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How To Visit The Great Barrier Reef… And Why You Need To Go Now

It’s not breaking news that the Great Barrier Reef is in big danger of disappearing. As one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, time is running out to experience its true beauty, according to scientists. Here’s your guide on how to visit this amazing reef in Australia and why you really need to go now.

The Great Barrier Reef is without a doubt one of the most incredible natural wonders on Planet Earth. It’s the world’s largest reef system and is located in Australia’s beautiful Queensland area. The GBR comprises of more than 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands that stretch over a very impressive area of 1,600 miles. Saying there’s plenty to discover is definitely an understatement!

Quick Facts:

  • How to get there: Catch flights to Cairns or Brisbane and from there, travel by ferry or seaplane to whichever island your tour operator departs from.
  • Wildlife spotting: The GBR is home to 1,500 different species of fish, plus sea snakes, turtles and plenty of other creatures big and small.
  • How long should you stay: It’s recommended to spend at least 3 days exploring the reef. Single day trips from Cairns or Port Douglas just won’t do this place justice.
  • Best place to access the reef: Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas are the main points where visitors start/end their trips to the GBR. Hamilton Island is recommended for visiting the Whitsunday Islands.
  • When to go: Boat season starts in June when the waters are calm, the temperatures have dropped slightly and the humidity is low.

GBR boat

Top tips for visiting the GBR

Visit responsibly

Tourism also has a part to play in the damage done to the reef. Snorkelers and divers aren’t always responsible as touching can physically damage the reef. Boat propellers striking the reef also cause a lot of harm. Choose a multi-day, small ship cruise so you can really experience the immensity of it all as you navigate through the most precious parts of the reef like Pelorus Island, the Ribbon Reefs or Hinchinbrook Channel. And remember, don’t touch the reef or the creatures you meet under the water!

GBR coral reef

Use reef-safe sunscreen

Do you know how many chemicals are in over-the-counter sunscreen? Certain brands contain chemicals that, even in small doses, can cause a lot of damage to coral and kill huge chunks of it. Look for a sunscreen once you arrive in Australia that has an eco-friendly label or one that is specifically labeled reef-friendly.

GBR sunscreen

Don’t ignore the jellyfish warnings

Jellyfish deliver a serious sting! Some stings can even be fatal and almost all will require some level of medical attention. Basically getting stung is NOT what you want while on vacation in Australia after you dished out so much money for your flights to Sydney. When snorkeling or diving, be sure to wear a “stinger suit” to cover your body when out in the water. Prime stinger season is November-May when they breed close to the shore.

If you do get stung, get medical attention immediately and reach for the vinegar!

GBR vinegar

Try a live-aboard dive trip

If you’re a seasoned scuba diver, try a live-aboard dive trip to really experience the reef. Not only do most boats have WiFi (so you can Instagram and Facebook all the shots you took with your waterproof camera that day!) but you might be in store for some pretty unique experiences like night diving or feeding a giant potato cod fish! These guys are seriously big, the biggest fish living in the reef.

GBR big fish

Want to take a closer look? Check this out:

Why time is of the essence

If you’ve always wanted to visit Australia’s Great Barrier Reef then now is as good a time as any as scientists are now calling damage to the reef ‘terminal.’ With rising ocean temperatures, an increase in pollution and the water becoming more acidic, the change is just all a bit much for this fragile ecosystem to deal with. Some of the most sturdy types of coral can survive the bleaching that’s happening but a lot of the remaining reef is disappearing.

If you’ve always wanted to visit, now is a pretty good time to set your sights on Australia and book a trip to the Great Barrier Reef with a responsible and ecologically sustainable tour operator. Just look for the EarthCheck Certification or the EcoTourism sign.

IMG: Shutterstock