Some of the world’s most amazing ecosystems aren’t located on land but in the sea. This is especially true when it comes to some of the largest living organisms on the planet, beautiful coral reefs.
One coral reef really sticks out from the rest as it covers large parts off the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, adjacent to the coastal towns of Airlie Beach and Mackay.
The Great Barrier Reef is enormous
The Great Barrier Reef is not only the largest coral reef in the world, it’s also the largest living organism in the world. The facts of this natural miracle are pretty astounding:
- It’s composed of 2,900 individual reefs.
- It also features over 900 islands and islets.
- It has a total length of 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles).
- It covers an area of 344,400 square kilometers (133,000 square miles).
- It’s made up of billions of micro-organism called coral polyps.
This reef system, located in the fittingly named “Coral Sea,” is so big that it can actually be seen from outer space.
Even though it’s a very popular tourist attraction and one of the best places in the world to dive and snorkel, only a small part can actually be accessed.
That’s mainly because a large part of the reef is protected by the “Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.” This park was established in 1975 and covers an area of 343,966 km2 (132,806.0 square miles), which means it covers nearly all of the reef.
It’s the home of thousands of animal species
The main reason why the reef is nearly completely part of this protected area is that a large number of threatened or near-threatened animal species live here, including multiple endemic ones.
Some of these include:
- 30 species of cetaceans such as humpback dolphins and humpback whales.
- 6 species of sea turtles, including the endangered green sea turtle.
- 215 species of birds, including the white-bellied sea eagle and roseate tern.
- 400 coral species, including both hard and soft corals.
- 1,500 species of fish, including the clownfish and red bass.
Yes, this is a place of extremely high biodiversity!
The amazingly clear and warm waters of the Coral Sea in combination with one of the most amazing natural wonders on the planet make this a great place to visit.
Plenty of boat tours and cruises are available that bring you all the way up to the Great Barrier Reef to dive or snorkel.