The Great Barrier Reef is home to an incredible diversity of marine life, including many iconic and fascinating animals. Here are eight of the most interesting and impressive marine creatures that call the Great Barrier Reef home that you might see during your day trip or overnight trip.
Every year, a variety of whale species travel to the protected waters of the Great Barrier Reef, where they are frequently seen between June and late October. The months of June and July are the prime season for visiting dwarf minke whales! Dwarf minke whales are curious, social creatures that may approach divers in what is definitely a unique and rewarding encounter.
There are six species of marine turtles that call the Great Barrier Reef home. The green turtle and hawksbill turtle are the most commonly sighted. These gentle creatures spend their lives travelling the oceans and return to the Great Barrier Reef to lay their eggs on the sandy beaches.
Sharks are another impressive animal that can be found in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Known for their agility and speed, there are more than 160 types of shark in the Great Barrier Reef – the white-tipped reef shark and the grey reef shark are likely to be the one’s you’ll see on your visit. If you’re lucky, you might even see a hammerhead shark (these can be much longer than reef sharks), epaulette sharks, whale sharks or tiger sharks.
You can see reef sharks up close on our exclusive Sharks in the Dark experience on an overnight Great Barrier Reef trip.
The manta ray is a massive and graceful creature that can be found swimming through the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. These animals have wingspans of up to 23 feet, and they are often seen performing graceful aerial acrobatics as they feed on plankton. These giants are more often seen during May and June.
The clownfish, also known as the anemonefish, is one of the most popular inhabitants of the Great Barrier Reef. These colourful fish are famous for their symbiotic relationship with the sea anemone, in which the clownfish receives protection from predators in exchange for providing the anemone with food.
You might have heard about the friendly Māori wrasse – this is the largest and one of the most popular types of wrasse found on the reef. To spot them, look for a big fish with thick lips and a ‘hump’ forehead. The markings around the head and face of the fish bear similarity to New Zealand Traditional Māori facial tattoos (Tā moko), and is how the Māori wrasse got its name.
The giant clam, which is the largest bivalve mollusc in the world, can weigh in at an impressive 200 kg. The contrast between the clam’s natural coloration and the algae inside it gives this unusual species its vast range of colours. When in good health, giant clams can live up to 100 years.
The Australian native fish known as the Potato Cod is a member of the grouper family. The average weight of a Potato Cod is less than 100 kg. The term “Potato Cod” refers to the unique brown patterns on their bodies that resemble potatoes. The Coral Sea’s “Cod Hole” diving location, which is close to Ribbon Reef #10, is one of the best areas to see Potato Cod. On their 3-night itinerary, our sister liveaboard dive boat Spirit of Freedom visits the Cod Hole.
Join us to discover the Great Barrier Reef and see how many of these species you can tick off your list!