Have you ever looked at something and felt your breath catch in your throat? I remember seeing a picture of Earth taken from space and being able to clearly see the Great Barrier Reef. I was awestruck and decided then and there that someday I would travel to visit it.
One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef provides its visitors with an incredible experience that they will never forget. This magnificent reef was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1981 and more than 2300kms of the reef are protected inside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The reef’s ecosystem is very complex and diverse. In fact, it is one of the most diverse and complex marine ecosystem in the world.
Hundreds of different types of coral make up the more than 2900 reefs that help form the Great Barrier Reef. Coral, the living marine organisms that clump together to form the reef, are often vibrant and shimmer in the sunlight at the surface. As you go deeper on the reef, there is less color because of the diminishing sunlight. Sunlight is important to some corals because they get most of their nutrients from photosynthetic algae. The corals at greater depths do not depend on the sunlight or photosynthetic algae. Nowhere else in the world are you able to see such an exquisite reef that is the habitat of so much life.
Extremely sensitive to environmental change, coral provides us with an early warning system. When coral is stress, it expels its algae and starts to lose its color. Eventually, without intervention, the coral will become colorless.
The Great Barrier Reef supports an endless list of marine life. Sea turtles, whales, sharks, giant clams and stingrays are just some of the fascinating creatures that you may see when you visit the reef. Many different species of these reef inhabitants thrive in the reef’s ecosystem. Even saltwater crocodiles live in the mangroves near the reef.
The joys of the Great Barrier Reef are not just below the water. The amazingly wide range of seabirds and shorebirds that are a part of this ecosystem will astound you. These birds nest, roost or come to the reef to feed. Wedge-tailed shearwaters, Herald Petrels, pelicans, Roseate terns, frigate birds, Silver Gulls, and sooty terns are just a few of the birds that you might get to see.
While there is so much marine magic beneath the water that most scuba divers around the world dream of diving the Great Barrier Reef, don’t forget to watch the shies. A visit to the Great Barrier Reef will give you memories that will remain vivid throughout your life.