Imagine – a living organism that can be seen from space. Off the coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is 1,200 miles of underwater wildlife preserve. There are 2,900 unique reefs that make up the entire network, along with 300 tiny islands. Visitors can see the widest variety of ocean life in the world available in one location, with some 1,500 types of fish, 4,000 classes of mollusks, and 500 species of coral, both hard and soft. In addition to the wildlife, there are sights to explore, such as shipwrecks and underwater canyons,
Coral is comprised of thousands of tiny coral polyps – little bone-free animals that are shaped like a tube. As you examine the reef, please refrain from touching it, as the small creatures are easily damaged. Much of the planet’s coral is many millions of years old, but the Great Barrier Reef is a newcomer at only 500,000 years. Coral continuously grows as new colonies are built on top of the skeletal remains of previous colonies.
Scuba divers have the best view, though adventures are available for snorkelers and sailors as well. Guides run a variety of tours, including one in a semi-submersible craft with underwater viewing windows. Extend your Great Barrier Reef experience on one of the cruise ships that will take you out for a few days or a few weeks – your choice. You will learn to scuba dive, as well as participate in workshops and lectures from world renowned marine biologists.
True devotees will travel a little farther to the less crowded Coral Sea, where waters with 200 – 300 feet of visibility house spectacular coral, splendid sea creatures. Remarkable sights such as 7 foot wide clams and 300 pound fish await you. It was here that the mighty Battle of the Coral Sea was fought in 1942, between aircraft carriers of the Japanese and U.S. Navy. Today, the area is primarily uninhabited, leaving wildlife undisturbed both above and below the water.
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