When Sir David Attenborough refers to something as an “unforgettable and revelatory” experience you know it’s got to be good. Sir David himself classes the first time he donned scuba gear and dived on a coral reef as “the single most revelatory moment” of his life.
If the world’s most famous biologist isn’t convincing enough for you – he was for us – these fun facts will have you diving into a Great Barrier Reef holiday:
- The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system made up of five distinct precincts each with their own characteristics and endemic wildlife:-
- The wild north – A marine wilderness experience that is unspoilt and remote. For intrepid marine adventures from bountiful fishing, exploring untouched coral cays and meeting indigenous locals.
- Cairns and Port Douglas Precinct – Where world heritage rainforest and reef meet. You can snorkel with Minke Whales, go diving or game fishing.
- Townsville Precinct – Surround yourself with historic shipwrecks and unspoilt Islands.
- Whitsundays and Mackay Precinct – Explore stylish Islands with a sailing adventure in the area known as the sailing mecca.
- Southern Great Barrier Reef Precinct – Experience the beauty of an uncrowded getaway, explore laidback coastal towns and watch turtles nest and hatch from November to February.
- It stretches 2600km (1625 miles) along the Queensland coast, so large, it can even be seen from space
- Tourism to the reef generates approximately AU$5-6 billion per annum
- It’s home to over 1,500 species of fish, abundant marine life and over 200 types of birds, it’s also one of Australia’s greatest conservation successes
- A World Heritage Area since 1981 (the world’s first reef ecosystem to be recognised by UNESCO), it is highly protected and one of the best-managed marine areas on Earth
- There’s more than 900 islands made for hammocks and long walks on the beach
Like most natural wonders, timing is everything. Although the reef never sleeps – like us, it’s best visited between June and October when temperatures are still warm enough for swimming but rainfall is minimal.
If you visit the reef between November and May, you can still swim, but you’ll have to wear a stinger suit – aka lycra from top-to-toe, including mittens, booties and balaclava – to protect you from jelly fish stings.
Aside from obvious weather factors like hot vs cold, seasons dictate the movements within the animal kingdom. Time your Great Barrier Reef holiday to see the following:
- November/December – turtle nesting
- January-March – turtle hatching
- July-October – humpback whales
- June/July – dwarf minke whales
- Winter – manta rays
We visited just a couple of the precincts and were fortunate to see humpback whales from the air.
In the Whitsundays there are plenty of day trip options leaving from Airlie Beach. We took a flight over the island and the Great Barrier Reef which was fantastic. A day or so later, we visited both again on a boat trip where we stopped at Whitehaven beach and my beloved snorkeled on some of the reef. I would say, don’t miss seeing the world’s most famous love heart and visiting at least one of the Whitsunday islands.
Here you don’t even need to leave the mainland to see the reef. Townsville is home to the world’s largest living reef aquarium, Reef HQ, where you can see the creatures of the deep without donning the swimwear or mask to see them. If you want to go further afield, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef.
Tropical North Queensland
This is possibly the epicentre of reef activity with everything from sunset sails, island adventures and week-long live aboard trips. However, we were reefed out at this point, happy to chill and enjoy the many charms of Port Douglas, though I suspect my beloved might have been happy to go snorkeling again!
If you ever get the opportunity to visit, grab it with both hands, it’s a truly magical place and one we’ll never forget.