The Great Barrier Reef , located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland , Australia , is the world’s largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, and pulling away from it, and viewing it from a greater distance, you can understand why. It is larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space.
One of Australia’s most remarkable natural gifts, the Great Barrier Reef is blessed with the breathtaking beauty of the world’s largest coral reef. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises of over 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays and literally hundreds of picturesque tropical islands with some of the worlds most beautiful sun-soaked, golden beaches.
A closer encounter with the Great Barrier Reef’s impressive coral gardens reveals many astounding underwater attractions including the world’s largest collection of corals (more than 400 different kinds ), coral sponges, mollusks, rays, dolphins, over 1500 species of tropical fish, more than 200 types of birds, around 20 types of reptiles including sea turtles and giant clams over 120 years old.
The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding area for humpback whales, migrating from the Antarctic and is also the habitat of a few endangered species including the Dugong (Sea Cow) and large Green Sea Turtle. In recognition of its significance, UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
Climate change, pollution, crown-of-thorns starfish and fishing are the primary threats to the health of the Great Barrier Reef . Other threats include shipping accidents, oil spills, and tropical cyclones.
Because of its natural beauty, both below and above the water’s surface, the Great Barrier Reef has become one of the worlds most beautiful tourist destinations.Due to its vast biodiversity, warm clear waters and accessibility from the tourist boats called ‘live aboards’, the reef is a very popular destination, especially for scuba divers. Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef is concentrated in the Whitsundays and Cairns due to their accessibility. These areas make up 7% of the Park’s area. Many cities along the Queensland coast offer daily boat trips. Several continental and coral cay islands are now resorts, including the pristine Lady Elliot Island.