The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest feature made up of living organisms. Stretching 2,600 kilometres (1,600 miles) down the north east coast of Queensland, Australia.
Consisting of more than 900 islands and 2,900 individual reefs, it cannot be experienced by strapping on a mask, snorkel and fins and taking a casual swim from the beach. A deal of thought has to be given to the style of Great Barrier Reef trip you wish to take.
Which part of the Great Barrier Reef do you wish to visit, and what is the main access point for that area?
If you are a serious SCUBA diver you want to visit the Reef on an expedition dedicated to diving, a live-aboard trip might be for you. To visit on a more casual basis, a day trip from your onshore accommodation or an Island like Green Island will show you the diverse sealife of the area.
History of The Great Barrier Reef
The early European explorers of the Great Barrier Reef faced huge difficulties as they battled wind, strong currents and tides in an ocean riddled with dangerous reefs and sand bars. The first European to record the existence of the Great Barrier Reef was Louis de Bouganville in 1768, though he did not claim the area for France.
In 1770, Captain James Cook ran aground at the aptly named Cape Tribulation while exploring and charting the Reef, but it was not until the early 20th Century that serious thought was given to the study, preservation and use of the Reef as a national Australian treasure.
Today, The Great Barrier Reef falls under the control of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority and the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act passed by the Australian Federal Parliament in 1999.
Geography of The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef follows the continental shelf down the East Coast, and is made up of many separate reefs interspersed with the occasional island and deep channels used by shipping.
It is a complex area and one that requires local knowledge and skill to navigate safely. There are many different access points to the Reef, the main one being Cairns for access to the northern Reef, Lizard Island and the Daintree Rainforest Area.
Hamilton Island is the main airport access area to the Whitsundays and Bundaberg is the entry to the southern Reef, Lady Elliot Island and Heron Island. The Great Barrier Reef ends north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island.
The Satellite image of the Great Barrier Reef on the left covers The Great Barrier Reef’s 2,600 Kilometre (1,600mi) length, from Cape York in the north, to Bundaberg in the south. The Whitsundays, Hamilton Island and Airlie Beach are in the middle of the Satellite view.
Map of Great Barrier Reef
Zoom in and out for an interactive map of Great Barrier Reef