Australia · The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, and home to the most diverse plant and animal life on the planet – including spectacular coral formations, hundreds of species of fish, turtles, manta rays and even visiting dolphins and whales. It is like an underwater city whose buildings are alive, with millions of small creatures whose lives are intimately – and intricately – connected.
Molecule by molecule, coral animals gradually extract Calcium Carbonate from the surrounding water to form minute stony cups around each animal’s soft crown of tentacles. Corals get the credit for most of the reef structure, but much of the construction is done by fast-growing encrusting red algae. They act like pink glue, cementing fragments of shell, sand and coral with sheets of Calcium Carbonate.
Green sea turtles travel thousands of miles in the open sea to reach the sandy beaches of some of the Barrier Reef’s islands, and there, to lay their eggs. Hatchings head straight for the sea. They will travel thousands of miles over the years, and eventually, return to lay their own eggs.
Hamilton Island, in the heart of the reef, is the perfect base for exploring this beautiful part of the world – and offers a whole range of professional, well-organised tours, activities and excursions.
From space, the east coast of Australia appears to be in the embrace of a giant opal due to this magnificent place.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are the most popular activities.
Established as a national park in 1975, the Great Barrier Reef was designated as a World Heritage Site six years later. Today 33 percent of it is fully protected, and efforts are underway to deal with over-fishing, pollution, and the consequences of climate change.
It appears to be about 20000 years old, but geologists using deep coring techniques have found evidence of ancient corals there that are half a million years old. With care, the future of Australia’s living treasure will be at least as enduring as its magnificent past.