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The Travel Well Guide
The Great Barrier Reef
City: N/A State: N/A Country: Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world, composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in northeast Australia. The main part of the coral reef sits on the continental shelf off the coast, protecting lagoons, cays and islands between itself and the mainland. There are more than 2,600 individual reefs, covering an area of 350,000 sq km (135,100 sq mi). Some 400 different types of coral give the reef its amazing colours and shapes and provide homes for 4,000 species of mollusc, 1,500 types offish, 350 species of starfish, sea urchins and other echinoderms and uncounted types of crabs, shrimps and other crustaceans. The most popular way to get close to the corals is by diving or snorkelling from one of the many tour boats, but glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles allow you to look without getting wet. Helicopter rides over the corals provide a good overview of the structure. This marvel of nature is under a number of threats: rising sea levels, the water becoming both too warm and too acidic for the corals to survive, pollution, damage from fishing nets and anchors, the threat of drilling for oil and damage from cyclones. Sport-fishing near the reef is thought by some to be partly responsible for a cyclical problem: the crown of thorns starfish, which preys on the corals. Get there while you can.
Climate | When to Visit
Visit during: September to April
Directions | How to Reach
From any of the coastal towns offering boat trips.
miscellaneous | Important Information
A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as overfishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures to the reef and its ecosystem include water quality from runoff, climate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, and cyclic outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish.