The Great Barrier Reef is the largest reef ecosystem on Earth. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s the biggest structure on the planet made by living organisms.
The 2,900 individual coral reefs and 900 islands that make up the Great Barrier Reef are home to a rich and colourful array of marine wildlife, making it a popular visitor attraction for snorkellers and divers.
The reefs fall into three categories:
1. Fringing, which occur around the edges of the continental islands that were once a part of the mainland
2. Ribbon or outer, reefs which grow on the edge of the continental shelf
3. Platform or patch reefs, which support a cay, or island formed by sedimentary debris swept onto the reef
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park stretches along the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland in Australia’s northeast. It is 2,300km (1,400mi) long and covers an area of 344,400km².
The reefs themselves are made up of corals, which are tiny polyps that join together to form massive colourful and intricately shaped colonies. There are more than 400 different species of corals.
These coral reefs are home to a diverse and abundant range of animals and plants. There are more than 1,500 species of reef fish, from ‘nemos’ and butterfly fish to wrasse, damsel, angelfish and cod, as well as friendly reef sharks and rays. Six varieties of turtle can be found on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as resident and visiting marine mammals including dolphins, dugongs and whales.
The outer Great Barrier Reef is truly an underwater paradise, with beautifully warm and clear waters to explore by snorkelling near the surface, or diving deeper to see more incredible species. You could be diving among coral gardens, over columns and pinnacles, or along reef walls – the reef environments from ribbons to fringes and platforms are so diverse.