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Why should I visit the Great Barrier Reef? Well if you know anything about it or have seen pictures of it then I dont think I really need to explain! Anyways lets take a look. Situated along the north-east coast of Australia, running from Bundaberg all the way up pass Cape York in the north. Appoximately 2300Kms, and covering a total of 344,400 square kilometers, pretty impressive eh!? It is absolutely packed with life of all different descriptions, including over 1,600 varietys of fish, 600 types of corral and over 130 types of shark and ray. I’d say some eyes in the back of your head would be nice.
Where and when to visit the reef.
Opinions differ on when to go see the reef, the crowded winters (June-October) or the hot, wet and muggy summers (November-May). The truth of the matter is that there are pros and cons on either side. If you decide to go in summer then this is the low season in north queensland due to it being the wet season. Unbearable heat and humidity, lots of rainfall are among just a few of the problems with going this time of year, also the underwater visability can be like you’re swimming around in a muddy puddle, well I don’t know about you but I ain’t paying hundreds of dollars for that…. Think i’ll just get me speedo’s on and dive in the Leeds-Liverpool canal! On the plus side there’s a lot less of us tourists in the Cairns area so cheaper accomodation/excursions and less competition to get booked on them. Watch out for the deadly box jelly fish at this time of year, no-one wants to be stood screaming in agony while trying to gain the composure to relieve yourself on your own leg, even worse if you get stung on the chin….
Now if you decide to go in the winter, (in my opinion it is best to go at this time of year) then there shouldn’t be any box jellyfish to worry about and a lot more a temperate, dry, sunny climate. Seen as it rains a lot less this time of year the water will be clearer and therefore a lot better experience to be had. Down sides are that everyone has the same idea and the hotels will be more expensive and with less avaliability, especially up in Cairns, you must book early. Go to the southern part of the reef around Bundaberg and Rockhampton to avoid the masses and expensive room rates. If you’re a more adventurous soul you could even cut costs and see more by hiring a campervan.
Now what part of the reef to see!? Ideally all of it, failing that the answer to this lies in what you want to see and how long you have got to spend on the east coast. Here’s a little insight into what there is in what areas.
- Hervey Bay – July-November is the time to see the migrating humpback whales as they stop for a rest. No too far away is Lady Elliot Island where between November and March you can see the green sea turtles hatching, the area is also full of manta rays.
- Lady Musgrave Island- A day trip out from Bundaberg, this island is the only one to have a coral reef lagoon which is home to an abundance of leopard sharks, whitetip reef sharks and go between November and January to see loggerhead turtles come ashore to nest.
- The Whitsunday Islands- If i could only go one part of the reef this would be the one, 74 stunning islands. From here you can get on a tour to Whitehaven beach which consitently gets voted as Australia’s best beach. You can also do night dives on the reef.
- Whitehaven beach, by Damien Dempsey
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the adventure avaliable on the Great Barrier Reef.
How much is swimming with the fish cost me? Well, without the concrete boots!
Again being Australia nothing seems cheap and this is no exception. As disscussed earlier there a ways to minimise the costs by hiring a campervan instead of staying in a hotel but now lets see how much getting reef time is going to set you back.
- An 8 hour tour on a 100 seater boat with two snorkeling oppertunities is going to set you back around $130-150 per person
- A 2 night backpacker dormroom accomodation type Whitsunday island trip on a 29 person boat with snorkeling and dive will set you back around $500 per person
- A PADI advanced open water 2 day certificate course will cost you around $700 per person
As with anything to do with tourism, there is always that one person who works for the tour operator who is employed solely to take pictures of you… normally embarrasing ones! He then takes the liberty of trying to flog you them at the end of the day when you’re all exhausted and have got no fight left in ya! Clever man! Well don’t let this chancer try and squeeze another $25 out of you for the priviledge of him taking a blurry photo that you didn’t ask for. After all is that person on the photo really you, we all look the same with our scuba gear on. Instead you need one of these little underwater gadgets for less than a third of the cost of that crafty buggers photos of someone else.
Threats to the Great Barrier Reef.
As with everything natural that mankind has it’s finger in, there no doubt will be consequences of our modern way of life. The biggest risks to the reefs are all man made. One of the biggest problems we cause is amount of fertilizers we use on bannana, cotton, sugar cane farms in the water catchment area. Now in the rainy season, all the runoff water from the land that used to carry organic matter into the sea and feed corral reefs now contains high amounts of chemical fertilizers and upsetting mother natures balance. The global warming effect is also causing the sea temperatures to climb, which in turn stresses the coral so that it expels the symbiotic algae, which provides the nessasary nutrients. This is why coral looses its colour and then if the water doesn’t cool soon after this happens the coral dies. Some scientists predict the coral reef will be dead as soon as 2050.
In a nut shell!
If you find yourself on the north east coast of Austrlia with a few hundred dollars burning a whole in your pocket then you definately book onto a day trip to visit the reef. I personally wouldn’t spend $800 on a 3 day trip but just one day snorkeling trip is adequart to get a feel for it. As discussed above, it seems it isn’t always going to be there so go and see it while you can. P.S stay away from them there jelly fish 🙂