Did you know that 2018 is officially the year of the coral reef?
And did you know that the most well-known of them all, the Great Barrier Reef, is also one of the most endangered?
It’s one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World so it takes some abuse from tourists – all desperate to see it – whether they’re well meaning or not. As people we’ve done significant damage to the wonder, and so now it’s time to spread the word on how we can work together to preserve this stunning reef for future generations.
Here are a few Great Barrier Reef facts for you, so if ever you get the chance to visit, you know exactly how it likes to be treated, and why.
1. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system
The GBR has many fancy titles attached to it — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest living thing on earth — but what exactly is it? Basically, it’s made up of thousands of reefs and islands (2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands to be exact) and 600 types of coral, which make for a crazy amount of underwater life.
2. The Great Barrier Reef is 2,300km long
The fact that the Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space, means you know it’s huge. The Great Barrier Reef’s coral makes up approximately 344,400 square km of reef. Not good with numbers? All you need to know is that it’s bigger than the UK and around the same size as Italy.
3. It’s in Australia
You probably knew that but, more specifically, you’ll find it in the north east of the country just off the coast of Queensland. It runs along Cape York to Bundaberg and you can access it from popular places like Cairns and the Whitsundays although quieter spots like Port Douglas, Mission Beach and Bundaberg are also good gateways to the odyssey.
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4. It’s around 8,000 years old
Its exact birthday isn’t really known, but we do know the Great Barrier Reef has been around for a while. Keeping it fresh though is the new coral that keeps making an appearance on top of the old stuff and the latest formation is thought to be as young as 8,000 years old.
5. There are over 1000 species living in the Great Barrier Reef
To break that down, we know that there are over 1,500 species of fish in the Great Barrier Reef who swim alongside 134 species of sharks and rays and more than 30 species of marine mammals. Add to that birds, sea snakes and six species of turtles and it’s a hive of activity under the waves.
6. Two million people visit annually
It’s estimated that tourism from the reef brings in AUS $6 billion each year for the region. That’s because most travellers to Oz have the reef on their bucket list and are happy to pay to spend a few days exploring the area. Might as well while you’re there!
7. Snorkelling and diving are super popular
You’re not going to travel all that way without venturing below to spot some of the amazing species in amongst the colourful coral. You can jump on an ecotour with the likes of Quicksilver Cruises, Reef Magic Cruises or Ocean Safari, but if you don’t fancy suiting up there are other activities too.
Sea-walking, skydiving, swimming with minke whales and releasing turtles are popular things to do on the Great Barrier Reef too.
8. There are eco friendly ways to see it
Tourism has been a big factor contributing to the reef’s demise, but that’s not to say it’s off limits. If you’re planning a visit just put a little extra thought into your trip. Select an ecoguide for your snorkelling tour, visit Townsville’s Reef HQ Great Barrier Reef Aquarium to contribute to conservation efforts, and stay in an ecoresort like Childers Eco-lodge.
9. You can help save it
Distance shouldn’t be a deterrent. You can make small changes to help save the reef regardless of whether you’re home or away. Recycle like a machine, become a citizen of the Great Barrier Reef and always opt for a reef-friendly sun cream that doesn’t use toxins that could be harmful to the reef. Team effort guys.
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