to be able to be somewhat flexible about your date of departure, and you may not be able to travel with your first choice operator. However, most divers report that they are able to find at least one standby trip when they try this. Dive travel agents may also be able to advise you.

Some of the islands have a fringing reef, and it is possible to dive or snorkel from shore.

The southern part of the reef off Townsville is known mostly for the wreck of the Yongala, visited on both liveaboards and day trip operators from Townsville, Ayr and Magnetic Island. The Yongala sank in 1911 in about 30 metres (100 feet) of water. As the bottom is otherwise featureless in this area, it is a haven for fish and coral. However, as the site is unprotected many trips have to be cancelled if weather conditions are not favourable.

Eat

  • Seafood at the Great Barrier Reef islands and nearby coastal areas are delicious. There are restricted fishing areas, although it would be better if you go to restaurants.

Drink

  • Alcohol cannot be brought to boats, but they sell wine, beer and spirit

Stay safe

There are marine threats on the reef, from Stonefish to Sharks, Sea Snakes to Jellyfish. Many trips to the reef are made all year around, and injuries due to any of these causes on the reef are rare. Still, take advice from authorities, obey all signs, and pay close attention to safety warnings.

  • Watch out for a variety of Sharks that live in the Great Barrier Reef, even though there are only smaller species which show no threat to divers or snorkelers. Also, the Great White Shark does not exist in Far North Queensland.
  • Saltwater Crocodiles. Crocodiles do not actively live in the ocean, their primary habitat is in river estuaries. They can use the ocean as a means of travel between river systems and islands. It is very rare for them to enter the coral reef areas.
  • Box jellyfish are commonly found near beaches and near river estuaries from October to April. They can be occasionally be found outside these times. They are usually not found in deep water or over coral, and most people snorkeling on the reef do so without stinger protection. However wearing a wetsuit (available on all the dive boats) will give you added bouyancy, and also some protection against stingers. They are very rare, but deadly.
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